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Spare Parts


If Ratchet & Clank was really boring...
Over on the Playstation 3, the Ratchet & Clank series has been nothing but successful for the console for years. Itís not surprising that Electronic Arts would want to capture the same magic with a robot themed game. Enter Spare Parts, a co-op platformer for both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 for $10. The narrative in Spare Parts is about Chip and Mar-T, a couple quirky robots that are faced with the possibility of being stranded on a planet thatís seen cleaner days. The planet is basically a floating junkyard, filled to the brim with mechanical parts. Fortunately, this works to the benefit of the pair as they come across a spaceship that can be repaired with these spare parts. The remainder of the story is about their journey around the planet collecting parts so they can jet back into space.

spare parts fire rocket boots

The concept of the game is pretty simple. You control one of the robots in the game and tear through the planet beating up any enemies (called the Krofax) that you happen to come across. Combat is devolved into repetitive button mashing, but you can upgrade your abilities along the way. There are different pairs of boots that allow you to fly through the air while setting fire to everything below you or boots that act as magnets so you can walk up metal walls. There are arm enhancements to throw heavier objects and vision enhancements (X-Scanner) to see objects in the environment that can be altered. This is often required because the game does a terrible job of pointing out what to do next. Thereís also no way to actually fail at the game as there are infinite lives. But it does require infinite persistence to keep playing.

Spare Parts supports online (and local) drop-in co-op, so a buddy can sit down anytime to help play through a level. However, thereís also no AI controlled version of the robot while playing alone. Unfortunately, the extent of the help is limited to combat as there are no major co-op puzzles to be solved together. Thereís just the occasional synchronous button pushing and similar simple roadblocks. You do get to pass along any rewards earned during combat to each other, but you arenít really doing much character building. It also helps to have an extra person during the boss battles as they become incredibly monotonous and an extra co-op player throwing powerful robot punches always helps ends things a bit quicker.

spare parts forest special powers

The co-op is the only multiplayer mode in the game. There are no adversarial multiplayer modes for Xbox Live, surprising since their so much combat in the game. The achievement set in the game is mostly focused on finishing the story with points awarded as you finish up areas of the planet. There are also collection related achievements for snagging all the action parts, the ship parts or purchasing everything in the game. Itís all relatively straightforward and doesnít require a ton of time or brainpower to collect all the achievements. (Achievement bug note: The 100 Ship Parts achievement is currently bugged and unable to be collected until a patch is released.)

Graphics

Artistically, I really loved the developerís choice of bright, playful colors and the animated character models. The Krofax enemies are varied and each matches their little section of the world. The world is filled with cool intricate detail and each section of the planet has definite charm due to the extensive background art. In motion, the gameís physics engine feels too loose for a platformer and the camera often adds to the problem with terrible angles. The camera is also fixed, thus you will often be guessing on where your little cute robot will be landing on the next jump.

spare parts pink canyon jump

Audio

While neither of the main characters have actual voices, Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) voices the shipís computer (CON-RAD) in a fairly convincing, but rarely humorous voice role thatís shows some resemblance to HAL 9000 and Kevin Spaceyís computer voice in Moon. Unfortunately, the writing is poor and doesnít significantly help the story become as involving as it should. Itís something of a waste of Peggís talents. The sound effects do a decent job of animating the emotions of the main characters though. The musical work is modest, but fits in line with the presentation.

Conclusion

Call it Ratchet and Crank-lite if you want, but thatís giving Spare Parts a bit too much credit. You are looking at about 3 to 4 hours of play time, most of which is reliant on monotonous combat. Oddly, the robots are fairly endearing and I wouldnít mind seeing them tossed into a sequel, assuming a different developer makes the follow-up actually entertaining to play. As a platformer, Spare Parts is purely mediocre and likely should likely be avoided by anyone that truly enjoys the genre. If that still doesnít dissuade you, be sure to play through the entire game with a partner as thatís how you will get the most entertainment value out of your 800 Marketplace points.



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