by Chris Priestman
reviewed on X360
Spanner In The Works
Although Spare Parts does live up to a fairly high standard, there are some unfortunate issues that affect the overall quality, as they would with any game. The main problem is a lack of fluidity. The best way of describing how the game feels is “slightly stiff”. First up under scrutiny is the jumping; there were too many times when I fell off a cliff edge or into an acidic lake because of the delay on the jump button. Fortunately, the penalty for death is simply a deduction on the money you have collected during the level.
The second occurrence of stiffness is found in the game’s interface. There are two ways to switch your equipped gadget - one is using a wheel from which you can select your gadget by pointing to it with the analogue stick, and the other is using the shoulder buttons to flick through them separately. Now I do like that you are given this choice but I found the wheel to be far too stiff, often resulting in selecting the wrong gadget. The other method had me constantly flicking through the little pictures hoping to hit the right one whilst in the middle of a battle or similar perilous situation. It became one of those games that felt like half of the playing time was dedicated to searching through your inventory.
I didn't encounter bugs very often, and they did not affect my game for too long or in any major way, but I came across a bug that stopped essential in-game events from happening. This was solved by simply restarting the level, but the annoyance was still great. The thing that made it slightly worse was that this happened during boss levels, and it exposed the lack of direction given to players at times. Consequently I spent far too long on these levels, both because of the bugs and for not knowing what I was supposed to do.
Quite honestly, these are types of issues that the child inside of me brushed aside, whilst my more critical self was quick to cite them as interfering problems, which of course they are. Ultimately, however, these problems pale in comparison to the game’s major failing!
Now to the main event of the evening: some heavy criticism of the co-op gameplay. When considering the co-op play in Spare Parts, and how lacking it is in terms of enjoyment for both players, it seems like a joke that the developers claim that they tailored the game with this mode in mind. It is even more annoying when you find out that in order to complete the game to 100%, you must engage in the two-player experience.
Essentially this mode is no different from the single player other than that there are two of you running around. The major fault of the co-op is the camera. The game uses pre-determined camera shots rather than a user controlled camera. This is nothing unusual you might say. In the two-player mode, you are told that the camera can only focus on one of the players, and it will often switch between the characters without any evident reason. To put it shortly, it is really irritating. This is especially true when you have a player who runs off by themselves, or when you are trying to fight enemies, jump gaps or, quite frankly, do anything that involves moving. And like I said, the game was allegedly designed with co-op as a main focus. If this problem were to be sorted out, the game would be excellent as both a single and multiplayer experience, and would inevitably receive a lot more praise from me.
The one praise I do have is that it is very easy to join with a friend during any point of your game. You are also given the option to make your game “open” so a complete stranger can join in at any point in order to help you out. Of course, if you become the victim of a player who seeks to make your game a living hell, there is the option to turn friendly fire off. I was thankful of this on more than one occasion.
Spare Parts may fall at some hurdles by contradicting its own design and by containing a few irritating faults, but at the end of the day the kid inside me screamed a lot louder than the complaining adult. The game is great fun that is perfect for younger players. At a time when kids are playing mature rated games and nothing else, it is hard to make a game that will draw a younger audience without shedding some blood. For this reason, I do hold a bit of respect towards the developers, even though they need to brush up a few things for a smoother ride.
This game is perfect for fans of the LEGO series and anyone looking for a break from the more challenging and anger-inducing games. The co-op is playable with a friend providing you make sure you can talk and plan with each other so that the camera does not ruin the experience too much. In general, the game is well designed and holds together pretty well. It is certainly one of those games that critics will love to shoot down, whereas the kids who play this will fall in love with it due to its fantastic presentation and satisfying gameplay. It does seem a real shame that it is missing some essential nuts and bolts that prevent it from becoming a smoother experience and a better title on the whole.
Universal appeal, satisfying gameplay, aesthetically pleasing
Co-op play needs some tweaking, a few annoying bugs, feels a bit stiff