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DS  header logo

Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals

For: DS

Fossil fueled

Product: Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals | Developer: Jupiter Corporation | Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Virtual Pet/ Toy | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: US
Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals DS, thumbnail 1

Whether it's coins, shot glasses, or digital creatures, the desire to collect things is inexplicably human. There's no functional purpose for amassing a huge collection of shot glasses, for example. It's not as though you're going to use all those tiny glasses in some grand binge (and if you do, then you have an entirely different problem).

Similarly, you're not likely to use all of the spectrobes you discover in your time with Beyond the Portals, yet the drive to catch them all is strong. Resist it - there's no need to get all worked up into a collector's frenzy. While these creatures provide loads of gameplay, only the most devoted of collectors will want to travel Beyond the Portals for them.

Rallen reprises his role as a Nanairo Planetary Patrol officer following his triumph over the evil Krawl. Previously, his ability to summon an ultimate form spectrobe led him to victory, although a small vestige of Krawl forces remained. It's at the start of Beyond the Portals that a surprise attack on the Nanairo system prompts Rallen into action, once again forcing him to control a stable of spectrobes in an effort to beat back the Krawl for good.

The revival of Rallen's conflict with the Krawl is more than just narrative alliteration - it serves as allegory for how the game plays. Beyond the Portals shares its fundamentals with the original Spectrobes, building upon its core with an array of improvements and polish. At the same time, those complaints lodged against the first game remain intact. This is a sequel more concerned with layering new elements upon its base rather than eliminating those that don't work.

Take, for example, the process of raising spectrobes. Finding the creatures involves extracting them from excavated fossils. Shimmering beacons inform you of fossils and other items that can be dug up in your vicinity. Like the original, however, there's more to dig up than variety entertains. In other words, it's infrequent that you uncover something new in excavation and as a result you're discouraged from digging often.

At the very least, the touchscreen and microphone mini-games attached to the excavation process are good fun. Taps and swipes of the stylus dig up the fossil, while blowing into the microphone allows you to clean off any specks of dust. This becomes tedious the twentieth time you perform a dig, but it earns recognition for utilising the handheld's unique features in a meaningful way.

Going through the effort of finding spectrobes is motivated by a desire to perform more admirably in battle. Amassing a range of spectrobes empowers you, in principle, to fight tougher enemies. Unfortunately, the battle system has a major loophole that allows you to largely circumvent the process. While each breed of spectrobe possesses unique attributes and abilities, you can pretty much fight your way through the game with only a handful of powered-up spectrobes.

The criticism follows from the first game: bulk up a couple of your creatures enough and you can overcome the rock-paper-scissors elemental structure of the battle system. Three elements - Aurora, Corona, and Flash - relate in a triad that is supposed to influence which spectrobes you take into battle; however, you can often ignore the effects and simply fight with strong creatures to win battles.

Oddly enough, this loophole causes battles to be short and sweet. Instead of having to constantly monitor and swap out your spectrobe line up, you're able to roam levels and engage enemies in quick battles. Beyond the Portals works as a portable game for this reason, although more save points are definitely needed to make putting the game away easier.

With a lengthy campaign and suite of online features, it can be prove pretty hard to put the game down. Integration with DGamer provides a carrot to keep you moving and a new download feature that grants you an allowance for purchasing new items and spectrobes. Nintendo WiFi Connection battles for up to four and a trading system round out the package.

Beyond the Portals easily tops the DS library as one of the most feature-rich and polished titles available. That, however, doesn't make it appealing to those not already invested in the series. It's difficult to see how it fundamentally improves upon the original without having explored both games, which is to say you've already been sold on the experience, or you haven't.

Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 5 November 2008
This sequel may go beyond the portals, but does little to go beyond its predecessor. A decent game, even if it's only marginally better than the first
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