- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Here is a look at some hardware and software that is available: Spectrobes from Disney Interactive Studios for DS, Rated: Everyone, $29.99.

A new sci-fi universe has been created for owners of Nintendo’s hand-held system that takes full advantage of the DS’ capabilities and gives younger players in love with virtual pets and role-playing games a treat.

The story begins during a routine exploration mission for the Planetary Patrol officers of the Nanairo system, Rallen and Jeena, who land on Daichi and discover a refugee from a distant galaxy.

The stranger, named Aldous, is awoken from a cryogenic sleep and explains that his world was destroyed by the Krawl. He must find and awaken Spectrobes, prehistoric creatures that exist in a fossilized form, to fight off the dangerous species.

As the Planetary Patrol officer Rallen, the player helps Aldous and is charged with collecting, training and managing a Spectrobe population that ultimately will help him save his galaxy from an infestation of the Krawl.

Armed with the hand-held Prizmod device, which helps understand and catalog the Spectrobes, he visits planets, unearths the fossils and uses some highly interactive means aboard his space cruiser to bring the Spectrobes back to life.

Three parts of this game lead to a well-rounded experience for the lover of hands-on adventure.

First, the player must act as archaeologist as he excavates the Spectrobes. He uses a child’s version of one of the creatures he already has acquired to act as a hound dog and track the fossils with its radar.

Once a fossil is found, the player uses his stylus pen, which converts to a wide range of tools, to tap, drill and blast away at the ground to reveal the fossil — a slick concept delivered to perfection. The player even can blow into the DS’ microphone to clear away any of the ground debris. Once enough of the fossil is uncovered (95 percent, to be precise) and not overly damaged, he can add it to his inventory.

The player also will need to uncover minerals to feed the Spectrobes and mysterious glimmering cubes that can be placed in a resource center to learn about the species, which can greatly enhance game play. (More about that below.)

Second, after the player grabs some fossils, he returns to the ship and brings them to life by using the DS’ microphone to talk to them — or rather emit a consistent sound long enough to satisfy a meter tied to a Spectrobe’s birthing process.

Up to a pair of young Spectrobes now can be dropped into one of four incubators, fed minerals and petted to make them grow into warriors to fight the Krawl. Food is dragged and dropped into the terrarium confines, and the pets will devour the goodies.

Although this process eventually can get tedious, with more than 50 types of Spectrobes to evolve, it also can be pretty addictive.

The third portion of the game has Rallen able to use two of the adult Spectrobes in real-time, turn-based battles when he encounters the whirling Krawl on planetary surfaces. The fights include charged and combination attacks.

The game also mixes in plenty of required conversations with citizens and crew found on travels among the seven planets, an inventory system for new weapons for Rallen and upgrades to the creatures, and shops for buying items and trading minerals.

Those who find the right glimmering cubes can unlock new levels of interactivity such as online modes with multiplayer tournaments and the chance to purchase bonus content. More immediately, players can activate the ship’s Card Port to incorporate trading cards into the game.

Four plastic, prismatic illustrated cards are in the package, and each can be placed over the DS’ bottom screen as a template to touch a gridded area beneath and unlock additional creatures and upgrades.

Although more experienced gamers will find the title’s environments not large enough and the tasks and battles too simplistic, the 9-year-old in the family will be mesmerized by the Spectrobes’ universe.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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