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Kimberley Ellis
11 Mar, 2009

Spectrobes: Beyond The Portals Review

DS Review | It's like a black hole of average.
For those that played and enjoyed the first Spectrobes title, you'd be pleased to note that it is a better title than its older sibling, marginally better. For the rest of us, you'll be hard pressed to find much value in Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals, unless you are a complete addict for monster-collecting games - or under the age of ten.

Beyond the Portals sees the return of Rallen, the Nanario Planetary Patrol officer who curtailed an alien invasion at the end of the first Spectrobes tiltle. Obviously, the invading Krawl had other ideas, forcing Rallen and friends to stop the evil alien race all over again.

  
Freaky space Pokemon, I choose you.

Freaky space Pokemon, I choose you.
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As with other monster-collecting titles, the crux of the gameplay in Beyond the Portals revolves around the collecting and battling of creatures known as Spectrobes. For those of you who haven't played a Spectrobes title before, essentially spectrobes can be described as freaky looking space pokemon. Similarly to the creatures within the world of Pokemon, spectrobes come in a variety of of types, all which possess one of three powers - water, fire and electricity. Spectrobes also come in three varying sizes - depending on how far they have evolved - giving each stage a different role to play. Spectrobes in the child stage are very similar to their pokemon counterparts in that they are tiny bundles of cuteness, except in Spectrobes these little creatures are not capable of battling. Instead, their usefulness stems from the fact that they can dig up fossils buried in the ground, which gives you access to more child-type spectrobes, allowing you to expand your creature collection. Once a child-type has been fed enough minerals your spectrobe can then evolve into an adult. Adults lose their fossils tracking abilities, instead gaining the ability to battle with other creatures. These adult spectrobes can further power-up into their final evolved stage, becoming even bigger and more powerful than adult-type spectrobes - not to mention they look more badass.

Unlike the original Spectrobes, Rallen is no longer limited to just battling with his spectrobes. The game's 3-D map consists of "Krawl vortexes" and smaller dust clouds. The vortexes are used to initiate the monster battling combat mechanic, while the dust clouds can be taken on by Rallen himself. Rallen can tackle these clouds with either his laser sword, his pistol or a quick punch combo, though ultimately battling these dust clouds is an utter waste of time as the only loot to be gathered from this section of the game is health recovery orbs.

However, once you step through one of the game's larger vortexes, you'll see the game's primary gameplay mechanic come out to play. Each vortex will be a certain colour, signifying one of the game's three types, giving you an indication of what type of Krawl you'll find on the other side. At this point you'll need to find a combination of spectrobes that is strong against the type of enemy you'll find in the vortex and send them in to kill off the alien Krawl. Sadly, knowing what you'll find on the other side takes away much of the fun and strategy from the title. In titles such as Pokemon, half the fun of battle was trying to strategise on the fly (except when up against a gym leader) and get the most out of your rag tag bunch of creatures.

  
Here comes the boom.

Here comes the boom.
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Battles occur in a two-on-two format, where you'll take control of one of your spectrobes (the other is AI controlled) rather than give it orders from the sidelines ala a pokemon trainer. Combat it simplistic at best, as you only have one generic attack button and a special charge attack button - which builds up so you can launch a special move - and a combination attack button that will let your two spectrobes combine for a devastating attack if they both have a maxed out charge meter.

Aside from the weak combat mechanic, players will spend a good part of their time with the title playing the excavation mini-game which becomes available after you clear out enemy Krawl from each vortex, giving you the opportunity to dig for fossils and other kinds of loot. Digging for treasure will require a steady hand on the stylus as each planet in the title contains a different environment for digging. For instance, when you dig in a sandy desert planet, you'll need to dig sand and shift dust from your excavation area - a feat which can be accomplished by either using an in-game tool or blowing on the microphone, depending on your choice. Likewise, if you're on an ice planet, you'll need to melt away the ice in order to reach the precious treasures frozen underneath. The care that you take in this situation is critical as the speed and care that you take with your digging is a critical element to being rewarded with better prizes. If you do a hatchet job with your excavation, there is a good chance that you'll destroy the fossil that you've been trying to dig up.

  
You'll do a whole lot of running, though there isn't much to see here.

You'll do a whole lot of running, though there isn't much to see here.
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The graphics are acceptable for the type of game – nothing overtly special, yet nothing dreadfully bad either - but it isn't a title that pushes the power of the Nintendo DS. The game environments are quite large in scale, but the game does nothing to bring these barren environments to life, leaving players ultimately feeling bored as they trek through one tedious landscape to another.

If you're a fan of other monster-collecting titles such as Digimon or Pokemon, you'll find that most of what Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals tries to accomplish has been done, and done better in those titles. But, if you liked the first one, you’ll enjoy the slight improvements that this title has made.
The Score
Frankly, there isn't much here that will keep older gamers occupied for the long haul, but there is some fun to be had with this action-RPG. That's not to say that Beyond the Portals is a bad game - it’s just an average title that has a lot of good ideas but fails to execute them in a consistently fun manner. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

Spectrobes: Origins announced
21 Feb, 2009 And it won't be heading to the Nintendo DS.
Spectrobes Review
14 Mar, 2007 Pokemon should be worried.
New Spectrobes images
02 Mar, 2007 Real-time battles? Count us in.
1 Comment
5 years ago
You say this is better than the original, yet give it a lower score and far more negativity than the original review, which was very positive.

Tops marks for inconsistency and downright balderdash with some of the comments "it isn't a title that pushes the power of the DS at all" being a particular favourite.
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  1/1/2009 (Tentative)
Publisher:
  Funtastic
Genre:
  Action RPG
Year Made:
  2008

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