The platformer is easily one of the most popular and enduring video game genres in existence. Through decades of games which at turns are fun, innovative and have that extra wow factor, it can be a real testing ground and a staple of a company's catalogue, whether the game is in physical or download form. To stand out from the rest, a platformer has to do something different to shake up the formula a bit, whether it's graphical style, gameplay, or other associated qualities inherent in a game. It's got to have that bit of "oomph" to compel people to keep playing.
Unfortunately, Spare Parts lacks any special quality that could help it rise up and be a truly imaginative and commendable game. It gets a lot of its fundamentals right and there isn't really anything of note that it gets wrong, but it really could have been so much more if the developers reached a little bit higher.
Spare Parts has you take control of a robot that has been stranded on a planet by a group of aliens known as the Krofax. When your metallic friend does a bit of exploring of the planet, he comes across a spaceship that is similarly stranded. On board is a computer called Con-Rad, voiced by Simon Pegg. Con-Rad informs you that if you can retrieve a bunch of the ship's spare parts from the planet, you will be able to escape and go home. From here your adventure begins in earnest.
The majority of the gameplay in Spare Parts is of an exploratory and puzzle-solving nature, with some combat mechanics thrown in. In order to progress through each level, you must collect pieces of the ship which are scattered throughout. While some pieces are easy to find, others may require a bit more to obtain, and will likely involve the upgradable abilities of your robot. Through these upgrades, you can acquire a variety of skills, such as a scanner, magnet boots, a hacking device and extra strong arms to push and destroy objects. These abilities will activate some switches and can also help defeat enemies. The variety of different abilities is impressive, but it seems as if they're not used to their full extent and are only able to be used occasionally in combat. As for combat itself, your robot can pull off quite a few moves, but in the end button mashing will more often than not get you through the hordes of aliens that wish to destroy your robot and rearrange its parts into a toaster. There are times when you will come across situations that resemble a boss fight, situations that utilize more of your robot's abilities in a very interesting fashion, but these are very few indeed, which is a real shame. On a planet filled with so many aliens and critters that want to destroy you, it seems really odd that they wouldn't have a few more boss fights added into the mix to shake the formula up a bit, especially when the fights that are present are one area that the game gets right.
One other area that Spare Parts does get right is its visuals. It is a treat to look at the game from a purely aesthetic perspective. Everything looks and runs very smoothly, and there is a lot of charm to be had in the game's look. On top of the base visuals, the animations have a lot of charm about them, with some nice subtle touches. Your robot will begin to do a variety of kooky poses if left idle for a time, and the jumping and landing animations have their own qualities about them that are very pleasing. The enemies too have their own sense of fun and variety, with no two being exactly the same.
As an auditory experience, Spare Parts is passable but not particularly spectacular or enticing. Simon Pegg's voicework is affable enough, but again there is the sense that the scripting of Con-Rad's dialogue is as such that they didn't really use Pegg's talents to their full potential. Outside of Pegg's voicework, there is minimal music and a few sound effects, but all of these are adequately produced.
Spare Parts is a game that can be completed very quickly, even for a downloadable title. Even when collecting every last part of the ship, it probably won't take any more than six hours for most players to complete, and that's being very generous. You can also have a friend join in via co-op mode, but this does little to extend the game's lifespan. There are also opportunities to buy upgrades for your abilities and some artwork, but neither of these are essential to completing the game.
It's a real shame that Spare Parts doesn't live up to what it could have been. Its neat visuals and the at times interesting applications for the abilities of your character are curtailed somewhat by its short length and lack of inspiration in other areas. If a sequel is ever made it would really have to go to some lengths to address these issues. Otherwise, Spare Parts may have you amused for a little while, but it won't really keep you coming back for multiple playthroughs.