Editorial | 7/24/2010 at 3:24 PM

Co-Op Casual Friday: Spectrobes Origins

For an adult co-op fan, finding a kid-friendly game that isn't mind numbingly boring can be tough.  This is especially true on the Wii, where all manner of "games" make it onto store shelves, and you never really know if you're finding a game as good as LEGO Batman or yet another awful waggle minigame collection.  Spectrobes Origins is one of the better co-op games I've played on Wii in quite a while, and definitely worth a look.

Spectrobes Origins has a Saturday morning cartoon feel.  In fact, I was quite surprised to discover that Spectrobes is not based on a TV show or comic book at all.  It is strictly a video game property, and Spectrobes Origins is the first game in the series on any home console.  The game feels very much like Pokemon or Digimon, with spiky haired antagonists who yell strange words in order to summon creatures both ferocious and adorable.  It's super kid-friendly, but there's enough here to make it a good experience for adult gamers to enjoy cooperatively as well.

Spectrobes Origins is a 3rd person action game, with light RPG elements blended in.  As the game begins, a pair of heroes named Rallen and Jeena, space patrol officers, land on a previously unexplored planet.  There, they find their sworn enemies, the alien Krawl, who are terrorizing the people of the local system.  By mastering new techniques of Spectrobe combat, the day can be saved, and all that.  It's a standard plot, with few surprises, but it works just fine to tie the action together.

There are two basic types of Spectrobes, strange creatures summoned a la Pokemon.  There are those used in battle, and also those used for exploring.  The latter are cute little critters who are adept and finding buried minerals, which can be used to upgrade Spectrobes in various ways, such as the evolve mineral, which makes an adorable Spectrobe into a fighting beast.  Anytime the alien Krawl appear, you selected battle Spectrobe pops out to assist Rallen in the fight.  

At any point, a second player can pop in and out with the press of a button.  While exploring, player two is limited to merely grabbing minerals that appear on the ground by using a cursor and a button press.  That's not exactly immersive, but since you are supposed to actually be the Spectrobe, it's understandable.  It's when a battle starts that things get quite a bit more interesting.  Player 2 controls the battle Spectrobe, and can picks targets, attack, and even combo with Rallen by using special attacks.

These special attacks are charmingly implemented.  One player initiates the attack by pressing B, and then both players must strike a series of poses shown on the screen.  It sounds quite cheesy, but it's an absolute hoot.  My son and I were doing our best anime acting while posing, for sure.  The special attacks do only a fair amount of damage, but the special meter builds up so quickly you'll be getting a nice Wii workout while playing.  The co-op in Spectrobes Origins is done well, perfect for parents and kids to play together.

You have free reign to go anywhere and do as you like while playing, which is very unusual for a "kiddie" game.  Exploring and finding new Spectrobes adds very much to the enjoyment of the game.  Special rocks containing fossil Spectrobes can be taken to the lab for excavation.  A full suite of tools like explosives, lasers, and drills are used in the  excavation minigame, and the controls are surprisingly precise.  The faster you unveil the fossil, the higher level the Spectrobe inside will be when awakened.  This minigame adds considerably to the feeling of being an outer space explorer on a strange new planet, which is very appealing to youngsters, and even old guys like myself.

If you have a young gamer around, and are looking for a game to play with them that will keep both of you entertained, Spectrobes Origins is a good choice.  It is far better than most games aimed at children, and while it doesn't ever rise to LEGO levels of inspiration, it's still more than worth it's bargain basement price.  Just make sure no one's got a camera around when you strike a pose together on the couch!