When the beta for Project Spark first launched earlier this year, I had no idea of what to make of it. I watched my brother play with it on his Xbox One but didn’t understand the appeal it could have. It also didn’t help that the full game was seemingly going to rely on micro-transactions in order deliver its full experience, which is something that never sits right with me. However, with the $40 retail version of the title providing a sizeable amount of content for users to mess around with, the question now turns to whether or not it’s actually any fun.
While the main appeal of the game is obviously the ability to create your own experience, Microsoft Studios has also packed in a decently-sized single-player campaign. Dubbed the Champion’s Quest, the campaign centers around four different warriors searching for an abundance of different objects. It’s far from the most engaging story ever made, and the constant fetch quests begin to grate after awhile, but it’s more than just a story. It also serves as an introduction to the basic tools that are necessary to get the full experience of Project Spark.
Playing through Champion’s Quest will teach players valuable actions, such as how to build paths and control the map. Of course, you can learn how to do these things by just tinkering around with the create mode as well. However, by working my way through this tedious story, I was able to get a better grasp of the controls than I think I would have had I not done so.
The lack of proper explanation has long been an issue I’ve had with the create-your-own game genre. Whether it was titles like RPG Maker and Fighter Maker, or something more popular such as LittleBigPlanet, the tutorials have been far from great. These sour experiences are part of the reason why I was originally so uninterested in Project Spark. Thankfully, this is not the case here, as Team Dakota have learned from where other developers have faltered.
That’s not to say that the creation system can’t be difficult and complex at times. Crafting areas as rudimentary and basic as a hill or mound of dirt can easily lead to you spending way more time than you should making sure it looks perfect. As someone who gets paid to criticize games for even the most minor of infractions, you better believe I want things to look pretty. Of course, I haven’t gotten the chance to craft anything worth playing yet, but at least I know I could if I wanted to. With that said, however, I’m not too sure if I’m going to be sticking with the creation system for that much longer.
I understand that building your own experience is the appeal of Project Spark, but after spending a few hours crafting a barely playable adventure game, I began to wonder what exactly I was doing with my life. It began to feel more like I was doing work, rather than playing a game. This would make sense, considering the fact that video game design is a career choice for many talented individuals. But for someone like me, who just wants to jump into a game without having to build it, the appeal of it is kind of lost. It’s the same way I felt about similar creation-based programs such as RPG Maker and LittleBigPlanet. It’s cool to mess around with, but not something I can necessarily see myself coming back to over and over again.
What will keep me coming back to Project Spark, however, is seeing what other gamers can come up with. Much like Media Molecule’s popular franchise, it appears that gamers will be able to create almost anything they can think of with the tools provided by Team Dakota. Just a quick glance through the created games uploaded during the week of release reveals a variety of projects that are already quite enjoyable. Just a few of the examples I tested out included a turn-based RPG, a sidescrolling shooter, and a re-creation of the course from the popular television show Wipeout.
The amount and variety of content that is possible through the starter pack alone is something that I feel will continue to draw gamers in. It’s the ability to share creations that drew such a large audience to the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and I imagine that over the next few months, the scene here will really start to take off. It also helps that creations that were first started during the title’s beta have continued to see improvements and refinements since then. It’s actually kind of funny to think that Champion’s Quest was one of the lesser creations that I have played so far.
The visual style of Project Spark is something that helps make it stand out amongst similar titles. Although it barely looks better than what’s possible on the Xbox 360, its cartoonish style helps mask some of the visual deficiencies. The environments are particularly nice to look at, too, as both the included fantasy and space locations pop with color.
With the way things are right now, it feels a little weird to give a numerical score to Project Spark, especially since I understand that most gamers will not want to take their time building their own individual games. Heck, I didn’t even want to do that. But with the amount of projects that are possible through the tools provided, the potential for entertainment here is seemingly endless. Regardless, the retail package is a must for anyone with even an interest in getting into the world of video game creation.
This review was based off the Xbox One retail starter pack, which was provided to us.
While the many tools provided in Project Spark may not appeal to everyone, their combined potential makes the game worth looking into.