Review – Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals

Infendo

Like many third party titles looking to scoop up left over money from trail blazing AAA titles currently on the market, Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals continues to do just that with less innovation and more “gotta catch’em all” copy-pasting. Is that such a bad thing?

You once again play the roles of Rallen, a young, whiney, pre-teen, and his know-it-all assistant Jenna, who both serve as officers of the Nanairo Planetary Patrol. The first game had you racing across the galaxy to defeat the Krawl, an evil form of dark creatures. ‘Beyond the Portals’ places Rallen and Jenna shortly after the first game in which the supposedly destroyed Krawl return to attack a multitude of planets and eventually the teams lab. You set out to eliminate the threat by utilizing sword, gloves, blasters, and above all, Spectrobes.

Spectrobes are a vital gameplay mechanic throughout the series, (thus the title) and act much like Pokemon in which you capture, train, and battle them inside an action RPG environment.

Gameplay
The overall gameplay in Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals is broken down into three basic parts. Field Battles has Rallen fighting Krawl Dust by attacking with laser sword, blaster, and stun gloves in a third person camera view point. Encounter Battles activate when you step into a Krawl Vortex. From there, you are given control of two trained Spectrobes which can use standard melee, special, and combo attacks. The third aspect of gameplay has you scratching at the touch screen in search for fossils, tools, treasure, minerals, and other essential artifacts that further your journey. Together, every action rewards both Rallen and your Spectrobes with experience.

These gameplay elements play out fairly decent throughout the adventure, but after a few hours of repetitive “non-stop action” sequences, it just feels old, tiered, and all so overdone these days. New players into the action-RPG genre might find the battle setup enjoyable, but more experienced gamers will grow bored with the lack of proper Spectrobe development and meaningless experience fetching.

Graphics
‘Beyond the Portals’ definitely looks cleaner than the predecessor. Everything is rendered fairly nice with bright, and vibrant colors filling up both creature models and menus. The environments can tend to get a bit bland at times, but nevertheless Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals succeeds in the graphical department.

Sound
What few decent tracks in the first Spectrobes are gone in the sequel. The soundtrack isn’t anything worth remembering; just expect lots and lots of midi techno tunes. Sound effects aren’t anything to get excited about either, unless you dig never-ending blaster noise and blaring Spectrobe screeching.

Extras
‘Beyond the Portals’ does utilize Nintendo Wifi connection to handle the DL system and for the first time, lets, you battle your Spectrobes against strangers and friends. You will, of course, need friend codes if you intend to battle friends. The download system (DL) is an “online store” that gives you a selection of items to purchase. Items available include video clips, parts, items, specialty Spectrobes, and more.

Being published by Disney gives this title the ability to connect to DGamer, an online community service that holds your avatar, achievements, and items. This feature sounds intuitive and helpful in theory, but it is so childishly cheesy that you end up logging out and never touching the feature again.

Final Thoughts
Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals is simply a Pokemon hybrid that went wrong. Playing this makes you realize that Nintendo puts more work into Pokemon than we take for granted because Disney seems to misfire every time.

Children and pre-teen players will most likely get a kick out of collecting all 112 Spectrobes, but older gamers should look elsewhere for a deep, action-rich RPG experience worth popping into your DS.

Pro +
-Better than the first title
-112 Spectrobes instead of 73
-Clean, crisp graphics
-Wifi battles

Cons –
-Still not a very rich RPG
-Space-Hero story cliché
-Loose experience system
-Poor sound quality and composition
-Dgamer = “blah!”

(Note: A Thank you to Disney Interactive Studios for sending Infendo a copy to review.)