Spare Parts Review

By Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Feb 03, 2011

Spare Parts is cute, but derivative and unpolished. There are some neat powers and level design, but poor platforming, repetitive combat, and a wayward camera hinder the experience. It's not without its charms and can be enjoyable, but there's nothing in here that hasn't been done better before.

The Pros
  • Slick animations
  • Fun powers
  • High-fives!
The Cons
  • Spotty platforming
  • Frustrating and broken camera
  • Too much repetitive combat near the end

Spare Parts Review:

Spare Parts is not a name that instills one with confidence. Might as well call it "B-sides" or "leftovers." While you can't judge a game by its title, in this case it's all too accurate.

The game is about two robots named Mar-T and Chip who've crash-landed on a strange planet. Their ship's AI, Con-Rad (voiced by Simon Pegg) instructs them to find their various missing ship parts scattered about the planet to get their vessel up and running again. It's a familiar premise from such games as Pikmin and ToeJam & Earl, but story isn't important, it's merely a jumping off point.

Spare Legos

The core gameplay is similar to Traveller's Tales' LEGO games where up to two players traverse linear levels smashing enemies, hopping on platforms, solving puzzles, collecting coins, and scouring the environments for secrets and collectibles.

It starts out dull with simple combat and obtuse platforming, but gaining new robot parts opens up the level design exponentially: Power Arms allow for breaking weak walls and pushing heavy objects, X-Scanners highlights objects that can be interacted with or broken, and Magno Boots grant the ability to walk on certain walls and activate specific switches. Each robot part has offensive capabilities that can be purchased like a stronger punch or assimilate enemy robots to fight alongside you.

Figuring out how to use your wide array of powers to collect each stage's ship parts, data disks, and robots in need of rescue is a lot of fun. Levels are short and breezy with plenty of incentive to go back to previously completed ones to pick up everything.

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Johnny (High) Five

It's a good looking game too, with particular detail lavished upon its robots. Animations are adorable and charming: switching powers leads to all their parts transforming in dizzying whirs, hopping atop another player makes them cry, and they'll furrow their Short Circuit's Johnny 5-like eyebrows when charging a punch.

While functional as a single-player game, Spare Parts works best played with a buddy. Some puzzles and hidden areas require two players and one of the game's best features is the ability to replenish each other's health by performing a high five by double jumping next to your partner. This can be tough to coordinate, but encourages good teamwork.

Follow the Leader

Unfortunately, the camera is a major downside to playing co-op. With no split-screen available, it only focuses on one player at a time. If a player is left off camera for too long they'll automatically warp near the other player's location. This is fine in theory except they'll often warp to a place that's still off-screen. Typically, the camera is zoomed in too close, so getting left behind is a frequent annoyance. Whoever is ignored by the camera has little autonomy, having to follow the other player around.

Elsewhere, the platforming is spotty with plenty of invisible walls and hard to gauge depth. Thankfully there's no penalty for dying beyond loss of currency.

While combat is refreshing in moderation, the game loses focus in its final act by placing far too much emphasis on brawling and a series of blase boss battles. The final boss in particular is a nightmare in co-op due to players respawning off-screen near a pit that inexplicably starts the fight over anytime someone falls in. It's a shame as once all the abilities have been unlocked the game start to get substantially better before swarming the player with endless waves of foes.

Scrap Metal

Spare Parts isn't a bad game, but it's one in need of a makeover. At its best, its a fast-paced romp with cute robots, cool powers, and plenty to discover. Sadly, it lacks polish with its cumbersome camera, shabby platforming and abundance of tedious combat in its later stages. Spare Parts takes too long to hit its stride, then falls apart too early. With greater refinement all around and a more sure-footed finale it could have been a winner. As is, it's competent, but rough. For all the rocket-boosting and gear grinding these bots can muster, they can't ignite any sparks.