Project Spark is an interesting creature. Though it does masquerade as a game with the inclusion of a rather lackluster campaign, I think most people will agree that the fun doesn’t lie in what comes in the box, but rather what you can create with the tools given. Because of this I’ll warn you now: people not interested in stewing for hours over how to improve their own designs need not apply. If you’re not looking to be a part of a community of game creators, and the passionate people that test them, then you’re probably better off avoiding this title completely. But, those that enjoy the challenge that comes from being handed the keys to a virtual world of endless possibility will find themselves totally enthralled.
Project Spark comes packaged with an episodic single-player campaign. It’s really just designed to be a way to show off the title’s creative possibilities, which is a tad ironic because of its bland presentation. It really doesn’t show off what the game is actually capable of. I quickly found myself bored with the campaign because of its loosely tied together story, uninspired characters, and horrible camera angles (I’m not one to get motion sickness from games, but Project Spark’s campaign had me pausing here and there to stop myself from feeling woozy). Furthermore, a lack of a targeting system in the campaign made ranged heroes a serious nuisance to play. It was rather disappointing. Good thing there’s a bunch of user-created content to dive into!
"Those that enjoy the challenge that comes from being handed the keys to a virtual world of endless possibility will find themselves totally enthralled."
I was surprised, when I booted this title up on day one there was already a rather large selection of user-created levels. Granted, most of them were targeted towards making it easy to earn certain achievements, but growing pains are expected with a title like this, and as time went on I was glad to see more and more compelling content coming to the stores. After day three or so there was so much stuff being uploaded that I can see how users that truly dive into the community experience Project Spark offers will remain satiated for months to come. That alone is a monumental achievement, especially for a title as ambitious as this one.
"Platformers, 2-D side-scrollers, deep RPGs, twin stick shooters… whatever you envision can be made with a few simple clicks and a lot of trial and error."
Project Spark is deep. It takes ideas and foundations created by other games like Little Big Planet and allows users even more customization. At any point during your adventures you can pause the game, and open up options menus to begin editing and figuring out exactly what makes something tick. You can then take these new ideas and apply them to whatever it is you want to create. NPCs, level triggers, even quirky character designs can all be torn apart and analyzed through streamlined player menus that are easy to grasp, but feature tons of customizability. Platformers, 2-D side-scrollers, deep RPGs, twin stick shooters… whatever you envision can be made with a few simple clicks and a lot of trial and error. This is part of what makes Project Spark so much fun. The best part is that all of these creative tools are available for free! There is a $40 starter set, and a few expansions that users can download, but they’re not required to jump in and start building up your own compelling worlds.
"Project Spark is a special title, one that allows you to harness your creativity. It’s not setting out to tell anyone’s story but yours, assuming you have one to tell."
Project Spark’s tutorial system is a bit bare to be honest. I spent a significant amount of time going through tutorials only to eventually realize that there was no way for me to create my vision without a proper understanding of some basic game design concepts. I ended up spending a lot of time looking things up online, interacting with users on forums, and asking a lot of questions. It’s part of the learning process that comes with this game. Some users may find themselves turned off by this, but the most determined will be able to create worlds that mimic their wildest dreams. Co-op level design is a feature that I didn’t have much of an opportunity to play around with because of my relatively barren Xbox Live friends list, but it seems like a compelling idea that could only add to the fun.
I haven’t created anything I’m comfortable sharing. I doubt I ever will. But for those that have the courage to upload and interact I’m sure you’ll find a home that nurtures as much as it inspires. Project Spark is a special title, one that allows you to harness your creativity. It’s not setting out to tell anyone’s story but yours, assuming you have one to tell. That, my friends, is what makes it worth a try. Most people won’t see more than what’s offered on the surface, but those that truly explore its depths will emerge with one of the most rewarding experiences the Xbox One has to offer.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Xbox One