|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Jupiter||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Disney Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 7, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
When the original Spectrobes came along, I was worried that it would be little more than a Pokémon clone. My fears were largely unfounded, but the game suffered from enough problems to be a disappointment for me regardless. Spectrobes returns with a sequel on the DS, and it doesn't really do anything to shake things up; it feels very similar to the original, and if you liked the first Spectrobes, then Beyond the Portals is worth looking into. If you didn't enjoy the original game, or just never got the chance to play it, purchasing Beyond the Portals is probably not worth it.
The game's story picks up sometime after that of the original's, with the Krawl attacking the main Spectrobe lab (the excavate-able monsters are the only entities capable of defeating the Krawl). It's essentially just a lame reason for you to go hunting for more Spectrobes, but I did feel that the story was marginally better than last time. The writing still feels a bit stiff, but there's more of a purpose to the storyline this time around. You're searching for Spectrobes and facing off against High Krawl, rather than just wandering aimlessly around digging up Spectrobes and fighting a lot of seemingly-purposeless battles.
Beyond the Portals, much like the original Spectrobes, features two main components: excavating fossils and using them to "create" Spectrobes, and battling the Krawl with the Spectrobes that you've created. Digging up fossils requires you to use a variety of tools on the touch screen to carefully dig out whatever it is that you're looking for (in addition to Spectrobes, you can find other materials that will help you out on your adventure). In an attempt to keep this constant process from getting stale, each planet has a different environment that affects how you dig. For example, in the desert you need to blow away sand as you excavate. It feels a bit gimmicky and despite this attempt, the excavation process can become pretty monotonous as you get further and further into the game.
Hand in hand with the excavation task is the process of raising your Spectrobes once you've found them. They start out as Children, but as you work with them, they'll change into Adults and eventually will reach the Evolved form. Using Spectrobes in battle can level them up, but you can also use the incubator (while feeding them certain items as well) to level them up while you're out battling. It's a nice touch, but with 185 Spectrobes in the game, you're in for a very tedious experience if you're serious about collecting and leveling-up all the Spectrobes.
The other main component of Beyond the Portals is the battling. As you explore the variety of different planets, you'll inevitably come into a lot of contact with the Krawl. There are two main battle types. Krawl Dust can be defeated by Rallen (one of two main characters) himself, in reward for experience and level-ups. These battles are pretty annoying, actually; oftentimes they'll be blocking the way to the Vortex battles, which really matter, and just serve to slow down the game. Additionally, because Rallen himself isn't used in battle during the Vortex fights, the level-up system doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
The Spectrobe battles are significantly better, and I was quite happy with the improvement over the battle system of the original. Rather than pressing L and R and flailing around attempting to hit the Krawl, you'll directly control one Spectrobe at a time, while your partner fights automatically. Switching off between the two mid-battle is easy, and executing a variety of different attacks with each of your monsters is also fairly intuitive.