30-50 hours until space stage? Are you sure you played the same game I did?
I'll grant that if you spent two or three hours designing your creature at each stage plus all the vehicles and buildings you could definitely rack up more than twenty hours by the Space stage, but that's at the far end of the spectrum. I never had the patience for it, so I usually went from speck to spaceship in the span of five or six hours of play.
The outrage over Spore that I recall was more about the fact that the Creature, Tribal, and Civilization stages were so brief and shallow. A lot of the hype for Spore before release was that you supposedly had a third person adventure, a tactical (read: micro heavy) RTS, Civ Lite, and Elite/Colony Management game all wrapped up in a pretty package. The novel gimmick was that you got to do all these Fun Awesome Things with the very species you guided from paramecium to Galactic Powerhouse. The concept was extremely cool.
Instead, the players got an arcade game, a brief third person walking simulator, exactly one match of Warcraft III, the easiest game of Civ possible, and an "epic" space stage that had the grindiest, most boring colony management game I've ever played. And the space combat wasn't any fun either. In fact, the Space section was probably the weakest part of the game, which is why Galactic Adventures brought back the third person adventuring thing with player-made dungeons, which was actually worthwhile.