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Deadly Creatures Review

Written by Sean Aaron on Friday, 20 March 2009No Comment

Deadly Creatures has gotten some attention over the past year for the novel scenario of putting you in control of a creepy-crawly arachnidrather than the usual space marine or swashbuckling hero.  Why this hasn’t been done more often in the post 8-bit gaming world I will never know — maybe all the horsepower of newer gaming consoles has reduced the imagination of game designers.  Kudos to Rainbow for developing it and to THQ for publishing it.  Between this and De Blob they have the makings of a promising 3rd party publisher for the Wii and I hope both companies survive the current economic upheaval.

The visuals are definitely among the best on the Wii:  attention to detail is impressive and makes free-looking worthwhile when you enter a new area.  You can make out the different strata in the walls of the tunnels and canyons you travel through and gaze upwards in wonder at citadels created inside large cacti and bramble thickets.  You’ll also see animated denizens of these structures going about their dark business foreshadowing conflicts to come.  Character animation is outstanding with the highly detailed animals having a full range of realistic motions.  The analogue control is put to superb use with very slow cautious movements being truly marvelous to behold in all their anatomical accuracy.

The sound is suitably creepy and the musical cues give a good sense of menace when enemy threats make their presence known.  In addition to the expected scuttling sounds made by your own creature you get nice shrieks, roars and guttural sounds from your opponents.  As you progress through the game you’re following an overarching human narrative and periodically can hear snatches of conversation between characters played by Hollywood A-listers Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper.  You rarely see them, but will hear snatches of conversation and observe their presence in the form of dust falling from the ceiling or the threatening sound of shovelling as they search for buried treasure.

Alternating stages (”chapters”) have you taking the role of the tarantula or the scorpion which gives a nice contrast in gameplay.  The tarantula is faster and able to jump; eventually it can walk on ceilings and jump to background spiderwebs via silk strands of its own. Tarantula fighting strategy is more based upon speedy strike and withdrawal.  The scorpion is more of a brawler with the ability to block enemy attacks, but slower and less mobile.  It is later able to dig and open up new areas that the tarantula cannot reach.  These primary characters interact at times and often go over the same areas, but due to their different methods of getting around they never feel quite the same.

This game is all about combat and exploration.  Though progression is linear there are plenty of areas to walk around in.  You can try to find pick-ups like grubs and green crickets to unlock galleries of concept art and increase your health bar, or you can just try to breeze through the game and take the shortest routes.  Given that you’re often making your way through caves and brambles, walking upside down and on the sides of tunnels and cacti you can be forgiven for getting lost, so pressing the 2 button will display an arrow pointing you in the right direction.  Otherwise the HUD is minimal and hidden with tips and notifications about new abilities and objectives popping up and fading away in the upper left and a health bar appearing as needed in the upper right.

Enemy creatures are both other invertebrates like beetles, spiders, scorpions and wasps as well as vertebrates like lizards and rats.  Combat is varied and you’ll need to learn how to carry out various attacks and when to use them as enemies have different methods of attack and defense as well as pretty good AI.  This is not a game where you can simply rush in and press the A button over and over again.  A basic set of attacks is on hand to start using simple presses of A and B buttons and good gesture implementation.  This repertoire builds over the course of the game, providing players with a variety of different moves to dispatch their foes.  This combination of enemies and attacks keeps the action fresh rather than repetitive and offers a level of challenge that feels well balanced.

Saves happen at various checkpoints represented by fireflies.  When restoring a save you can choose to replay any previous chapter and change the difficulty.  The main game isn’t a vast epic with 10 chapters that take about an hour each to complete, but the gameplay is enough fun that I can definitely see replaying the odd level now and then.

The game is not perfect by any means.  Whilst the frame rate is generally excellent you will experience the odd hiccup, though this is hardly noticeable.  Many parts of the game are quite large and levels will load as you progress.  For the most part this is barely a blip, but there are a couple of sections where the initial load can be measured in seconds and brings the game to a halt — though these are quite few and no more than five seconds in length.  

The camera does a good job of auto-tracking your character generally, however I have experienced it getting stuck and shuddering for several seconds or being lodged within a wall.  These events lasted several seconds before correcting themselves and weren’t easily replicated, so again, not a deal breaker.  Manual camera control is limited to auto-positioning it behind you with a d-pad down press, so if you do have camera issues, you’ll have to just wait through them.  I’ve also observed some clipping in the game with walls I could walk into and floors I or other creatures could fall through; again these were rare.  It’s clear that a little more polish could have been done (especially on the last few chapters), but compared to a lot of software that comes out with code that actually crashes games (I’m looking at you Bethesda), I think Deadly Creatures has turned out pretty well.

Deadly Creatures isn’t for everyone, and I don’t just mean arachnophobes.  It’s a very different style of gameplay with very different protagonists and antagonists than gamers are used to.  It is for this reason I think people should give it a try as I’d like to see more original content like this on the Wii.  Fans of the game certainly have cause to hope for a sequel, even if the titular “Deadly Creatures” are kept the same.  After all scorpions and tarantulas are found in deserts and jungles around the world and can be tied to many more tales of human treachery…

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