Name: Deadly Creatures
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Without getting into another speech on the ratio of good to bad on the Nintendo Wii, it’s pretty well known that the system didn’t enjoy the abundance holiday releases of its competition. With a few exceptions, the big companies seemed to skip over the Wii, despite its massive market share, and even Nintendo seems to have taken the year off. Rainbow Studios didn’t, and worked hard to finish their dirt opera, Deadly Creatures, in time for the holidays. They didn’t, and the game had to be pushed into the early months of 2009. With the voice talent of Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thorton, it’s obvious THQ wanted to put quality first, instead of simply shoving the title out of the door, but is it worth the wait?
Players take the role of either a tarantula or scorpion. These aren’t Disney characters, anthropomorphic animals dancing around and singing; they’re bugs. Dirty, yucky bugs. They don’t have names, they don’t speak, and they don’t even seem to have motives beyond their animalistic urges. This creates a unique viewpoint, and one that isn’t usually attempted in gaming. There’s more than the basic needs of insects to worry about, and a story silhouettes the journey of the desert’s deadliest creatures. It’s dark and mysterious, told unobtrusively through voices booming throughout the underground and quick cut scenes. This kind of passive storytelling isn’t unique to Deadly Creatures, but it’s accomplished well, with smart dialogue and fantastic voice work. It could be done better, and the idea of telling a story outside a story is something that could have been exploited much more, but there’s still enough there to keep a sense of humanity to the game, and give the human player something to sympathize with besides the tarantula’s urge to kill a cricket.
That urge, however, is a strong one, and both the tarantula and scorpion have their own methods of dealing with the assortment of enemies in Deadly Creatures. Other insects, rodents, and lizards also populate the desert, all of which would love a chance to grab a quick snack. The playable creatures, which alternate the role of protagonist between levels, have similar play styles, in that they’re creatures, but with their own perks and, dare I say, personalities. Whereas the tarantula is a tank, and simply smashes apart enemies with concussive attacks, the scorpion is more of a finesse fighter, dodging and relying on powerful finishing strikes to down its enemies. These usually take the form of gesture-based sequences, and have incredibly satisfying animations unique to each enemy. Gesture controls, which have always been the hit-or-miss alternative to button combination sequences, hit more often than not, though can be frustrating from time to time.
While combat definitely takes the spotlight during much of the game, exploration is also important to the Deadly Creatures experience. Levels are wildly three-dimensional, which oftentimes proves to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it definitely aids in setting a mood for Deadly Creatures, and lends to fantastic level design that takes advantage of every surface of a setting. Abilities are unlocked to explore even more of the environment, slowly giving the creatures complete mastery of their surroundings. On the other hand, this same fact can cause the camera to become a nightmare, and even when it’s acting functional there are definitely moments of motion sickness. This is amplified by the tarantula’s ability to climb on walls and zip to webs, which, while entirely functional and awe-inspiring, is also vomit-enduing.
Aside from the earlier levels, which are primarily in underground caverns in the desert, the occasional man-made object will pop up, towering over the hero, and creating even more interesting surroundings to explore. More sections inside buildings and in between walls would have helped spice up the surroundings, but they also work as they are, rewarding the player for progress with a unique perspective at an everyday object. Broken cell phones, shovels, dolls, and other normal objects look completely alien in this world, and fit in that they’re completely and totally out of place.
Boss battles are presented brilliantly, and are surprisingly epic. It’s amazing how large and powerful a rattlesnake or Gila monster is from the viewpoint of a scorpion. They are delight, and the only issue is the scarcity in which they take place. These exhilarating segments are made all the more wonderful by the game’s production values, which are about as high as any other third party title’s on the Wii. Aside from the aforementioned acting talent, the game’s graphics are by and large pleasant. Well, as pleasant as underground caverns filled with insects can be, and there’s a struggle between making the game look good without it looking too nauseating.
The story is a bit on the short side, and while there are various difficulty modes there’s little actual replay value. A multiplayer mode, even in the way of a deathmatch between the creatures, would have fleshed out the experience a bit more, but even without it there’s a good eight or so hours of game. Simply put, such a unique game deserves to succeed, and there’s no doubt that Deadly Creatures is worth looking into for Wii owners.