Deadly Creatures (Wii) review
"Similar to Super Mario Galaxy, Deadly Creatures will take you through each desert environment in ways you never imagined. Walls are so easily traversed that you may begin to lose track of your surroundings. This illusion is broken – beautifully and sometimes hauntingly – when fighting an opponent that suddenly loses his grip and falls off what appeared to be solid ground."
Spiders and scorpions are never heroes. They don’t get to be the star of a movie unless they’re eight feet tall and have a healthy diet of humans. Thus, their appearance in video games has often been restricted to random enemy encounters, which can be very depressing for them. How are arachnids going to make ends meet in this lousy economy? What are they supposed to do with their lives – hang from ceilings and terrorize children?
As it turns out, terror is their specialty, which is why a furry, leg-twitching tarantula was chosen as one of the playable stars of Deadly Creatures, a new action game from Rainbow Studios and THQ. Driven by unparalleled animations (and some impressive textures for a Wii game), the tarantula is quite grotesque. From the way he jumps and scurries to the way his legs twitch while he’s standing still, this anti-hero is pretty frightening. Players are likely to fear him as much as they would an enemy; those who are squeamish may not have the courage to pick up the controller at all.
But it’s this fear that makes him and his lifelong nemesis – a large scorpion – an intriguing, eye-catching part of Deadly Creatures. They’ll make you stop and wonder: are we the enemy? If we spend our days and nights lurking in the shadows, exploring caves and every crevice we can find to bite, sting, enslave and devour, how is that any different from a villain who wishes to do the same thing?
The difference, of course, is survival. Instead of running from a bunch of creepy-crawlies, you become them. Unlike most games, these bugs were developed with realistic proportions in mind – large enough to scare a human but small enough to stay out of sight most of the time.
With two unlikely characters in place, the developers were free to take the game in any direction. Using a subtle blend of hack-n-slash combat, God of War-style boss battles and 10 stages full of gravity-defying environments, Deadly Creatures is Rainbow Studios’ most varied project yet. And though it is a short adventure (each stage can be finished in less than an hour; half of them won’t take you more than 30 minutes), those who crave and appreciate unique gameplay experiences will be thoroughly entertained.
Noting the success of games like Devil May Cry, the developers were very open-minded when it came to designing the spider’s attacks. In the real world, you aren’t likely to see a tarantula perform a jump kick. It’s even less likely that you’d see him leap into the air and spin his body around 360-degrees to attack a group of enemies simultaneously. But in the spirit of good game design, that’s just what he can do.
Likewise, the scorpion can swing his tail unnaturally and block attacks with his claws. Unlike his web-slinging rival, he can’t jump a foot into the air and is not capable of climbing upside down. But throw him into the middle of a battle with three wolf spiders and you’ll be thankful for what he can accomplish. His combos are very strong and his ability to dig and chop through the environment is priceless.
Best of all, after jamming on the 'A' button and shaking the Wii remote (which triggers most of the combos), players are frequently given the opportunity to perform a finishing move. When an enemy is on life support, a small 'C' button icon will appear over its head. Press it to launch the finishing move, which often begins with a painful blow. As the combo commands appear on-screen – ex: shake the Wii remote downward, shake both controllers left and right, etc. – quickly follow the instructions, kick back and enjoy the deadly animation.
Similar actions occur during the boss battles, which, without giving any spoilers, typically involve an enormous snake. The snake requires you to evade attacks – both manually and by following the on-screen commands – before going in for the kill.
Lizards, rats, wasps, beetles, black widows, wolf spiders and the occasional praying mantis round out the rest of the enemy lineup, though “predator” might be a better word to describe them. These creatures are anything but friendly; they too are trying to survive and are very hungry.
By far, the levels are the most memorable aspect of the game. The tarantula can climb on just about any surface (including ceilings once the appropriate upgrade has been obtained) and clings to dirt, rock, wood and metal as if he has suction cups attached to the bottom of his legs. He can’t sling down webs to frighten his prey but may use his natural silk to bind enemies or to launch himself toward a platform that’s 10 feet away.
Similar to Super Mario Galaxy, Deadly Creatures will take you through each desert environment in ways you never imagined. Walls are so easily traversed that you may begin to lose track of your surroundings. This illusion is broken – beautifully and sometimes hauntingly – when fighting an opponent that suddenly loses his grip and falls off what appeared to be solid ground.
Deadly Creatures extends this horrific experience even further with an unlikely story about two deadly humans. Featuring the voices of Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton, the script is presented with clever sequences that develop the story as an ongoing element that occurs in the background of the game. The spider and the scorpion are not a part of it, per se. But their paths will cross that of the humans, leading to some interesting developments that are actually worth watching.
When added together, these elements lead to one of the creepiest, most refreshing and most entertaining games of the generation. It isn’t flawless – you’ll see the camera get stuck behind a few objects, and not all of the motion control elements work as simply as the tutorial explains - but it’s hard to argue with what the developers have created. In an industry obsessed with developing Halo and Gears of War knock-offs (or cloning anything else that sells), Deadly Creatures is a testament to what original game design can achieve.
Freelance review by Louis Bedigian (February 27, 2009)
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