Modern Review: Deadly Creatures (Nintendo Wii)

Hey, you know your fancy Wii U plays Wii games too, right? Obviously, now is the time to hoover up all the weird Wii games you didn't play the first time around- just to give an example, let's have a look at Deadly Creatures, a game about desert survival.

Developed by Rainbow Studios and published by THQ exclusively for the Wii in 2009, Deadly Creatures tracks the adventures of two anthropods- a tarantula and a scorpion- just trying to make it through a day in the desert. Their objective is to be a total jerk to any living thing that crosses their path, including but not limited to crickets, rats, lizards, a cantankerous and persistent rattlesnake, two humans searching for gold (voiced by Billy-Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper) and, naturally, each-other. What this boils down to is a 3D action-platformer, of sorts, across ten chapters where you alternate between the tarantula and the scorpion, as they see certain events from different perspectives and cross paths. The tarantula is the more nimble of the two, being able to jump, pounce on enemies from afar and shoot web strings to reach webbed platforms, while the scorpion is much better at doling out the harshness and can also dig weak soil, cut long grass, and block certain attacks. Just follow the destination marker (which you bring up by holding down 2), fight anything that dares challenge you, find hidden grubs and green crickets for concept art and extra health unlocks, and figure out what those two silly humans are up to (sadly, you don't see as much of the humans as I'd like, but it's a neat touch that you hear snatches of their conversations as you play through each stage). 

To begin with the controls- for we must, as this is a Wii game- they're not too bad. There's some decent use of the Wii's motion controls, as while basic combos are always pulled off with just the A button alone, you can add extra hits by moving the controller either up-and-down (usually attacks to flip enemies over) or side-to-side (crowd-control attacks), so you won't be waggling all the time. Both creatures also have exclusive uses for the Wiimote, which aren't as successful. The tarantula uses the Wii's pointing device to aim web shots and stealth pounces, which is a bit hit-and-miss- it's OK for using web platforms, but in the middle of combat lining up a shot is a bit too taxing, and not really worth the hassle. The scorpion, on the other hand, has what might be a sore-spot for some- quick-time event murderkills! Weakened enemies can be finished off with a few strokes of the Wiimote- doing so gets a tiny bit of health back, and if you can finish off some enemies quicker that's always a plus. However, the gestures can be very fickle at times, often making me fail prompts when I'd clearly done the motion. Luckily you're allowed to try again straight afterwards, but it's frustrating to fail the same one multiple times in a row. Luckily, very few genuine QTEs appear in the game (aside from one where you have to wriggle your way out of a massive spider web, and the final boss fight).

Persistent lil' booger, ain't ya?

As for the game structure itself, it's neatly divided between combat and exploration. On the surface, the combat seems pretty basic, and it mostly is, but as your repetoire of moves grows (killing enemies gives points with each chapter having point thresholds where you're given new abilities/attacks, and you also earn them through certain boss fights) you see there's more to it than just wildly flailing at the A button. In particular, learning the attacks that flip enemies over are essential when fighting groups, as your poor little anthropod isn't really built for fighting more than one at a time. The move unlock system is a bit strange- who ever heard of a spider who couldn't use webs?- but at least it's tied to your level progression, so you're never without a new ability for too long. When you're not fighting, you'll be just exploring, and while this is absolutely not a Metroidvania of any sort, it's neat to just mill around the game's locales from the perspective of a small creature, including places like an abandoned doll house, the inside of a crashed van, and numerous underground tunnels that look surprisingly impressive.
The fact that you can crawl on walls and ceilings may sound like it gets disorientating, but the destination marker always points where you're supposed to go, and in later stages it uses this to great effect, where you'll be fighting enemies clung to walls so when you knock them out, they fall off the wall to their demise. Quite a drop, that.

That last point exemplifies the game's strength- the mechanics are good enough, but it's more about the experience itself. Generally, when you think about games where you play as an animal that have a bit of platforming, you think of mascot platformers and blue skies and the like. This is obviously worlds away from that kind of thing, and it's very different as a result, so it gives it a unique charm- admittedly, it is in the desert so you'll be seeing a lot of brown environments, but seeing them from such a unique perspective made me keep playing to see where I'd be going next. The individual abilities of the two playable anthropods helped too, and kept things from getting repetitive. I can't really think of many games that let you be a relatively faithful-to-nature tarantula or scorpion (some of the animations are a bit exagerrated for comic effect, mind, like the tarantula's sideways slap) so points have to be given for that!

The downside is that as interesting as the concept is, it's quite rough around the edges. The framerate tries its best to stick at 30FPS, but whenever there's just a little bit too much action going on it'll dip pretty badly, and the collision detection is very suspect at times- it sometimes feels there's not much weight to what's happening, you can often get hit without realising or being able to adequately defend yourself, and on more than one occasion I thought I'd made a jump, only to be suddenly jolted elsewhere with a huge chunk of life taken away. It just feels like it could've done with a bit more care in certain areas.

Gameplay Footage:

I'm gonna squash you dead!

It may be a tad on the ropey side, both in terms of technical elements and the odd control issue (the web aiming for me, mostly), but I have a little soft spot for Deadly Creatures. It's a unique, strange little game that does its general mechanics well enough albeit with some roughness, but has the benefit of being quite a different experience (and one that's roughly the right length too- it doesn't overstay its welcome, let's put it like that). If you're scouring the Wii's back catalogue for some games you missed the first time around, Deadly Creatures is hardly a hidden gem, but it's unique enough to deserve a look at.

... Also, the 'final boss' has one of the most entertaining quick time events in years. I won't spoil it!

Please note: Screenshots taken from C&VG's page on the game.

Last Updated ( 31 July 2013 )  

Tepid Snake

Wait, what do I put in this box again? Oh, it's about me. I like playing weird and unusual games- the sort you're likely to forget about- and I hope you like reading about them because they're what I write about. And game trivia too. Please look forward to it!

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