Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wii Hidden Gems #6 - Deadly Creatures

Deadly Creatures sees you take control of a Tarantula and a Scorpion as they navigate their way through various treacherous environments within the Sonoran desert. Throughout the game they will cross paths with each other, as well as rattlesnakes, gila monsters and two humans voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper who are on the hunt for some buried gold.

The game was published by the now defunct THQ and developed by Rainbow Studios, probably most well known for their work on racing franchises such as ATV Off Road Fury and Splashdown. It was released in 2009, and has gained a small fan base over the year, but remains overlooked by many.  Hopefully this review will persuade you to check it out!

Graphics: 8 out of 10
First of all the animation of the two lead arachnids is superb, with your spider and scorpion skittering around the environments in an incredibly realistic fashion.  This also extends to the other creatures that you will face throughout the course of the game.  The scorpion has access to a range of finishing moves too, some of which are extremely brutal to watch (I am thinking of the one for the rat in particular, which ends with the scorpions stinger embedded right in the poor rats brain).

I do have a minor issue with the graphics in some of the stages, in that things can get extremely dark, making them hard to navigate.  This is even with the gamma settings properly adjusted for my TV. There's also a bit of a problem where things look like you'd be able to walk on them, but in fact there are invisible walls blocking your path.  This is mitigated somewhat by a guide arrow that can be displayed by pressing the 2 button on your Wii remote.

Sound and Music: 7 out of 10
The music in Deadly Creatures is mainly in the background and there to help maintain the menacing atmosphere.  In this game, pretty much everything is out to kill you and the score is oppressive and dark.  Backing this up is a variety of snarls, barks and squeaks that the various other insects, arachnids, lizards and mammals make.  The spiders sound suitably disgusting and just playing this game makes my skin crawl - the presentation is that realistic.

Capping off the sound is the voice performance of Billy Bob Thornton as Wade and Dennis Hopper as Struggs.  They aren't in the game a huge amount - you get to see their story at the beginning and end of the game, and cross paths with them several times throughout the game.  They do a solid job of portraying a couple of very nasty individuals, and their presence elevates the game overall as well as adding a bit of mystery to the whole thing.  You will want to keep playing to find out what they're up to and what fate has in store for them.

A creature, looking pretty deadly.
Gameplay Mechanics: 7 out of 10
I've already mentioned the issues I had with the dark levels and getting lost from time to time.  Well, this is more of an issue with the spider than with the scorpion, because the spider levels are typically much harder to navigate around to begin with.  A few stages into the game, your spider friend will gain the ability to jump to webs that are handily positioned around the level.  Finding them can be a bit of a chore sometimes, and once you jump from one to another it can be easy to get turned around.  The guide arrow does help a lot with this though.

Sadly, the scorpion is not without its own gameplay issues.  The early levels are fine really, but as you progress you will first get the ability to dig up dirt, and then the ability to chop down foliage with your pincers. Combined with the finishing moves that I've already mentioned, what this adds up to is a whole lot of wagging, which gets pretty tiresome after a while.  Generally the motion controls are actually very cleverly thought out and implemented - there's just a bit too much of it during the later scorpion stages.  Luckily you alternate between the spider and the scorpion throughout the game, giving your poor old elbows the chance for a rest.

Innovation and Cleverness: 8 out of 10
Deadly Creatures deserves a pretty high score here - firstly for the rather novel idea of letting you take control of a pair of killer bugs, then for the way that it brings in the story of Wade and Struggs with their celebrity voice overs, and then finally with the clever motion controls.  Swinging the remote and nunchuk to deal out death to poor rodents is extremely satisfying (if a little tiring).  The final level is also very clever if a little infuriating to beat. I'm not going to spoil exactly what it entails here though.

Value and Replayability: 6 out of 10
If I were reviewing a brand new, full priced game then I would have awarded a much lower score here.  Deadly Creatures can easily be found for around the £5 mark though, which a good price for a game that takes around 10 hours in total to beat.  The replay value is questionable - there are over 400 optional grubs to find hidden throughout the levels, but all that they unlock are art galleries so I don't feel the need to go back and play the game again.   This is a "one and done" experience really.

Overall: 7 out of 10
Deadly Creatures is a flawed game, there's no doubt about it, but it's clever enough and cheap enough for me to recommend it everyone.  There aren't very many games out there that are like it, and the fans are hoping that one day we will see a Deadly Creatures 2.  That may not happen, but at least we have the original - just one of many such unique and clever games on the way if you can be bothered to look hard enough.

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