Date Released: February 9, 2009 (USA)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Insects, arachnids, and the creepy crawlies are things games have rarely touched upon. There's been Bug's Life-esque, cartoony kids games, and spiders and snakes have been enemies and end level bosses, but never before has gaming seen something as unique as Deadly Creatures. The Wii is definitely home to some unique games whether it be because of innovative ideas or the rethinking of certain genres and mechanics. Deadly Creatures is here, and it's another of these games that's very different from the rest.
The game is split into ten levels. Each level alternates between the two playable characters, the scorpion and the tarantula. This results in five scorpion stages and five spider stages. Each level will have multiple goals, most being get to a certain point or explore a certain location. Every time you complete a goal, the next one will pop up. This turns out to make the game progression very linear. And that adds onto the already super linear environments that you traverse. This being said, most of the levels are still a blast to play as you'll crawl along walls and upside down on ceilings. Just don't expect a lot of branching paths throughout these stages.
Deadly Creatures definitely isn't a super lengthy tale. A normal play through will last anywhere from six to eight hours (maybe ten at tops). There's three difficulties, but not a lot of incentive to go back and replay parts of the game. There are collectible grubs and crickets, though they do nothing much except satisfy that completionist's urge to get every last thing. Though some artwork galleries and excellent interviews with Hopper and Thornton are in the extras menu and definitely should be checked out.
The story in Deadly Creatures revolves around two human characters, Wade and George Struggs, both brilliantly voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper respectively. The storyline is one of betrayal, and a buried chest of Civil War gold. It's interesting and plays out well, though it is fairly minimal, and it would've been nice to see more. As far as the scorpion and tarantula go, there's very little story if any. But what is cool is how the story of Struggs and Wade is viewed. Since you play as the scorpion and the tarantula, you'll view the story from a lower, different perspective and it's a very unique take on storytelling. It should also be noted that interaction between the two groups (creepy crawlies and humans) is pretty limited. It would've been great for more of this too, since there are a few human-bug interactions, and they're all really great and show a lot of potential for even greater things.
Deadly Creatures is an action-adventure game that clings to traditional mechanics of combat and a bit of exploration but throws in some completely new design choices. Most of the game you'll go through levels with a few puzzles and obstacles along the way, but most of your time is spent in combat. You'll continually unlock new moves and combos until the end. This results in what could be some pretty diverse fighting if it weren't for several moves of each creature being a lot more powerful than the rest, and in the end you'll tend to lean on said moves which makes the game feel a lot more repetitive than it should be.
The game's controls mix button presses with gestures for good effect. Most of it works well, you'll tend to button mash a bit and use motion controls occasionally for stronger blows. I did have some problems with the motion controls though. The game did well in recognizing the difference between horizontal and vertical gestures, it just didn't do it in a timely manner. It would usually take a second or two for the motion to register. Which is a shame as all of the other controls work great.
You take control of both a scorpion and a tarantula within the game. Both creatures have their differences. The scorpion is more of a tank and a fighter. It's not nearly as fast as the spider and doesn't have the agility to dodge and jump out the way like the tarantula does. The scorpion levels tend to have a lot more combat than the others. The greatest part of being a scorpion is the cinematic quick time events of finishing off enemies. They're brutal, in no way realistic, and very awesome. Seeing a scorpion shove it's stinger into a rat's skull or flip over an insect and stab it though it's appendix are some of the best memories you'll come away from this game having.
Contrary to the scorpion, the tarantula is much more of a stealthy character. He's a lot more agile as he can jump, dodge, and attack from afar. Overall I found the spider to be much more enjoyable to play due to it being a lot more versatile. The tarantula has melee combat moves like the scorpion, but the more effective moves include shooting webs and the ability to pounce on unsuspecting enemies from a distance. I found these levels to be a lot more fun. Plus early into the game you gain the ability to shoot webs and pull yourself long distances (like Spider-Man) that make those levels even more fun.
Throughout the game you'll constantly be fighting enemies. The enemy lineup is fairly varied and you'll fight all different sorts of insects, arachnids, lizards, and rats. All have different fighting styles with some being able to fly or charge. They're all a great deal of fun to fight, but the real fun comes in with the boss fights. These encounters are fantastically done, specifically the last two (though I won't ruin anything) which occur in Chapters 9 and 10 (the last tarantula and scorpion levels respectively). It's just a shame that they didn't make more of these encounters, as you'll only fight four or so bosses throughout the game. Making a boss at the end of each chapter would've been great. That said, you'll still have a lot of fun fighting rattle snakes and giant lizards throughout the boss battle encounters.
The best thing Deadly Creatures has going for it is the great atmosphere. This is due to some great level design and artwork, an exceptional audio side, and some great graphics. The soundtrack and audio in Deadly Creatures definitely deserves some praise. There's not much music so to speak, more of an ambiance that really fits the levels. Complimenting that are some realistic sound effects from the bugs and mammals alike. I found nothing to complain about on the sound side of things, it's perfect and does a great job of immersing you in the game.
The game also sports fairly good visuals. And being zoomed in at a bug's level, it does hold up with textures. All of the different bugs are animated perfectly and move much like the real things. The lifelike crawl of the tarantula is sure to send arachnophobics running in fright. The greatest part of the game though is being at such a tiny level. Crawling on walls and ceilings is great and fighting on them is even better. You'll be exchanging blows with an insect only to have it lose footing and fall sideways to what is actually the ground breaking the illusion of gravity. It's also great to see everything from bike tire to a doll house at a scorpion's view. You'll find yourself crawling inside a large structure only to get out of it, look around, and see that it was actually a worn out, holy shoe.
While on the presentation side of things, the game certainly is nice, there are some bugs and parts that feel unpolished that bring down the game a bit. Frequent load times pop up in the middle of levels and the game can stutter in the framerate area from time to time. I even had a couple of load times happen in the middle of fighting enemies that really breaks up the action and are annoying. Another issue I had was with all the different surfaces. Sure, it was great to crawl upon all different sides and angles, but sometimes enemies wouldn't fare so well and get stuck in the environments. Though the biggest complaint I have with the game is the clunky camera. It works decent most of the time, but occasionally it'll freak out disorienting you while trying to center on something. It also had the tendency to catch on walls and stay there while you get farther and farther away until at last it jumps back to you. The game definitely could use some polish, and it does feel like a couple more weeks or even a month of ironing out the bugs (the technical kind) would've done this game well.
As I said earlier, Deadly Creatures has it's bugs and unpolished areas, but as you climb upside down and along walls, pounce on unsuspecting enemies as the spider, and pull off brutal finishers with the scorpion, most of this nitpicking is forgotten. The game's great atmosphere is reason alone to experience this unique game. Despite it not being the longest of games, I'd recommend a buy to anyone who can stand the game and it's arachnaphobia inducing graphics.
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