Reviewed: February 17, 2009
Released: February 9, 2009
I swear, every time Iím about to give up on my Wii somebody releases a kick-ass game that keeps it connected to my entertainment center for another few months. Itís almost as if the gaming industry can sense our restlessness at the sheer abundance of crap Wii owners are forced to wade through every time we go to the videogame store. And even when a so-called ďgood gameĒ does arrive it seldom achieves the same level of addiction I get from titles on my other platforms.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself hopelessly addicted to THQís latest release, Deadly Creatures. The very name hints at another one of those miserable hunting games, possibly in the desert judging from the cover art, but upon closer inspection youíll find that you arenít hunting deadly creatures Ė you ARE the deadly creatures; more specifically, a stealthy Tarantula and a venomous Scorpion that switch off as playable characters in what turns out to be quite an engaging story intermixed with the voice talents of Billy Bob Thorton and Dennis Hopper.
The first thing to grab your attention is the graphics, which are far beyond anything Iíve seen on the Wii to date with the exception of one or two first-party Nintendo titles, but even those canít compare to the gritty realism shown in Deadly Creatures. There is also a frightening sense of scale to the world, where something we might casually step on and crush as a human is now a deadly enemy or tasty snack.
Deadly Creatures eases you into the gameplay nuances with an ongoing tutorial that stretches across multiple missions as you play both spider and scorpion. As new abilities become available you will see those command inputs appear, and you can be sure the level designers have plenty of places for you to put them to the test. The game makes great use of all the buttons as well as clever motion controls that are intuitive and very responsive Ė perhaps some of the best motion input to date for the Wii.
The game opens with a narration by Billy Bob that slowly evolves into a cryptic plot thread that carries throughout the entire game. From time to time youíll get to overhear bits and pieces of conversation from the two main characters who are obviously seeking some sort of buried treasure out in the desert. But this story is merely a backdrop for all of the action taking place underground and down on your level, in the dirt and sand.
Deadly Creatures mixes up some creative level design with alternating heroes, each with their own specific set of moves and playing styles. The tarantula is stealthy and agile, able to shoot webs and zip around levels, while the scorpion has more muscle, and can dig through walls or burrow underground upside-down then spring up for a surprise attack. Again, the sense of scale is imposing, where blades of grass resemble tree trunks and human footsteps overhead can create the insect version of an earthquake. Itís a wonderfully unique perspective on a familiar world as clearly shown when you, as the scorpion, are exploring the rotted coffin containing the skeleton of some long-dead prospector.
There is some excellent camera work that can easily cause motion sickness if you arenít careful. I was reminded of the Ghost in the Shell video game back on the original PlayStation where that spider-bot crawled over and around buildings and the camera would tilt and tip crazily.
The animation is surprisingly fluid and lifelike and will easily creep out those afraid of spiders and/or scorpions. The level of detail is unparalleled with individual hairs on the spiderís legs and textured armor on the scorpion as well as amazing environmental details.
Combat is quite clever with a mix of button and motion input and a library of attacks that grows throughout the story. Youíll also gain abilities like web-zip and digging that allow your two heroes to reach inaccessible parts of previous levels. Primary attacks are handled with simple button presses while the more powerful secondary and finishing moves require a bit of gesturing. Each character has a unique style, and by switching off on alternating levels the designers keep this fighting game surprisingly fresh. The sheer variety of enemies is also impressive as is the amount of details and animation that goes into each. The bosses are particularly impressive as are the ways in which you must dispatch them. These are some of the most inventive and fun boss fights Iíve played in a long time on any system.
The pacing of the game is fairly even with a lot of exploration mixed with frequent combat. You have plenty of food sources to replenish health and special insects will increase the size of your health bar. The game also keeps counters for grubs and other special ďpick-upsĒ and rewards you with new moves and abilities when you reach certain milestones. Thorough collectors can also unlock special artwork, videos, and other interesting bonuses.
The game levels stream into the Wii memory almost seamlessly, so you seldom see a load screen. Save points are generously scattered about the levels and even if they do resemble swarms of flesh-eating mites they keep you from having to repeat too much of any level should you meet an untimely demise. At the end of each chapter you are given a summary screen so you know if you missed anything.
There are 10 chapters that take just about as many hours to finish, and the game allows you to revisit individual chapters to reclaim any missing grubs, so there is a bit of replay value for those who seek collection perfection. There are 450 grubs in all and in my first pass through the game I found 385.
Deadly Creatures is a huge surprise, partly because I had never even heard of the game prior to it showing up for review, but mostly because it is an original concept that makes the most of the Wiiís motion input ability and pushes the system to the visual limits of technology. The soundtrack is fantastic with a clever mix of orchestration and environmental ambience, and the sound effects are genuinely disturbing. Quality voice performances by Thornton and Hopper are icing on the cake.
If youíve been hanging onto your Wii in hopes that a decent game might show up some day then your wait is over. Anyone who wants to experience a visually disturbing and totally original action, exploration, fighting game should immediately head to your nearest store and invest in Deadly Creatures. This is a title Wii owners deserve and every other game studio should aspire to match.