Many Wii owners have felt starved for “core” games the past few months, as the release schedule has been light. What kept fans of the console going through this recent rough patch was the promise of a better 2009, one that matches or even potentially exceeds the lineups of its more powerful console cousins. Deadly Creatures is linked to both of these time frames, as it was meant to release during the fall of 2008 and then around Christmas time-where it would have helped to fill in the quiet holiday schedule along with another THQ title, de Blob-but has now released during February alongside a few other core-focused titles.
Let me say this right away: Deadly Creatures was worth the wait. The extra time in development that was used in order to improve the game and implement a more workable control scheme (less waggle for waggle’s sake, more intuitive use for the finished product) helps make Deadly Creatures into a must buy effort, but there are still some issues that myself and many gamers would have liked to see ironed out before the game hit retail.
Feb. 9, 2009
Deadly Creatures has you control a tarantula and a scorpion, but they don’t have cartoonish figures or anthropomorphic looks. Instead, Rainbow Studios, who is mostly known for their entries in the racing genre, built a game that looks like it’s straight out of National Geographic. The world is realistic and chronicles the daily grind for these creatures, which is brutal and unforgiving. Either you turn the insects, arachnids, lizards and the like into dinner, or they will do the same to you.
Rainbow Studios, who are headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, spent a significant amount of time out in the desert to make sure they got this right, and you can see the results of that in the finished product; you see other creatures going about their daily lives, catching prey, fighting, or just crawling around doing the things that these insects, lizards and snakes do in the real world. This facet of Deadly Creatures adds to the ambiance, and deserves to be noticed for its success.
Rather than just a “day in the life” kind of game, there’s a story that occurs in the background. The two human characters, Wade and Struggs, who are voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper, are digging around for a map in the desert in the same area that our two heroes are searching for lunch in. You learn early on that a gas station is the focus of part of the story, and that it no longer is standing in one piece; you just don’t know why that is. The more chapters you complete, the more of the story unfolds until your paths actually cross-a little of this is unveiled in the prologue, but you’ll have to play to figure out just what’s going on in the story.
As for the actual gameplay, you have two characters with different strengths. The tarantula is the more agile of the two characters, with quick thrusting attacks, jumping and pouncing blows, web shots, and other things that allow it to dance around enemies until they fall. The scorpion is the tank, as it walks around essentially in a suit of armor (exoskeletons come in handy), has the ability to block, and is more about stringing together short, powerful combos to defeat its enemies than it is about running circles around them or using agility to its advantage. In addition, the scorpion also has finishing moves; whereas the tarantula just beats its enemies until they stop moving, the scorpion brutally rips them to pieces or stabs them through with this tail, which is very satisfying.
Some of these finishers are very visceral and real-if this were people instead of insects and the like, the title would probably be rated higher than T. For example, the finishing move for the Tarantula Hawk, shown in the screenshots in our gallery, has the scorpion grab the flying bug in its pincers, whip it around some, then grab its wings and yank them right off while simultaneously stabbing it through the chest with its tail. Dismemberment and impaling, all in the blink of an eye, and it’s a joy to watch as it unfolds.
It’s easy to do too, as finishing moves are initiated with a press of the C button and carried out through Quick Time Events. You will want to turn the sensitivity up in order to perform these QTE’s effectively, but no worries, they do work effectively. If you do happen to fail too, you will get a second shot as long as your adversary is still dazed. All of the controls are simple, actually: press A for a basic attack, string together presses of the A button and certain movements for more powerful attacks (a tail whip for the scorpion is performed with a sideways wave of the Wii Remote, for instance). There is also a move list that you can peruse, which is good because the more you kill, the more moves and techniques you unlock for both characters.
There are also different ways to travel as the scorpion and tarantula. Eventually, the tarantula unlocks the ability to web jump from place to place, as long as there is another web waiting for you on the other side. The scorpion can dig in places the tarantula cannot, so both have little shortcuts and paths to take, even if you are traversing the same areas. This keeps the levels feeling fresh, even when you know you were just there a little earlier with the other character. Combine this with the different fighting styles for the two, and you can see why the gameplay doesn’t go stale.