Oh, hell yeah! Oh, hell. Oh, hell no! Wait… what the hell? That’s pretty much how I felt playing through Deadly Creatures for the first time. At first I was excited to finally be unwrapping the package and getting my game on. Then I was surprised at how really creepy, sick and just plain awesome most of the game was. Then I couldn’t believe the messed up stuff they put in the game, specifically the end. Finally, I watched the credits in silent victory, realized I beat the game in just under seven hours and thought, “Huh? Hey, what the hell!?!” Like a roller coaster my thrill ride was over too soon, so like any addict I got back in line to ride again.
I’ve been excited about Deadly Creatures since I first heard about it early last year. At that point most of the Wii games that properly used the motion controls were just mini-game compilations and hardcore gamers were suffering on Nintendo’s little money maker. I was eager to see what a third party developer could do building an action adventure game from the ground up with only the Wiimote and Nunchuk control in mind. I think THQ really pulled it off and, if you don’t mind spoilers, let me tell you why.
Control is intuitive and starts out basic. Move the characters with the Nunchuk Control Stick and do basic attacks with the A button. The camera shifts with movement, but can be centered by pushing down on the D-pad and players can stop and look around by holding the 1 button. There are also several action moves that require swinging the Wiimote or combining motions with button presses. From here the controls differ by character. The Tarantula can jump with the Z button and shoot web with the C button. When it flips an enemy over players can run up to it, hold A and pump the Wiimote and Nunchuk up and down to feed. The Scorpion can sprint forward with a thrust forward of the Nunchuk, block with Z and enter into killer finishing moves when the time is right by pressing C.
The goal was to make it feel like players were really controlling these feisty arachnids and it worked. It worked well. The finishing moves were especially gratifying as the Scorpion because it made me swing how it would move. To rip the wings off a wasp I threw my arms wide and to stab a rat through the back of the skull I thrust down. When playing as the Scorpion players can even turn the Wiimote upside down to burrow under the sand and then turn it right side up to pop out and nail unsuspecting prey. Even simple moves like stabbing down with the Wiimote to do a tail strike or striking with A and then thrusting up to flip and enemy over felt natural.
The only downside in controlling these creatures was the lack of a lock-on feature. When I asked Associate Brand Manager Henry Lee about this he said the decision not to put it in the game was that the controls wouldn’t have felt as realistic for the creatures. Instead Deadly Creatures has a subtle lock-on that tries to automatically focus on whichever creature is in front of the player. This works well in one-on-one fights, but is lost against even as little as two enemies. Twice I tried to turn and attack after being backed into a corner, but my creature simply refused to turn around. Even in the cut-scenes when the Tarantula and Scorpion squared off they sidestepped like a lock-on would allow, so it was distracting—but only a little.
The desert environments are actually very alive and well varied. To a human there aren’t any great distances covered, just a few acres of desert and a seedy little gas station; but to small desert creatures it is a vast world. There is the desert exterior with walls to climb, bugs to kill and blazing sunlight. Then the underground with dark twisting tunnels filled with, well you don’t even want to know.
There are ten stages total with gameplay alternating each time between the Tarantula and Scorpion. Some stages overlap and some areas will be covered by both creatures at different times. This is more fun than it sounds because areas are cut off by abilities. The Scorpion can use his claws to dig to new areas or chop through weeds, while the Tarantula can jump or zip from web to web to reach places the Scorpion can’t. These abilities are used a lot and each stage incorporates them seamlessly.
The attention to detail in every stage is stellar. While crawling through an old truck as the Tarantula you can see decals and serial numbers on engine parts, there is an arcade cabinet in the junkyard labeled Arak Attak and the dashboard hula dancer bobbles as it should when touched. There is only so much to see in the desert though, so the gas station was a welcome change and as the Tarantula and Scorpion players will get to explore everything from the plumbing and bathroom, to the inside walls and pump stations.
Playing as the Scorpion was easily my favorite. He’s (or is he a she?) the brawler and the only one with bad ass finishing moves. Each enemy has a different finishing move and the movements are always the same, so no one should get frustrated they didn’t get to see the lizard get its neck snapped. The action here is heavy, ruthless and fun as hell. Having that added ability to block or burrow come in handy and the advanced move sets do indeed make Deadly Creatures feel like an action game.
The Tarantula gets the best exploration stages. Eventually it can zip to other spider’s webs and even crawl upside down. If you get motion sick or have balance issues make sure to take your meds before playing the thorn stage because it will twist the camera worse than The Blair Witch Project. This isn’t bad for gameplay though and makes it even more fun attacking prey from above. The Tarantula is also the game’s sniper and can launch an ultra powerful pounce attack from great distances.
The enemies are well placed, varied and realistic to a degree. They are all desert creatures from the same environment as our Tarantula and Scorpion. Most fit perfectly and behave as one would expect. For example the Horned Lizard will actually shoot blood out of its eye to keep their enemies at bay. Lizards and desert rats are fast and deadly and some creatures can inject poison. Wolf Spiders don’t hunt in packs though and the multi-colored Back Widows and swarms of flesh/scale eating mites were a bit off; but the Discovery Channel this is not, so game on!
Also littered throughout the stages are Crickets and Pillbugs, which can be eaten for health as well as Leaf Crickets and Grubs which must be found to increase health and unlock Concept Art Galleries in the Extras Menu. Perfectionists can rejoice because when playing through again on the same save file, previously found Leaf Crickets and Grubs don’t regenerate, so you can focus on finding the few that got away the first time through.
The game focuses on the Tarantula and Scorpion’s adventure. Billy Bob Thornton described it best when comparing them to two great Western movie stars. When they met it was like a showdown between the deserts to greatest little creatures, but there is another story constantly in the background. Two men are looking for buried treasure and every time they are around things get hairy. As the creatures, players will occasionally overhear conversations between Struggs and Wade and there are cut-scenes mixed in as well. Starting in the desert and ending with a showdown in the gas station, we’re shown why man is the deadliest creature of all.
Even though the two men aren’t in the game much, they are important characters and it was equally important that they did a good job presenting them to the players. For this Rainbow Studios got Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper; and they couldn’t have made better choices. The interaction between them flows perfectly. As Wade, Thornton brought the rough muscle, which lends itself well to the desert scene and his favorite character–the Scorpion. The behind the scenes bonus material also has a great interview with Thornton about the game, his opinions, and how he used to drive around with a python around his neck. Hopper, on the other hand, plays the desert creature collecting Struggs and adds a whole other level of creepy to the game making this easily the best videogame project he’s been involved with since…
Deadly Creatures definitely hones in on the core gamer demographic—more specifically teen guys. Playing as these creatures and in this environment is creepy enough, but Rainbow Studios added as much creepiness in there as possible. The sounds are creepy both with the score and then crunch of creatures eating each other. The environments are creepy, like crawling through a decades old coffin complete with corpse. At one point the Tarantula has to crawl over a baby doll’s face and in the middle the eyes suddenly open and it sighs. Then later the Scorpion crawls out into the gas station bathroom through the toilet (arachnophobes nightmare anyone?). Even the opening screen is creepy with incredibly lifelike creatures crawling against the screen looking at you.
Deadly Creatures fully succeeds as an action-thriller, hardcore Wii game and perfect example of how the Wii controls are done right. The gameplay, environments and story are great and the replay value is upgraded with bug collecting and other difficulty levels, but only so much. Hopefully the sequel will be longer.
Bottom line: This is a must rent for anyone even remotely interested in it and any self respecting hardcore Wii gamer that can afford it. Then, after playing through Deadly Creatures once, many gamers will want to buy a copy just so they can play it over and over again. As well as show their Wii-less friends how fun it is to sting a poor bastard in the crotch. HELL YEAH!
- They nailed the creepy crawly vibe in the characters, gameplay, environments and sound effects
- Great use of the Wii motion controls
- Get to sting a dude in the crotch
- A little “buggy” at parts when getting stuck between planes
- Too damn short!
- Crawling all over the place inside up and downside out can make you want to hurl