Monday, February 23, 2009

Deadly Creatures - Yes, it is good.

"A game about bugs. Woo-hoo."

- Some jerk on

True, there's no Chun-Li, no Samus, no Pikachu and none of the other characters that have had the same games put out year after year that gamers throw millions of dollars at, but Deadly Creatures, without a doubt, rounds out the best Wii games to date. Granted, there's not much competition, but this epic saga of critters underfoot is right up there with Metroid Prime 3, Smash Brothers Brawl and Mario Galaxy of quality Wii-exclusive titles.

The premise is a strange and unique one: a pair of arachnids, a scorpion and a tarantula, meet and square off. Before the two can kill each other, they are interrupted by a pair of enormous homo sapiens searching the desert for something...or someone. The player takes control of the tarantulas, and later the scorpion, while they fight their way across the desert, establishing territory while stalking one-another. Meanwhile, a strange tale unfolds where the humans prove to be more than just background noise.

The premise is an exciting one, though some have complained that the main characters "lack motivation"...but what motivation should they have? Did someone run over their respective puppies? They're arthropods for God's sake. They hunt, fight, kill, and establish territory, all while just trying to survive. The fact that they run into humans is just bad luck. The real story is all about the two Southerners who are searching for gold buried out in the desert. Ala Cloverfield, the main characters' actions rarely have anything to do with the humans, but the two stories cross over only in critical moments. My only complaint is that I wish that I could hear more of the human story in more instances, but I suppose in this case that less is likely more.

That said, let's talk gameplay; it's well-mapped and reasonable, with lots of cool moves for both arachnids. It's not terribly intuitive, however, thanks to the Wii's already cumbersome control layout. Still, once you get the hang of it, it plays just fine. Waggling motions are also not terribly necessary with the exception of critical boss fights, and most attacks can be preformed with simply button mashing (though waggling makes it a lot more fun). It's important to note, though, because one problem with a lot of Wii games (I'm looking at you, Unleashed) is that because waggling is essential to movement, then the motions get confused VERY easily. This is generally not the case in Deadly Creatures, as the basic movement controls aren't mapped to movement. It makes for a cleaner gaming experience.

The graphics are impressive as well, ranging from fairly decent to near realism (a few particular underground tunnels are evident of this). Beyond that, the character animations are all extremely well researched and programmed, especially the smaller lizards that one finds themselves fighting in the desert. The set pieces are awesome too, with plenty of tense, cinematic moments (the black widows descending on your trapped form, the assault of the raptor-like-lizard, the epic boss battles against the rattlesnake...). The only place where the graphics truly falter are on some of the human character animations (which appear too cartoony at times) and the final cutscene, which is badly pixelated and poorly edited.

Music and sound for this game are both top notch. Really excellent work has been put into allowing the creatures to have a much more menacing, monstrous scale. And speaking of scale, it's very entertaining to see how much the developers played with this; I recall the first time I wandered into the dump, and saw a house in the distance, looming over all of the garbage. I thought that perhaps that would be the final level, but believe it or not, it was a damn doll house. VERY cool.
There was a nice Godzilla reference too that will slap a firm smirk on your face.

To wrap this up, Deadly Creatures is easily one of my new favorite games. It's a little too short, and it would have been nice to see more content besides a handful of concept galleries and interviews (a fighting game perhaps?) but its innovation makes it something that Wii owners should look into, even though it doesn't have Diddy Kong in it.