Giant, hairy, venomous tarantulas. Scurrying, poisonous, violent scorpions. Hissing, slithering, volatile rattlesnakes. These are just some critters that make many people's skin crawl. This didn't deter Rainbow Studios from developing a game that puts the player in the role of two of the desert's deadliest animals as they traverse everyday areas in attempt at nothing more than survival. Arachnophobes, be damned! It's Deadly Creatures for the Nintendo WIi.
Deadly Creatures is quite minimal regarding context or story. The only piece of narrative throughout the course of the game concerns the deadliest creature of all-- man... well, men. Two men are trekking throughout the desert searching for a long lost treasure as they take on the tumultuous heat, arid desert sands, and the deadly creatures that infest them. That's just the gravy to this game's mashed potatoes. The real tale is all about survival. Not of the two human characters, but the tarantula and scorpion that the player controls throughout the duration of the game. The treasure-seekers are just superfluous and coincidental to the creatures roaming the sandy desert dunes. They're only concerned of one thing, and that is making it through another day in their animal-eat-animal world. Unfortunately, if the idea of playing a tarantula or scorpion doesn't do anything for you, you're pretty much out of luck already. The developers give no motivation to be playing. You're just plopped into a world and basically told, "Here. Explore." And that's it. With no incentive given, there's really no real desire to play through the game for those uninterested in the premise. To be positive, Rainbow Studios somehow got Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton to voice the two sniveling humans, and they do a good job. It's just confusing why of all games to get such big talent, THQ chose a virtually unadvertised low-buzz game like Deadly Creatures.
One of the most fantastic features of Deadly Creatures are the abundance of atmospheric areas that your two creatures explore. Everything brims with ambiance, and multiple times I got chills exploring decaying tunnels, the innards of animal skeletons, and much more. You really feel as if you're adventuring through this entirely different but thriving world with the eyes of the various creatures infesting the lands. Areas are pleasing to look at, creatures are modeled well, and the soundtrack features plenty of percussion, subtle instrumentation, and environmental sounds to give an added authentic touch to the ambiance. The scorpion and tarantula are animated exquisitely. It's like Rainbow Studios motion captured the real things for the game, and even if they didn't, it's just hypnotic to watch a tarantula's legs scamper across the ground.
Deadly Creatures spans across ten chapters each of which lasting anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. Each chapter alternates between you controlling the web-spinning tarantula and the stinging scorpion. Both creatures control differently. Whereas the tarantula is more agile, can leap with ease, shoot webs, and can eventually crawl upside-down, the scorpion is permanently grounded, can cover itself with its claws for defense, and can burrow tunnels and cut away path-blocking weeds. Each chapter has multiple objectives that are given to the player one at a time. When one is met (such as meeting up with the scorpion for coffee), the next is given until the end of the chapter. It's linear in this way as are the level themselves for the majority of the game. Most of the levels feature narrow pathways to crawl along through and small-sized areas for fighting. These levels are all very much straightforward save for a fork in the road leading to a secret goody or two. Other levels play out in the outdoors with relatively expansive areas for your insect to scavenge around through and explore. The later levels feature some stellar level design where you scurry along the walls of a gas station bathroom and inside the walls of the main "villain". Unfortunately, multiple levels have you playing through the same areas of past chapters only as the other creature or being faced with a different layout of the same area. Another cop-out are the black smoke barriers that block your progress, keeping you inside a confined area of the game. Some are up until a room is cleared from enemies while most are just there for no other reason than to be arbitrary!
The two main types of gameplay in Deadly Creatures are combat and exploration, and both shape up pretty well all things considering. By bashing bugs and other agitated enemies, whichever creature you're controlling earns experience. Earn enough experience, and new moves and abilities are learned. When it comes to finishing moves, a quick time event is executed relying on the Wii remote's gesture controls. It amazes me how something as simple as flicking the controls downward or shifting to the side doesn't register half of the time when other games register flawlessly. When they do work, you're treated to a visceral vat of violence as your creature exterminates the enemy in a swift way that would make Terminex jealous. Fortunately, failing QTEs during combat offers no penalty. You can just hit the C button and initiate the QTE once again until you (see: the game) gets it right. Pointer controls are also used and for the tarantula. Squatting its hairy legs down as it aims for a target to pounce, the tarantula performs this by you aiming at the enemy to ambush. Actions like shooting a web into the air or to even to just look around are marred by poor implementation of the aforementioned pointer. There's a severe dead zone when trying to look around which makes many sections of the game more frustrating than necessary.
Another beleaguering bother (besides redundancy) is the camera. As the game features plenty of close-quarters combat as well as enclosed areas, the camera-- which is constantly locked behind your creature-- creates a myriad of annoying moments. When the spider needs to scamper around a circular log, the camera loves to jump around as if it's being controlled by one of the blasted edible-for-extra-health grasshoppers in the game. This makes getting confused in which way to go a constant problem in such sections. Thankfully, a helpful arrow can be pulled up at any time with the 2 button which points which way to go.
The entire campaign can be finished in less than eight hours, but there are some secrets for perfectionist gamers to acquire. Every chapter has a certain number of grub bugs littered throughout each area. Some of these are out-in-the-open while others require the player to do some extra digging. Collecting grubs unlocks concept art in the menus and even interviews with the stars of the game, Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton. Other than that, there's really no incentive for one to return to the game after completing through it once as those rewards are rather lackluster for the fumbling through levels required.
Deadly Creatures is an interesting concept, but multiple design flaws and gameplay quirks stop it from being anything more than just a bit above average. The lack of a compelling premise, uninteresting, perhaps even revolting to some, characters and subject matter, and the brevity of the quest and content all seal Deadly Creatures' fate as a title that will be ignored by many. At the very best, it should be a purchase for those who very much enjoyed the game, but for $50, there's plenty of other games in 2009 already for Wii owners who have already decided for Deadly Creatures to buzz off.
[SuperPhillip Says: 6.5/10]