David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-06-11 03:06:47
Deadly Creatures - Rank C
Developer: Rainbow Studios
I wanted to like Deadly Creatures so much that I convinced myself I was having fun, despite the fact that I had to force myself to keep playing it. I'm a sucker for uniqueness, and was intrigued by the proposition of playing as a predatory spider or scorpion. And it is initially fascinating, but once the novelty of the experience wears off, you're left with a run-of-the-mill brawler coupled with a poor decision to develop Deadly Creatures for the Nintendo Wii.
The one thing Rainbow Studios absolutely nailed is the art design. The creepy, crawly arachnids animate in a convincingly disconcerting manner. I'm not particularly freaked out by spiders (unless they fall on me), but witnessing their multitude of hairy legs skittering about is vaguely unnerving. If you are, in fact, phobic of spiders or scorpions, you'll either find this game empowering or shut it down in gibbering abhorrence.
Deadly Creatures also exudes a cool ambiance and a terrific sense of scale. The excellent art design extends to the environments. Whether spelunking through cramped burrows or scurrying out in wide open areas, the game never loses the sense of wonderment. Occasional man-made objects, even innocuous ones such as discarded shoes, tower over you granting a humbling perspective between bouts of terrorizing bugs. Crawling on walls is a dizzying, disorientating effect (which gave me the slightest touch of motion sickness) that contributes to the alien feel of the insect world. And the game's bosses are monstrously fearsome behemoths. The rattlesnake is an unstoppable source of terror, and the gila monster might as well be Godzilla.
Unfortunately, the anemic graphical horsepower of the Wii undermines the artistic vision. The design demands photorealistic imagery for maximum effect, but the low resolution Nintendo visuals simply don't pack enough punch. The spider would have been much more disturbing to behold in high definition fidelity. The blurriness of the textures and seams in the geometry spoil an otherwise convincing world. The Wii is fine for cartoonish or abstract representations, but fails the seriousness of the deadly life and death struggle of these tiny, but fearsome predators.
The controls are likewise compromised, and make for clumsy combat. The analog stick on the nunchuck is employed to move forward and backward and to turn. There is no way to strafe. Deadly Creatures is a game that absolutely should have been on a system with two analog sticks, in order to adhere to the universal Halo control scheme. Spiders and scorpions should be able to move sideways to maneuver while keeping their enemy in front of them. The inability to aim coupled with iffy hit detection makes striking a frustrating exercise in spamming attacks. A second thumbstick would have made the spider's web shot both practical and cool. Instead, you have to stop moving and enter a separate "aiming mode" to line up shots, and often get smacked while in the process.
The Wii's motion controls were supposed to make games intuitive, but they're just an impediment to play here. They often fail to register, so you end up waving and twirling the controllers around in semi-haphazard grand gestures to combat the impreciseness. Fighting is thus reduced to the dull repetitiveness of mashing buttons and waggling the Wiimote stupidly. I was imagining playing as the scorpion on the Xbox 360, with the left and right triggers precisely controlling the two pincers, and pulling both to strike with the tail - all while circle strafing in smoothly economic and vicious movements. This game is so much better in my head. In addition, the Halo control scheme would also have solved the frequently horrific camera issues.
So once you become accustomed to the vicissitude of the arachnid game setting, Deadly Creatures becomes a tiresomely familiar experience. You alternate in a predictable pattern between fighting and exploring. The combat is uninspired and, aside from the stingers and web spinnerets, feels like any mundane brawler. The exploration falls into the generic Zelda-esque "unlock new abilities to access new areas" type of level progression. For example, the spider gains a web jump to reach previously inaccessible areas, and the scorpion learns how to dig through loosely packed soil. It's the sort of play that any hardcore gamer has experienced countless times over.
From a conceptual standpoint, both in the idea for the game and its aesthetic design, Deadly Creatures packs a ton of potential. Sadly, its execution fails to meaningfully deliver on this promise. I'd recommend a quick rental for those of you who would like to experience ambulating on eight legs and eating crickets, but Deadly Creatures lacks the substance to warrant dedication.