The combat follows a similar dimorphism and requires you to develop different strategies for both creatures, against the same wide array of enemies which keeps things interesting. The spider’s strength lies in pouncing, jabbing, biting and stringing together quick attacks. You’ll often find yourself landing a few quick strikes and then scurrying back to a safe distance, or moving to engage another foe to stay unpredictable. The spider is also capable of spraying silk in an enemy’s face, slowing them down long enough to land a tricky strong attack. Nastier tactics, like a stealth pounce and even the ability to latch onto an upturned enemy and suck their blood, become available later on.
The scorpion isn’t as fast or maneuverable but he makes up for this with sheer strength and style. His combat centers on well-timed blocks and heavy attacks. Once you’ve worn an enemy down, the scorpion can execute some pretty brutal finishers that employ simple Wii remote gestures. There’s nothing quite like snipping the wings off of a hovering wasp, or stabbing a mantis with its own broken pincer. Both arachnids gain the ability to poison enemies early in the game.
If I’m making Deadly Creatures sound like a generic actioner then I apologize, because it’s not. The gameplay, controls and mechanics are traditional, and as a hardcore gamer starved on waggle-heavy minigames I appreciate that. It is the theme and design of Deadly Creatures that make it fresh, unique.
The theme of survival permeates every aspect of the game. You’ll encounter an impressive variety of other, equally deadly creatures, and each one is a mortal enemy. It can be a praying mantis, a wolf spider, a wasp, or even a fellow tarantula or scorpion the same species as you, but the rules are always the same: kill or become food. The game does a good job of making seemingly annoying vermin, like small lizards or rats, into terrifying predators, especially when they gang up on you. Most of the creatures are just as dangerous as you are—just as tough and agile, and with biological weapons like venom, silk and projectile poison. The horned lizards can even shoot steaming blood from their eyes.
The few boss fights emphasize survival as well. They’re suitably epic but the focus isn’t on eviscerating your opponent because they’re usually five times your size. In a struggle with a rattlesnake or Gila monster your main goal is to hurt the enemy enough to slow them down and then get the heck out of dodge—there’s no point in killing them if you end up poisoned and hemorrhaging bug guts. The two main arachnids clash on a couple of occasions, and it’s a little strange to be locked in a mortal fight with the spider you just controlled a level ago. The tiny world these creatures live in is so routinely violent, so survival-of-the-fittest, I’m surprised it hasn’t been turned into an action game before.
A human subplot is going on above the bug world, concerning two prospectors voiced by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton. The story never gets too invasive and you’ll see it (mostly) from a distance, but it does add a great context and an interesting parallel to what your two arachnids are up to.
It’s not all life and death, though. A lot of the game is exploration, punctuated by quick, brutal combat, and when you’re in between fights you’ll be traversing some truly stunning environments. Rainbow wanted to get this game looking as realistic as possible while still keeping it fun, and the effort shows. The game takes place in the America southwest, so you’ll be crawling across desert fields, under and over cacti, up mountainous rocks and down into dusty caverns. It may sound a little boring but the variety is impressive; one level has been webbed over by black widows, and both playable bugs must struggle through nets of silk or be eaten alive. At one point you find yourself in the makeshift tomb of a civil war soldier—you’ll even fight a tarantula in his ribcage and then escape through his desiccated skull, all while stumbling over the gold coins the prospectors are after. When you get closer to human civilization you’ll encounter structures made out of trash—massive soda cans, discarded toys and a gigantic truck turned on its side. These areas reminded me of Mushroom Men, another game played from a micro perspective.
Page 2 of 3