Deadly Creatures review allows gamers to see the world through the eyes of an insect (er, arachnid)

Deadly Creatures for WiiDeadly Creatures is a unique Wii game developed by Rainbow Studios and published by THQ. The game gives players a look into the life of an insect (or to be more precise, arachnids) in a way and form that has never really been done before; Which makes Deadly Creatures one of the more unique and original games available on the Nintendo Wii (or any platform).

The game is basically an action adventure game although the focus is more on action than adventure. You actually play AS the insects in this game which is one of the most unique parts about it. And no, none of the creatures in this game talk, which is somewhat unexpected especially given the Wii’s younger target audience. No Deadly Creatures is dead-serious (pun not intended) and as far removed from “A Bug’s Life” as you can get.

So does how the game hold up?

Deadly Creatures logo

System: Wii
Also On: None
Released On: USA February 9, 2009 – EUR February 13, 2009
Genre: Action Adventure (focus more on action than adventure)
Players: One Player
Controllers Supported: Wii Remote & Nunchuck required to play.
Save: 4 Blocks (possibly more if you have more than one save file)
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Publisher: THQ
Origin: USA – Phoenix, Arizona
Rated: T for Teen (Contains Alcohol References, Blood, Mild Language and Violence)

Deadly Creatures starts out with what has to be one of the coolest intros I have ever seen (ok maybe I wouldn’t go THAT far but it’s awesome), although your mileage will vary I guess depending on how cool you think insects area. After the developer logos pop on the screen, you are immediately taken to the title screen where you will get to witness some of the most realistic renderings of insects and other beasts you have ever seen in a game. It’s basically kind of like you are looking into an insect aquarium as the insects clean themselves and walk around the screen as you watch them. Other beasts will come into the picture and sometimes even interact, although it IS scripted. Regardless the creatures are very detailed with a realistic sheen that almost borders on photo-realism.

Unfortunately this in some ways sets the player up for disappointment right off the bat because the actual game itself looks FAR REMOVED from that initial insect encounter. Sadly I couldn’t help but wonder if the game might actually look like that had the developers created the game on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. But alas, the game still manages to be one of the most realistic interpretations of insect-dome ever pressed onto a game disc, even barring the title screen.

Throughout Deadly Creatures you will take turns controlling either a Tarantula or a Scorpion as you make you way through numerous mostly desert environments.

As you’d expect, these environments are full of other nasty insects and beasts ranging from lizards to horned toads to buzzing, flying creatures to rats and various spiders. You’ll also face off against other enemy scorpions and tarantulas.

The levels themselves are very linear and as stated above the focus seems to be more on combat than it is on exploration. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t “explore”, you will, it’s just done in a linear way. That means that the levels have a set course and it’s pretty rare that you will go off the beaten course while exploring, although you will sometimes find a fork in the road or the like where you can find either one of the game’s collectables.

The collectables come in the form of green grasshoppers and grubs. The Grubs simply give you points while the Grasshoppers will increase your maximum health. These can be found scattered all around the game’s environments and often behind something or down an additional path. So while you will have to look to find them they often aren’t hard to find and you will get most of them pretty easily. As such, it’s hard to say that Deadly Creatures really has secrets, because the so-called “hidden” areas are always easy to find.

As you make your way through the game’s environments you will fight a ton of different enemies and new ones will come into the fold as you enter new levels. Every enemy you kill is worth a certain amount of points. These points are added up and when you reach a certain amount you will not only unlock new moves but also Extras in the form of concept art which you can view from the main menu (I do not yet know if you earn anything for finding all the Grubs and Grasshoppers in the game, when I find out I’ll update this text).

Deadly Creatures Scorpion Attack Screenshot

You can view what creatures you will fight in the level and how much points they will give you on the Start Screen (press the Plus Button) under “Adventure Status”. Under Adventure Status you will see “Predator Goals”, “Adventure Goals” and “Current Points”. Predator Goals is the aforementioned list of creatures you will face in the level. Under their pictures you can view how many points each is worth if you kill one. Adventure Goal is what you need to accomplish to progress in the game, and it is typically what location you need to get to. Generally it’s a vague description such as “Get out of the sewers”, i.e. it doesn’t tell you how or where to head just your overall goal. Under Current Points you will see how many points you have earned and how many you need to unlock a new move.

Also under the main menu you will see “Collection Status”. This menu shows you how many Grubs you have found out of the 450 in the game (and how many you need to unlock the next gallery) and how many Leaf Crickets you have found in the game which increase your max health (i.e. “health upgrades”).

The final menu option is the “Moves List”, this shows you all the moves you have unlocked for that character (either the scorpion or tarantula) and how to perform the move.

The controls in the game take a little bit of getting used to, especially if you don’t play many Wii games, but you will have them down pretty good after a while of playing. You use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck to play and all menu selections are done with the D-Pad (you can’t use the stick or pointer for some weird reason).

The control stick on the Nunchuck moves your character when in-game, the A Button attacks and so does the B Button depending on the character. With the Tarantula you can jump with the Z Button on the Nunchuck and shoot out webbing with the C Button. When shooting a web you will hold down the C Button and use the Wii Remote pointer to point at the screen at a target. If it’s an enemy you can stop them in their tracks, or if you see cobwebs on a certain surface then you can use the C Button to grapple to that location, which in the later portions of the game will be one of the Tarantula’s main means of getting through the levels in the game. Specifically the B Button with the Tarantula will also perform a poison-tail attack.

You can use the down button on the D-Pad to center the camera while the Plus button enters the main menu and the Select Button is used to view help windows that will pop-up on the screen from time to time. You can also use the 1 Button to look around the environments freely from a first-person perspective and the 2 Button will bring up a Helper Arrow that will point you in the direction of your Adventure Goal.

Some of these basic moves cannot be performed however until you have unlocked them. With the Scorpion and the Tarantula you will learn moves and combos as you progress that will involve gesture controls with the Wii Remote or Nunchuck. For example a basic combo may be A+A+Wii Remote Gesture Up. So you press the A Button twice and then swing the remote up, this will cause the Tarantula to attack and then flip the enemy over on its back. With the Scorpion you can perform some basic moves using gestures. If you Gesture Down the Scorpion will do a stabbing attack with his tail spike while if you Gesture Right or Left the Scorpion will do a swinging attack with his tale. The Z Button with the Scorpion will cause him to block attacks using his front pincers. You can also cause the Scorpion to dash forward by Gesturing Down with the Nunchuck, although he dashes then stops so it’s not quite a run. That’s actually a tiny pet peeve, is that I think both characters should’ve had a run button that would allow them to scurry along at a quicker pace, since the Scorpion’s dash doesn’t quite suffice.

Eventually both the Scorpion and the Tarantula will learn “finishing moves” for lack of a better term, although the Scorpion’s moves better fit the definition. If an enemy is low on health and almost done for you will see the C Button flash on the screen (the top button on the Nunchuck), press it and the Scorpion will go into a cinematic in-game Quick Time Event in which you will need to do various Gestures with the Wii Remote or Nunchuck or press the Z Button one after the other in time with the Scorpion’s string of attack finishers. These finishers are pretty awesome and definitely one of the most satisfying parts of the game. One of my favorites is one of the Rat finishers in which the Scorpion trips the Rat with his tail and then as the Rat is falling stabs him in the neck and swings him to the ground. That’s an example of the types of cool finishers the Scorpion will perform. The type of Gestures needed to pull them off is also very varied, you’ll need to swing the Wii Remote left or right, press the Z Button, move both the Wii Remote and Nunchuck out and then in at the same time, move both the Wii Remote and Nunchuck Up or Down at the same time, swing the Wii Remote Up or Down, swing the Nunchuck right, etc. But these moves are probably the coolest in the game and accentuate what Deadly Creatures is all about.

The Tarantula does have a finisher of his own although you won’t get it until much later in the game. His finisher involves first flipping an enemy over then jumping on top of them with the A Button and sucking their blood (which will restore a BIT of health, as does performing a “fatality” with the Scorpion) which requires you to move the Wii Remote and Nunchuck Up and Down to keep sucking. Which I must say is very satisfying.

The Scorpion will also learn a move to clear away dried plants that block your path where you will have to chop through them by moving the Wii Remote and Nunchuck left and right as well as the ability to dig through certain cracked areas of the ground where you will need to move the Wii Remote and Nunchuck Up and Down to dig. These types of moves make excellent use of the Wii’s unique controls and along with the finishers make Deadly Creatures a pretty cool showcase for the Wii, even though sometimes the moves won’t work quite as well as you want them to (expect the Scorpion to stab with his tail when you are trying to swing the tail and that type of thing).

The combat in Deadly Creatures is fun and can be satisfying as well as difficult, although it is my personal opinion that they focused too much on combat and not enough on exploration and platforming. There is pretty much zero platforming and I think the game would’ve benefited from more of that. The combat can also get repetitive and you can make it through the game on Normal by only relying on a few basic moves and not have TOO much trouble (though you will die a lot, and easily if you aren’t careful. But that doesn’t change the fact that you can win by simply hammering on the A Button and swinging the Wii Remote). I also found a few moves to be nearly useless. The Tarantula for example was said before the game’s release to be the “stealth” character although saying that is a pretty big stretch. True, the Tarantula can freeze characters by shooting web at them and he does have a move in which he does a leap attack from afar, but I found both moves hard to pull off and not once did I creep up on a foe and using the leaping attack (which looks really cool when you see the unabridged version I might add). And I think they kind of missed a cool opportunity to have actual stealth by allowing the Tarantula to leap from the walls or roof onto enemies below. That could’ve helped make him a more stealth character. As is, I pretty much just walked up to enemies and wailed on them just like I did with the Scorpion. The sad part is that some moves are slow to start and thus you may end up dying if you try to do complex moves. In fact I found one of the most effective moves to be the Tarantula’s jump attack in which you jump with the Z Button and press A while landing on a foe to attack them. Combine that with the Blood Sucking move and that’s pretty much all you need to defeat all the of game’s enemies.

There aren’t really boss fights in Deadly Creatures, rather you will simply face tougher and bigger enemies. There are a couple of them however and they are pretty cool. On a few occasions you will come across a Snake which is huge in comparison to your size. This is kind of like a little mini-game in which you can only move around a very smile area while the camera always points at the Snake. He will then hiss before snatching at you with his jaws in which case you will want to jump out of the way with Z (you always fight him as the Tarantula). Eventually his tail will come down and you can attack it. Pretty simple, although your last fight with the Snake does get a bit more complex and cooler as a result. There are a few sections too where you will get caught in the web of deadly spiders and must quickly do a few motions or button presses to escape the Quick Time Event before the spiders can descend upon you. Lastly, you will face one of the coolest boss ideas EVER in a game (if you ask me) at the end. I won’t spoil it for you but lets just say it’s one of the biggest creatures that an insect could ever face. And is done pretty well.

The exploration aspect of Deadly Creatures is enhanced due to the fact that the Tarantula can crawl among almost all surfaces (even the walls and roof, while the Scorpion can only crawl on some walls) but this aspect of the game seems to be held back by the game’s mostly linear environments.

The desert environments are pretty cool but they are mostly barren and as stated many times, very linear with most of your paths laid out for you. Most of the climbing you will do will simply be on another path are on the roof of a cylinder that you are going through. Regardless the environments are pretty diverse for an Arizona desert-style location and cover just about everything you can do in that type of desert environments. You will scurry through open desert, up and through cactus, on top and inside all kinds of desert rock, through spiked desert bramble plants, through a bee-hive, through catacombs and inside a few man-made objects like pipes, a truck and eventually you’ll even go inside a man-made structure.

One of the coolest aspects of Deadly Creatures is simply the fact that the game is too-scale, so you actually feel like you are a tiny insect crawling around a massive world in which scattered trash like cups, cell phones, tires, bikes and the like become enormous objects that you can climb around (even if some of them aren’t THAT big). But the game’s coolest and most interesting environments come near the end, where you will even encounter a few cool set pieces such as a creepy doll, a cell phone and an old-fashioned cash register, all of which will interact when you get nearby. However these types of situations are very few and I think the game would’ve benefited tremendously from more of it.

As I said, the latter levels also get much more interesting as you FINALLY will enter some environments that are almost entirely open-ended. THIS is when you REALLY feel like you are an insect and get taken aback by the sheer size and freedom you have, especially as the tarantula. The first time you see a room from the top while you walk around the roof and realize that you can climb atop any of the surfaces below is one of the game’s coolest moments. Especially when you realize that grubs are hidden in all kind of nooks and crannies. And believe me, it SUCKS when you die if you had spent a while searching for all of them, cause the number you found doesn’t save so you will need to do it all over again (thankfully saves are never too far off and there is always one before and after each major encounter or fight).

Musically Deadly Creatures surprised me by featuring a brooding soundtrack and an overall very serious tone. The soundtrack kind of takes a backseat as it isn’t very pronounced. The main theme you will hear through the beginning portions of the game and while in the open desert is my favorite as it manages to capture a kind of Western-flavor that fits the environments well. The game also has a specific tune that will plan when creatures attack and it will amp up. However it can also grate on the nerves.

The sound effects in the game are pretty good and very fitting, managing to nail the sounds of various insects and bests from Gila Monsters to snakes to the buzzing of bugs that is spot-on. The game also features voice acting from its two human characters, Wade (Billy Bob Thorton) and George Struggs (Dennis Hopper). Thankfully the Tarantula and Scorpion never speak and never display any type of human characteristics, which I think would’ve broke the serious tone that they were going for (and nailed). I must also caution that the game is rated Teen for a reason and features a few crude jokes referring to the male anatomy and that kind of thing and uses light cussing, so if you are buying the game for a younger kid with a Wii you may want to think twice. The game is also violent in its insect-on-insect action although it’s only really in the fact that blood squirts out when you finish off a creature. I actually thought it would’ve benefited from more brutality, it was tamer than I expected. Thankfully the game doesn’t quite veer off into juvenile humor but it comes a bit close in one line that I thought felt kind of out-of-place and/or forced just to make the game more “mature”. But unlike a lot of games trying to be more “mature”, the cussing is low-grade and kept to a minimum.

Deadly Creatures manages to be one of the few games which is almost entirely played in the second person as the storyline involving the two treasure hunting humans takes place around you as you watch or listen from afar as either the Tarantula or Scorpion. It is cool to hear their crushing stomping as they walk around you and even cooler when you are inside something and hear their voice echoing around from the outside, something that I can’t really recall in many games and it’s a cool effect.

The game doesn’t really have a storyline though, it DOES but it’s not really told to you and it’s not until the very end where you become “involved”. The story is really just about the personality of the two human characters. This is one aspect that disappointed me overall (especially in the beginning sections, I was expecting it to have more story) although the game DOES have a very satisfying ending section even if the actual ending itself is presented in the most horribly low-quality cut-scene I have seen since the PS1 days. Although the ending itself is at least surprising, and almost shocking in its abruptness.

Lastly, I must mention some of the game’s flaws. Of which there are many. Deadly Creatures is very unpolished. You can get stuck on pieces of the environment, the camera can go completely crazy on you if you are in too tight of a space (even to the point where you can’t get out and must restart), the loading in the game happens in sputters that is not only annoying but the loading can also be a bit long. Finally, and this is the big one, you will occasionally have issues with either the game’s AI or weird glitches involving the enemies. Specifically the Horned Toad gave me many problems. The two biggest was a time in which I had to kill the Horned Toad to progress (the exits will sometimes become blocked by impenetrable flies until you defeat all the enemies in the vicinity) but the Horned Toad was LITERALLY invisible. I could hear him and see its shadow but it was not there. On another occasion the Horned Toad was LITERALLY half-way inside the ground. It would attack me like normal, but it would pass right through me and me through it. In both cases I had to restart my game. I’ve also had enemies suddenly freeze and stop attacking or get stuck on a surface. And this isn’t a glitch, but it’s also very annoying if you are fighting on a wall or roof as you can fall easily and die or knock the enemy onto another surface which can cause glitching issues. Overall very annoying but not game breaking in the sense that you can simply reload your game and that usually fixes the issue.

One major area where I thought they dropped the ball is in providing players with a detailed bestiary or encyclopedia on the game’s creatures and/or the environments and world of the game. This would’ve been REALLY cool, interesting and educational but the developers skipped out on this entirely. I would’ve loved to read about how each creature really is in nature, they could’ve even provided FMV clips of the real-life creatures in action so you could see how close they got to being realistic in the game. Instead ALL you are given is the name of the enemy creatures via a small, colored drawing of them on the Adventure Status screen. As such, you never feel like you get to know the creatures you are fighting, there isn’t even a way to check what creature you are battling unless you go into the menu and check. This is really dumb and I think a huge oversight by the team.

Hopefully the game sells well enough though that they make a sequel. If they do they should add more diverse environments in an area that isn’t the desert (two really cool idea would be a rain-soaked forest or even a simple frontyard and . . . a grocery store!) and I’d love to see more playable creatures. How about a flying creature, or a cockroach? Initially a Snake was also going to be playable, and that would’ve been very interesting as well.

Overall, the problem with Deadly Creatures is that the idea and the premise of the game is more compelling than the actual game itself. Since when you get right down to it, the game is essentially a brawler. Calling it an “adventure” is even kind of a stretch IMO cause it’s really just an action game with a few “there’s a collectable behind the rock” moments. Personally I want to call it a platformer but that actually isn’t true at all, as there is very little platforming to be had in the game. Even though the Tarantula can jump at will and you are required to leap over a few obstacles blocking your way. But that’s all.

Deadly Creatures is a hard game to rate in this sense: I personally want and hope that the game succeeds. The Wii needs more unique game’s in this ilk and the premise truly is interesting. Although your mileage will vary depending on how much you like or dislike the combat and whether you think insect on insect action in cool. But regardless Deadly Creatures is still a game that is worth checking into simply because it’s unlike anything else, particularly on the Wii. It is also a more “hardcore” experience than a lot of Wii games. I say give it a rent if you are interested, but personally I wouldn’t pay more than $30 for it. If you find it for $20 though, then certainly think about digging your claws in.

Humans do exist in Deadly Creatures (screenshot)

Deadly Creatures is a fun game if you are the type of person who prefers combat to exploration. The combat is pretty deep for what it is with a wide range of moves you can employ, the problem is you only need to use a few of them to succeed. The game also suffers from some frustrating glitches that brought the score down half a point.

Graphics: 6.5
Players will be immediatly saddened by the fact that the in-game graphics look nothing like the insects in the title screen. The game is on par with a lower-grade GameCube title with somewhat muddy graphics and environments that aren’t super detailed. Thankfully the environments themselves are still interesting enough to be satisfying and cool to make your way through.

Music and Sound: 7.5
The music in the game is good with a brooding, almost but not quite “horror”-feel with some Western thrown in for good music. Sound effects are great while the voice acting is good but far from great. However once I watched the video interviews found under the Extras menu the voices grew on me, but the truth is that initially I thought they weren’t so great, so I’m sticking to that.

Ingenuity: 8.0
Deadly Creatures is unique in that you play AS a Tarantula or Scorpion and view the world from their tiny perspective. The game has interesting environments, cool bug-on-bug combat with excellent Scorpion finishers and allows you to view the world upside down as you crawl along roofs and walls. Sadly the camera can’t keep up and the game is filled with bugs (the bad kind) that hold it back. The premise is interesting enough on its own to make me recommend that you give it a look, but in the grand scheme of things it is actually a basic action brawler with light adventure elements thrown in. Hardly groundbreaking, but it does use the Wii Remote & Nunchuck will with lots of Gesture Controls and Wii Remote pointer action.

Replay Value: 7.0
Deadly Creatures is not a long game, with only 10 chapters where you alternate between playing as the Scorpion and playing as the Tarantula. However the game starts out with an Easy, Medium and Hard difficulty settings and there are lots of Grubs and Leaf Grasshoppers to find. You will find most of them your first way through though, but not all of them. As you do so you will unlock concept art that you can view under the Extras menu. While the concept art is cool, it is hardly a replacement for real extras, like say a new creature to play as.