Rainbow Studios and publisher THQ are possibly better known for their MX vs. ATV series, but with Deadly Creatures for the Wii, they provide a refreshing, albeit creepy, new perspective from the dirt.
In Deadly Creatures, players are immersed into the world of arachnids, where an old bicycle can tower above, a stray boot can become a battleground and a littered soda can impede a path. Players alternate between controlling an immensely life-like tarantula and an equally detailed scorpion in each of the game's ten chapters, in a mostly beat-'em-up adventure that lasts about ten hours.
Deadly Creatures begins with some of the excellent voices of the only two human characters in the game, performed by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper. Their characters are on a quest for buried gold in the desert land surrounding a gas station, but the plot takes a back seat to the gameplay in the beginning, as it's initially unknown how these events will affect the lives of the player controlled arachnids.
The gameplay is fairly straight forward. It's almost like a shorter, more linear Zelda title, but with bugs. Players will navigate through each of the chapters fighting all manner of creatures, including spiders, wasps, lizards and gnats. Some chapters have bosses and mini-bosses that may require some sort of puzzle or special tactic to defeat, but the game is pretty good about letting the player know what must be done to beat the larger beasts.
The spider and tarantula can each earn more health and improved skills and attacks as the chapters go on, and goals are accomplished. However, each arachnid handles differently. The tarantula is more mobile, able to walk on cave ceilings and eventually able to jump and shoot web to get up to higher locations. The scorpion is more of a tank. It's slower, but it can dig to new areas, block and hit a bit harder with its stinger attacks. Both creatures provide a unique and interesting experience, even if some of their terrain overlaps.
And the terrain looks great. Everything does. If the creatures were any more detailed, it might be too creepy. All of the creatures move realistically, with the possible exception of some of the scorpion's finishing moves, which can have it jumping and thrusting its stinger into the skull of a rat. But the game is well detailed, all the way down to the hairs on the tarantula.
The game's scale is the most impressive, though. Being able to look up at a fallen log and crawl inside to find a cricket to eat is just such an interesting and immersive experience. Players can really get sucked in to the mindset of these creatures.
The sounds definitely add to the experience. The background music is wonderfully eerie, and matches the tone and the action of the game seamlessly and beautifully. The sound effects are perfect, as well. The sounds of arachnid feet skittering across the many surfaces in the game are spot-on, and the battle sounds, all the way to the death screams of fallen enemies, are excellent. To top it all off, the voice acting of Thornton and Hopper is superb.
However, Deadly Creatures does have some problems. While the main attacks are thankfully mapped to buttons, many of the more elaborate moves are controlled by motions with the Wii remote and nunchuk. It's not always as responsive as it should be, but that's not the main obstacle. When each arachnid ends up having a dozen different moves, it's difficult to remember which unrelated hand motion performs the wanted attack.
Deadly Creatures also provides some technical bugs. Occasionally the camera, while working admirably most of the time, will become stuck in the least convenient place, forcing the player to battle a gang of wasps blindly. Also, some of the some of the paths and digging areas don't quite line up.
It would have also been nice to see a few more boss battles, even one at the end of each chapter. It may have been too Shadow of the Colossus, but the boss battle were too entertaining to be so few and far between.
In the end, however, Deadly Creatures provides a dark and refreshing environment in which to play a game unlike anything else available at this point. It also brings another much-needed worthwhile third-party game to the Wii. And despite its problems, Deadly Creatures should be played, if only to see the world from a new perspective.