US: Feb 2009
When Nintendo unveiled their flagship series for the Wii, Super Mario Galaxy, I remarked at the time that the physics and innovation of the game would likely change the way video games were made. Its emphasis on spherical landscapes—soaring from one tiny elliptical planet to the next—and sense of visual and physical orientation was unlike anything in video games’ experimental history. But it soon dawned on me: What kind of game could, without overstepping its thematic and real-world constraints, realistically utilize the topsy-turvy, constantly re-orienting physics of Super Mario Galaxy?
Deadly Creatures, a journey through the soiled underbelly of a rotted desert as one of two different goose-bump-inducing bugs (a spider and a scorpion), is just such a game. Thrown into a world that is obviously massive in the extreme and filling it with boundless possibilities, the player is presented with the ability to explore the world’s vertical walls and ceilings, much the way that Super Mario Galaxy had pioneered, without the game having to make logical concessions to real world physics—you know, cause spiders and scorpions can crawl everywhere.
Unfortunately, however, Deadly Creatures almost always feels a little clunky. This may be because, in an effort to afford more realism, your character is unable to stop and turn on a dime a la Mario, or it may be the simple fact that resetting the camera angle directly behind your character takes what seems to be just a split second too long. In any case, maneuvering around the barren, rolling landscapes almost always seems to be too much of a hassle, even when there are no real obstacles about.
This problem only worsens when there are enemies in tow. Often fighting against other spiders and scorpions, beetles, or wasps in somewhat confined spaces, it’s easy to accidentally start traversing a wall, completely shifting your point of reference from the enemies’ constant onslaught to the ceiling. The same goes for when you’re violently knocked back because of an enemy’s attack. You often find yourself lying on your back with the camera pointed somewhere completely unhelpful and sometimes detrimental to your battle. And given that, again in a nod to realism, it doesn’t take all that many hits to kill a bug, one unfortunate camera change can mean the difference between life and death.
This isn’t to imply that all of the fight sequences and the combat system are for naught. In fact despite a few doubt inducing “do spiders really have a stronger forearm swing attack?” moments, the battles seem—at least to a non-spider/scorpion like me—somewhat realistic. The range of attacks—from simple pounce and tail whip maneuvers to the more intricate bury and poison moves—are wide enough so that combat doesn’t become altogether stagnant, especially given that specific moves are easily guarded by specific enemies making strategies for each opponent largely essential, game-time decisions, which seems a necessary move as the array of enemies you can fight can logically only extend so far.
Unfortunately though, as is common with most Wii games, the Wii-mote/motion sensitivity frequently fails you and can, much like the camera orientation, be the difference between living and dying. The scorpion’s bury move (one that is critical to beating Gila Monster-like lizards) requires turning the Wii-mote upside down. But, if the sensor doesn’t recognize that slight twist of the wrist, you will almost certainly find yourself staring death in the face. However, the motion sensor controls do yield some of the most enjoyable moments of the entire game: the finishing moves that you can execute after an enemy has been sufficiently weakened. With a different kill-move for each enemy, which are also dependent on the character that you choose to play, these slow-mo action sequences require timed Wii-mote/nunchuck swings to inspire the only “oh-face” moments in the entire game.
As you can likely imagine, though, the real joy of this game is traversing the finely detailed Honey I Shrunk the Kids world around you. Be it crawling past a cell phone that towers over your tiny moniker or patrolling the unsightly and improper grave of an unfortunate soul, everything about the world you’re thrown into seems intricately placed and realistic. Throw in a dark albeit humanizing storyline, and you almost feel like you have objectives and a purpose. So despite the game’s inherent creepy-crawliness and the too-common administrative issues in the game, Deadly Creatures is something of a graphical wonder that, though at times can be infuriating, has memorable moments and enjoyable playability to boot.