Deadly Creatures is a difficult game for me to review. It's a game I knew very little about when I first played it nearly ten years ago, but I found it to be quite enjoyable. Over the years, I would often refer to it as one of my favorite Wii exclusives, especially of the third-party variety. But as it often does, time and nostalgia can skew things a bit and although the game has lots of great moments, it's a fairly flawed title in a lot of ways.
So why am I writing an "Underrated Review" for it? Well, despite its flaws, I still feel the game is underrated and can be a fun, albeit short, ride with some unique elements that make it worth checking out.
The premise of Deadly Creatures is that you are in control of a tarantula and a scorpion. Unlike most games, these are regular 'ol critters and not some wacky anthropomorphic or otherwise "human-ized" fantasy creature. Sure, the game embellishes a little (okay, a lot) on the action / fighting that you perform, but you still control a couple of arachnids that crawl around for one primary reason: survival. You'll mostly be crawling around a desert, both above and below ground, but eventually you'll encounter some more "civilized" environments. As you make your way around in the game, there will be lots of enemies to fight and even a couple of humans to interact with.
One of the more intriguing ideas in Deadly Creatures is the fact that your "characters" aren't really driving the story. The main story is actually unfolding between two human characters, voiced by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton. As you wander about, you'll catch glimpses of them in the background and you can overhear a bit of a treasure hunting story that unfolds right before your (many) eyes. Although most of the game has you at a safe distance from the story, you will indeed become very integral to the fate of the two aforementioned human characters.
But here's the thing, the two arachnids you control aren't exactly friends. So you'll only control one at a time and you'll often see a cutscene when control shifts back and forth. There are times where you'll see the background story with the humans unfold from each of the unique perspectives of the characters you control. It's kinda like having two survival stories going while also sort of interacting with a third story. But don't worry, the story is pretty simple and it's not nearly as confusing as I'm probably making it sound.
I know I'm beating this point to death, but I really liked the setup here. The problem is, there just isn't enough of it. I wish the human story had been a bit more fleshed out and sprinkled more throughout the game. There were far too many sections where you just fight the same enemies over and over without any motivation for doing so, aside from you know, surviving. On top of that, the ending to the story (and the game) felt very rushed. It's almost as if they ran out of time and / or budget. The game has ten chapters and the last two are WAY shorter than the first eight. Despite their brevity, the last two levels are still quite enjoyable.
A, A, A, A
Enough about the story, let's talk about the gameplay. As I mentioned before, you're going to be crawling around a desert for most of the game. You have lots of legs with amazing grip, so you'll be crawling on lots of walls and navigating some difficult terrain. There are a couple of collectibles (if you want to call them that) for you to find, if you're so inclined. You can find grubs that will replenish your health a bit and unlock some nifty gallery images. There are also green crickets which will increase your maximum health. You'll find a lot of these on the main path, but you can explore a little bit to find the rest. The game is very linear though and aside from a few open areas, it really feels like you're on rails for most of the game.
Moving around is pretty easy and all, but the combat is where things start to get a little messy. The game eases you into things by giving you really simple enemies as you build out your move lists. As you defeat enemies, you'll earn points that can unlock new moves in the various levels. From what I could tell, as long as you kill everything you run into, you'll unlock all of the moves. Again, it's all on rails and you won't actually be upgrading your character / equipping moves or anything like that.
As you get further into the game, you'll run into more and more difficult enemies. I found that they're all basically the same, with a few exceptions, but they just add more annoying tactics. You'll eventually run into enemies that will block your attacks (which leaves you vulnerable for a moment) and such, but my strategy never really changed: mash the A button like a mad man! As you probably figured out, the A button is your primary attack. Each of your characters operates a little differently, but my strategy seemed to work fine for both.
The game does provide you with a decent sized arsenal, but pretty much everything outside of the basic attack requires you to shake the Wii Remote around like crazy. And that right there is my biggest complaint with the game. The motion controls are completely unnecessary and feel totally tacked on. This game came out in 2009, so motion controls were all the rage, but they were a chore for me back then and they're even worse now. Oh and the game ONLY supports a Wii Remote / Nunchuk combination. You'll occasionally have some some quick-time events thrown at you, both for cutscene like events, as well as finishing moves. These are a bit more forgiving than the combat moves, but still unnecessary.
While you're exploring the various levels, you'll be treated with some pretty awesome atmospheric music. This game deviates heavily from traditional video game music and it absolutely nails it here. It really fit well with the theme and helped set the tone throughout. The music does pick up a little as you enter certain battles, but it keeps the same gritty style at all times.
Unfortunately, the graphics don't add much to the atmosphere. I found the art direction to be pretty nice and you'll certainly encounter some interesting landscapes, but the Wii simply doesn't do them justice. The game seemed very blurry to me, the textures lacked detail, and there were clipping / hit detection issues abound. The two arachnids you control looked pretty nice though and they had some rather slick animation, but most everything else is a disappointment. The game also has some lengthy load times and will actually load during fights sometimes, which is almost always a bad thing.
I know I hammered this game pretty hard with regards to its (waggle) controls and graphical shortcomings, but don't get me wrong, I still really enjoy the game for what it is. It's a very unique experience in terms of storytelling and the creatures you get to control. While the levels might not be amazing graphically speaking, they were still fun to explore. If you're okay with motion controls, you'll definitely get more out of the combat than I did, but even still, I enjoyed bashing enemies all the way to the end.
Deadly Creatures was released exclusively for the Wii, but I think there might be a sliver of hope for getting a re-release at some point. The game was originally published by THQ and since purchasing a lot of their assets, Nordic Games has salvaged a number of games that were left for dead, including a game that was a Wii exclusive with motion-only controls: de Blob. Because of that, I remain hopeful that this one will one day live again with standard controls and some graphical cleanup.
In the meantime, the game is fairly inexpensive and will set you back $10 - $15 for a complete copy. It's not a very long game (took me just under six hours for this playthrough), but has some unique elements to keep you interested and it's worth checking out if you're looking to fire up your Wii one more time.