It’s not controversial or unusual to point out that the Wii was home to an enormous volume of shovelware. Minigame collections, quickly rushed out, cut down ports of games on more powerful consoles with unnecessary motion controls and licensed titles covering some very peculiar subject matter in some instances; all of these and more absolutely flooded the Wii’s software library during its very long and successful lifetime.
Perhaps because of this deluge, an awful lot of good titles – even aside from the first party usual suspects like Super Mario Galaxy, as just one example – have been overlooked, underrated and sadly forgotten. Some were experiences entirely unique to the Wii, too – which makes it even more crushingly depressing that they have seemingly been left behind.
Deadly Creatures is one of those games. Published by the now-defunct THQ (whose name lives on through Scandinavian publisher THQ Nordic) and developed by Rainbow Studios (who are now a subsidiary of the aforementioned THQ Nordic), Deadly Creatures was published in 2009. It was released for the Wii only – and has never received a sequel.
Deadly Creatures sees players cast in the roles of a tarantula and a scorpion, starting with the tarantula and alternating between the two at fixed points in the story. There’s a dark and ominous opening cinematic that sets the scene for the game; two human characters, voiced – somewhat surprisingly – by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton, are searching for gold buried in the desert. The tale unfolds in the background for the most part, at least for a large chunk of the action at the beginning of the game – before the humans become more directly involved with the eponymous arachnids.
What makes the game unique is not just the focus on the players as non-anthropomorphised arachnids, but the highly realistic way it treats the creatures – you’ll scuttle, pounce, sting and shoot webs through a variety of grounded environments, with natural dangers coming in the form of other creatures, both smaller and larger than those you control. There’s a rattlesnake who becomes a particularly persistent and recurrent problem, for example – as well as a gila monster who is especially deadly for the much smaller creatures you are in control of. Grubs can be found around the environments; these can be collected to unlock concept art and character models from a well-stocked gallery, accessible from the main menu. Despite the small size of the creatures in the game, everything feels like it’s playing out on an epic scale – and the larger creatures, especially when you’re battling them, wouldn’t be out of place in a monster movie – although they’re always treated in a realistic way, the difference being that it’s from the point of view of a smaller protagonist than we’re used to.
The general gameplay will see your creature traversing the environment – underground tunnels, trees and desert above ground, for example – battling predators and other, smaller creatures (insects, for example) in an effort to stay alive. Essentially, it’s a third person action platform game, albeit with you in charge of arachnids instead of the traditionally more humanoid characters that you’ll be used to as protagonists.
Visually, Deadly Creatures uses a deliberately muted colour palette; the environments being dark and ominous, with your creature often clambering over and through discarded human possessions such as spectacles or boots, again reinforcing the scale of the game. The sound is appropriately squishy and crunchy, with a nicely dramatic soundtrack to boot. The animation on each of the creatures is incredibly impressive; this is especially noticeable on the creatures you control – you’ll notice immediately, too, right from the start (when in control of the tarantula) that it’s responsive and plays incredibly smoothly; it feels right. The general look and motion ensures that it’s not one you should play in front of anyone who’s even remotely arachnophobic.
Though there’s an element of the dreaded Wii motion control here, it’s relatively understated and thankfully not a huge part of the control scheme. There are a lot of controls to learn, with different abilities unlocking as you go, but it never feels overwhelming or convoluted in the way that some Wii games often seem to be. The tarantula can climb certain walls and other environmental features; this does lead to some disorientation, but I think this is more to do with how our silly, non-arachnid brains work than any fault with the game itself; the camera, thankfully, seems to behave very well for the most part.
Considering that Deadly Creatures is such an original and unusual concept overall, it’s a welcome surprise that THQ seem to have been willing to take a risk on it – the production values are clearly high and it definitely seems to have been a labour of love for everyone involved. Having the voice talents of Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton also seems like quite a coup here and adds to the bigger budget feel of the game, even though they’re utilised in the background for much of the game – their presence does add a weight and gravitas to the background story, which itself may have otherwise felt a little unnecessary (at least for the earlier sections of the game, in any case). Due to the game taking place from the point of view of the arachnids, it does feel as if there’s enough drama in dealing with snakes, rats and big lizards without having the human element involved – but this is, as I’ve continually hinted, addressed more directly in the later stages.
Ten years on, Deadly Creatures still feels like a one-off and, despite the low resolution of the game – which afflicts all Wii games, of course – it has aged well, largely in part due to how good the creature models are, especially in motion. It doesn’t seem to be an especially rare or difficult to find game and the cost is incredibly low (I picked mine up for £2) – so if you do still have a Wii or Wii U (and you aren’t an arachnophobe), I’d highly recommend Deadly Creatures as a game that you should seek out and add to your collection.
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