Deadly Creatures does need some more polishing, but all in all it's a great title that Wii gamers shouldn't ignore.

User Rating: 8 | Deadly Creatures WII
If you're like me, you will occasionally grow tired of having to crawl into the skin of a former US-marine who spends the remainder of his asskicking days as a rugget vigilante who's obviously on some sort of steroids. In that case, you might want to be interested in playing as a duo of protagonists who will make your skin crawl instead. This is possible in Deadly Creatures, a Wii-exclusive adventure game that lets you play as a tarantula and a scorpion, both of which you have to aid in their quest for survival in an American desert, as you uncover the dark story of two human beings digging for gold. Not only does this original perspective permit you to break away from the regular cheesiness of other so-called 'mature' games, Deadly Creatures actually offers a fresh take on the Wii's features, and indeed the concept of gaming in general. While the game is not a perfect entry into the Wii library, it is a title that deserves attention from gamers, especially those who claim that the console doesn't have any worthwhile third party exclusives.

Seldomly has a game introduced you to play as a more daring anti-hero as the titular deadly creatures. It's not just the fear-inflicting cosmetics of the beasts, but also their vastly different anatomy that alters the gameplay to a reasonable extent. Think about it: hasn't nearly every video gaming protagonist been anthropomorphic, or at least had a primate or otherwise mammal-like structure? There have been exceptions to this rule, but there aren't many of them. More concretely, the anatomy of the tarantula and the scorpion make for some interesting gameplay features, such as the tarantula being able to walk on walls, and later even on ceilings, as he navigates through the hostile worlds presented in the game. Seeing as both of these creatures, however scary they may be, are considerably smaller than humans, you will view the world from their perspective, meaning that everyday objects and other things such as cars, tires, and even skeletons, appear as massive structures. Although Deadly Creatures doesn't rely on this as much as Mushroom Men, for example, it still gives a nice twist to the gameplay perspective.

Perhaps even more importantly, the battling is very interesting to say the least, thanks to both the anatomy of the protagonists and the control scheme. The developers of Rainbow Studios were so wise to make A the primary action button, mainly using the motion controls to add a little flavour to the killing of whatever vermin you may encounter along the way, be it rats, insects, or lizards. Both creatures have their own set of moves, one that keeps growing along the way as you learn new techniques. This results in a pretty varied set of combos which are actually worth using. Although you probably will resort to the same set of attacks eventually, the battle element is a lot more fun than the remote waggling presented in such games as Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars. This is by no means an unnecessary detail, because fighting is a considerable part of the gameplay. Fortunately, the Wiimote controls are quite accurate. Like in pretty much every Wii game, the remote doesn't recognise 100% of your moves, as there is always going to be some ambiguity between swinging the remote forwards and sideways, but it's very minimal. This tight control scheme comes in handy in certain parts of the game, like when you have to execute a series of controller moves rapidly in order to avoid being stung to death by a pack of black widows, or during one of the many awesome(!!!) finishing moves you will be able to perform on weakened enemies when you play as the scorpion.

While the controls function very well, the navigation can occasionally prove to be a real nuisance. Not because you won't know where to go, nor due to a poor camera (apart from some glitches and annoyances during intense battles, it actually does its job very nicely), but because of the invisible walls. You would expect a game that permits you to walk on walls and ceilings to give you a bit of freedom in exploring the worlds, but especially in the later levels, the gameplay can become unnecessarily linear. You will often end up walking into a certain direction to see if that's where you will need to go, only to bump into an invisible wall that rather uncharmingly tells you that you're doing it wrong. While some of the game design could use a bit of polishing to prevent this, I think a lot of it can be blamed on the game designers trying to take you by the hand a bit too much in finding your way. It's actually pretty hard to get lost in this game, and while the battles prove to be quite a challenge at times, this really wasn't necessary.

Though linear, the development of the adventure will actually motivate you to keep playing until the end. There are 10 chapters, i.e. levels, and you will switch between the tarantula and the scorpion after each chapter. Seeing as how the gameplay experiences generated by the two mini-monsters are quite different, you will basically never grow tired of it all. The story, while simple, also helps to motivate you to complete the adventure. You will occasionally observe the two humans, or hear them talking as you go through a tunnel of some sort, as you follow the progress of their quest while you're trying to complete yours. You'll quickly notice that your sinister activities below ground run parallel with the developments on the surface. The voice-acting by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton helps make the whole ordeal a believable one, although they're not as omnipresent as you'd expect. The plot is relatively simple, and is a bit of a background affair until you get further into the game. Still, it's a nice addition that gives a bit of meaning to your activities other than survival, and it helps make the game feel a bit more pluriform.

Interesting as these things may be, though, the idea of the game is the same throughout the entire adventure. You start out in an area as either a tarantula or a scorpion, kill enemies, and navigate to the end of the level. Along the way there are some collectables to keep you interested, such as larvae which can be eaten to unlock concept art, and leaf crickets which can be eaten to increase your maximum health, so completionists will not be permitted to rush through levels. Some levels end with a boss fight, most of which are worthwhile, epic, and just interesting. Especially the final boss is very special, at least in concept, but you will obviously have to find that out for yourself.

All of these activities are accompanied by a beautiful, ambient soundtrack that never fails to reflect the atmosphere of your surroundings. Like in, for example, Metroid Prime, these aren't exactly the kind of tunes you'll be whistling as you walk down the lane, but they are worthwhile compositions that manage to underline the overall feeling of the game. The only problem is that the loading times, which seem to appear at random, interrupt not only the gameplay, but even the music. This means you'll occasionally get pulled right out of an otherwise immersive experience, just because the game felt like reminding you that you're just playing a game. This is very comparable to streaming a video on the internet, only to have it occasionally be interrupted because it's buffering. I feel that they could've done a better job at masking the loading times with a cutscene, or at least make it so that they wouldn't have to stop the music and leave you in silence for a few seconds. This is a problem with the game itself, and not the soundtrack, which, I stress, is nothing short of brilliant.

The sound effects are no less eerie than the dark, ambient soundtrack. The occasional growls the tarantula unleashes when he jumps gave me scares early in the game, as I did not realise my own character made that sound instead of some enemy lurking in the shadows. The sound heard when the scorpion executes an enemy with his stinger is even more memorable, and just as disturbing.

Disturbing is a word that can be applied to must of this game. Not only are the protagonists as gruesome as the enemies, but this game doesn't do any concessions violence-wise, either. Most insects bleed some green gory substance upon being slain, and bigger animals such as rats and lizards actually bleed quite liberally. Especially when playing as the scorpion, your screen will frequently be painted red, making this game unsuitable for wimps. I'm not the one to claim that more blood makes for a more mature game. If anything, mature gameplay is what makes a game suitable for grown-ups (and Deadly Creatures doesn't fail in this department either), but at least games such as this help debunk the myth that the Wii only has games that can be played with the entire family. All of this horror is transmitted perfectly by very good graphics that seem to push the Wii to its limit at times. The art direction in the game is perhaps its best visual aspect, with each surrounding being as convincing and realistic as the feeling of this game requires them to be. The graphics aren't perfect, though. In comparison to monsters that inhabit the detailed underworlds, the human models look a bit clumsy and not really fitting within the context, and the movement of some characters can be a bit unnatural, especially when it comes to the lizards, whose fast movements don't always come across as believable. In more dense, small areas, some of the enemies will occasionally clip through walls, something which could probably have been dealt with if the product spent a bit more time in the polishing department. Still, the detailed hairy body of the tarantula never ceases to give me goosebumps, and the boss encounters with such behemoths (speaking from the perspective of a tarantula/scorpion, that is) as rattle snakes and gila monsters are both epic and scary because of their realism. While not as good a game, Deadly Creatures is comparable to the aforementioned Metroid Prime series in terms of suspense and eeriness. Crawling through a dark sewer pipe as a huge, hairy spider gave me the same chills I get upon hearing the cry of a Metroid in an unlit room.

Perhaps Deadly Creatures could've followed the example of Metroid Prime a bit more by actually making the worlds connected. While going through the different chapters, you will often revisit the same places when playing as the other protagonist, and even view the same situations from a different perspective. As the tarantula, for example, you view the humans digging and stumbling upon a dead lizard in the ground. You don't particularly take notice of this detail as it's seemingly unimportant, but in a later chapter, when playing as the scorpion, you find out that the shovel happened to kill a lizard that was about to attack you. This sense of connectivity is essentially great, but upon visiting familiar sites, certain paths are simply blocked off by means of an invisible wall, implying that the game designers just ran out of ideas. I mean, how hard is it to at least let some rocks fall into that place so that you can't get through? It's things like this that occasionally manage to undermine the credibility of the whole experience, much like the random loading screens. It also undermines the sense of connectivity between the worlds, as most of it is of a pure cosmetic nature, and hardly ever has an impact on the gameplay, which is why a more Metroid Prime-like approach (in which all worlds are connected, basically eliminating the existance of levels or chapters) would be an idea for a sequel, even of it would be hard to pull off correctly.

Overall, though, Deadly Creatures actually is a great, original game. It's not only the presentation and vibe of the title that sets it apart from the common action muck, but also the refreshingly good implementation of Wii controls into a rather broad system of moves. Therefore, its status as a Wii exclusive is completely justified, as this game wouldn't have been nearly as fun on another console. Despite its rather poor sales statistics, I'm desperately hoping for a sequel to Deadly Creatures on the Wii, with settings such as a rainforest or an (partly) underwater world offering perspectives to another great game. Deadly Creatures also leaves a lot of room for improvement. If the developers manage to fix the collection of small errors in a next game, they should be able to create an even scarier experience.

Deadly Creatures is by no means perfect, but it deserves some recognition as a great third party Wii exclusive. The price has probably gone down by about 50% by now, which completely warrants getting it, even if the adventure will probably be completed within 7 hours, not taking into account the collectables and the different difficulty settings. Deadly Creatures deserves the support from Wii gamers, as this brave entry into the Wii gaming library is one of the first games to come to my mind when sceptics claim that the Wii only has good 1st party games. Apart from that, this game simply screams for a sequel, but the publisher will probably want to make sure that another Deadly Creatures game will be economically viable, so get those 20 dollars out of your piggy bank, and prepare to get scared.