Deadly Creatures is unique and fun but it's also a bit rough around the edges.
While you wouldn't guess it at first, a game in which you play as a hairy tarantula and somewhat less hairy but equally creepy scorpion does in fact contain a plot of sorts. It all starts with two men who are digging up the desert with mysterious intent. Turns out they're looking for buried gold from the American Civil War. Even though the tarantula and scorpion seem to have no grasp of the situation or desire to partake in it, they often come into close contact with the men, thus inserting themselves into the unfolding plot. There's also a rattlesnake that is hunting both critters in the mix. The story does seem to have some potential, but it remains unrealized simply because of the nature of the game's protagonists. Seeing as how the insects and animals are portrayed in a mostly realistic fashion, you can't have them influence the story in any overt way . This means that for the most part, you're simply an interested onlooker who happens to drop in from time to time, lacking a true goal or purpose towards which to strive (other than to survive, of course). The pursuing rattlesnake adds some more immediate drama to the affair, but at the end of the game the story fails to leave a lasting impression. Luckily, the gameplay makes up for that.
You alternate as the tarantula and scorpion between sections, or levels, oftentimes playing through the same level twice but from two wholly different points of view. The tarantula is a more agile and nimble combatant, who relies on quick strikes and evasion and whose levels consist more of pure exploration and traversal. He's also more susceptible to damage. The scorpion on the other hand acts more like a tank, with more action-filled levels, dealing devastating but slower blows and relying on his armor for protection. Both have different special abilities, like the tarantula's web-grappling and the scorpion's burrowing, all of which will come in handy during the course of the game. These differing abilities coupled with the fact that levels and enemies need to be tackled differently depending on which bug you're playing as serves to keep the gameplay fresh. The game maintains a fairly even mix of exploration through linear environments and combat against a variety of foes. The levels have a very grimy and dusky feeling to them, with the majority set in twisting tunnelways underground or more expansive outdoor sections. There are some more memorable locations thrown in for good measure, like a trek through the insides of a broken-down truck, a gas station (and its infested crawlspaces) as well as the nests of menacing spiders, hornets and even a Gila monster.
Since both characters can easily walk along walls (the tarantula even gains a ceiling-walk ability later on), disorientation can be a problem at times. To counteract this the developers added a handy arrow that shows the way forward, which can be called up with the press of a button. It's definitely a welcome addition that keeps frustration at a minimum (barring a few instances). Rainbow Studios has smartly decided to map most of the basic attacks to traditional controls, which means waggling is kept to a minimum. Instead, gesture moves are mainly reserved for special attacks and finishing moves or to complement basic attacks with combos. For example, you can flip the Wiimote upside down to burrow underground as the scorpion. Once an enemy comes close, simply swipe upwards with the Wiimote and the scorpion will burst up in a surprise attack. Performing these moves is intuitive and fun thanks to the precision and responsiveness of the controls. On occasion you may find yourself unable to execute a particular move or the game might misinterpret your inputs, performing an entirely different attack than the one you were going for. Moments like these are fairly rare, though you may find yourself using some of the easier to pull off moves over and over in an effort to avoid the more elaborate and error-prone ones. The game also suffers from a noticeable lack of polish in the later stages, with camera problems becoming increasingly common. You'll also notice clipping issues, some oh which may be game-breaking, such as enemies getting stuck in geometry, just out of your reach. You'll also sometimes find yourself stuck in levels since the game seems to be extremely picky on you aligning yourself correctly with pathways in order to enter certain sections.
In an effort to encourage you to mix it up frequently, the game will unlock a variety of moves and abilities for you as you progress. The tarantula will eventually learn not only a web grappling maneuver, but a web shot, the ability to walk on ceilings, a spin attack and the ability to pounce on far away enemies. The scorpion on the other hand learns a host of advanced pincer and stinger attacks as well as the ability to dig tunnels, cut his way through barriers and burrow underground for surprise attacks. The combat looks extremely visceral and even a tad over the top but hugely satisfying. Once you've depleted an enemy's health enough, you gain the ability to pull of a finishing move by completing a few timed gesture moves. These are not only fun to pull off but extremely brutal, usually involving a stinger and some soft, unprotected part of a creature's anatomy. Finishing moves also send liberal amounts of goo flying in all directions (including on the screen), accompanied by very crunchy and disturbing sound effects. This is one Wii game that is clearly not for kids.
In addition to the regular enemies that consist of various spiders, praying mantises, rats, hornets, beetles and reptiles you'll also run into some particularly epic boss fights on occasion. These moments are easily the highlights in your adventure and it's a shame there aren't more of them. Usually you're battling a much larger foe which places the emphasis on escaping rather than fighting. This creates some tense and awesome experiences which help to break up the regular gameplay and keep it from becoming stale.
Deadly Creatures does a terrific job of convincing you of your role as an arachnid. The graphics are perhaps some of the best we've seen on the Wii yet with extremely detailed character models and beautiful scenery, but what really sells this whole premise is the animation. Watching the tarantula skitter across the desert or the scorpion pierce an enemy's cranium with its stinger can make you feel genuinely squeamish, especially if you suffer from arachnophobia. Reinforcing this already immersive journey into the disconcerting world of these creepy crawlies is the sound department. Each shriek of a dying insect (nevermind they don't have lungs) or soft thud of a hairy leg connecting with the floor brings you closer and closer to their world. The music is used sparingly, which only serves to heighten the mood and feeling of isolation. As a nice bonus, even though the human characters of George Struggs and Wade have relatively little dialogue, the development team went all out and brought in Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton to voice them, respectively. Both actors give a terrific performance with Hopper really stealing the show, as is usual of him. They make these otherwise blandish characters seem that much more interesting and leave you hoping their parts had been fleshed out a bit further.
Deadly Creatures came in with an interesting and ambitious objective of letting people play as these realistic, fear-inducing nightmares thrust into a story of mystery and deception. While it didn't pan out quite as hoped, Deadly Creatures is such a fresh and interesting experience that it would be a shame if the developers aren't allowed to investigate this premise more. As a gamer you may grow tired of the simplistic (albeit very cinematic) combat over time, sigh at some of the camera and control problems, wish the framerate would hold up a bit better and hope the story would be a bit more engaging. But as someone who wishes to experience something that deviates from the usual tripe of first person shooters in space and mythological adventure games drenched in blood, you'll learn to love the unique ideas and execution as well as the slick presentation of it all. Despite the short length of the game (which can be completed in under 10 hours), there are a number of grubs to collect, which in turn unlocks a host of goodies like concept art and interviews. I wish more games would supply goodies like these readily from the box, instead of making us pay for it through special and limited editions. And even if you're not a completionist or really interested in extras, you'll still end up having a lot of fun with the game.