Deadly Creatures – hands-on

The scorpion is slower, like a defensive tank. It can crawl on walls, but not ceilings. It has no evasive jump, but can block attacks with its beefy claws. And of course, it has the stinger. Combat has a slower, more tactical feel with the scorpion as you block attacks and then counter attack. It also has finishing moves, played out God of War style with button prompts to achieve brutal attacks, like ripping the wings off a wasp. There is also a great “burrow strike” move where you hide under the ground and then burst forth to deliver a powerful blow to unsuspecting enemies. Part of this move’s fun is in the controls: flip the remote upside down to burrow, then flick it up to attack.

Both creatures gain points from killing opponents, which unlock new moves (such as the burrow strike or venom pounce). The system unlocks move automatically, keeping the game flow going instead of stopping everything for an upgrade screen. You’ll need these special moves, because enemies are not a horde of generic insects that just swarm you. Many of them use widely varied tactics, or present defenses that can’t be overcome by just mashing buttons or wildly waggling the remote.

At one point we encountered a horned lizard(all of the creatures are researched at based on real species) while we were controlling the scorpion, and the reptile proved to have near-impenetrable defenses with its hard, spiky back. We had to somehow get at its soft underbelly, and in a nice design move we had more than one option: we could wait for the lizard to lift his head, thus allowing a chance to flip him up, or we could use the previously mentioned burrow strike to get at his soft parts.

Apart from the unexpectedly tactical combat and the weird story threading, the other standout mentionable is the atmosphere. The environments make excellent use of your scuttler’s scale as you navigate rocky crags and twisted desert thorn bushes, only to stumble upon creepy surprises like a giant sneaker hinting at a possible gruesome end for some poor human. In one epic-scaled level, we methodically scaled the inside of a saguaro cactus and then discovered an old pickup truck lying on its side, which we proceeded to tackle as a climber takes on Everest.

The tone and creativity involved definitely piqued our interest, and the gameplay seemed to offer a nice variety of exploration and tactical combat. Skittering around and discovering the nooks and crannies in the world of vermin will absolutely be interesting. What we can’t be sure of is whether the combat will hold up for the game’s entire length. From what we saw, it was not a mindless button masher – a good ways from it. If they can keep us on our toes by maintaining a continuous stream of imaginative environments and combat challenges, then Deadly Creatures will be a sleeper hit even for the hardcore Wii owners (and yes, we do exist).

Jan 23, 2009