Eight-Legged Freaky 

The creepy Deadly Creatures makes perfect innovative use of the Wii.

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I’m not exactly afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlies; they just give me the creeps. But I didn’t know how much they creeped me out until I played Deadly Creatures for the Wii. Over the years, I’ve seen various forms of creepy hideousness on my video-game screen—zombies, monsters, aliens and even Nazis—but none of them made my skin crawl the way the main characters of THQ’s new title did.

In Creatures, you alternate play throughout a 10-chapter adventure as a scorpion and a tarantula. That’s right, adventurous gamers: an unnamed, non-speaking, non-weapon-carrying scorpion and tarantula. These bugs aren’t genetically altered by radiation, or an overdose of Taco Bell Gorditas. They’re just creepy creatures trying to survive in the desert by fending off other creepy creatures, like a rattlesnake and a Gila monster.

But on the day you show up to assume the role of deadly creatures, two good-ol’boys—voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper—show up in your domain with shovels and commence to treasure hunting. Thorton’s voiceovers throughout provide an extra layer of creepiness on a game that was already overflowing with it. When I first heard about the game, I thought the spider and scorpion would be voiced by Thorton and Hopper. I was thinking this would be a campy but fun game—a buddy movie with bugs. But it’s far from campy; it’s serious and strangely unsettling.

For most of the game, the humans and the scorpion and tarantula share the same spaces, but remain generally unaffected by one another. As you move through the levels, you acquire new skills and fighting abilities that you can use on the foes you encounter.

The movements of the creatures are so realistic that my stomach occasionally did flips as I watched and listened to them— especially the spider—move. When the spider walks, all eight legs move in rhythm.

He almost glides across the terrain until he encounters an enemy or a grub that quickly becomes a snack to replenish energy. The sounds of feasting are so gross that even as I type this, my skin has started to crawl.

The Wii remote allows absolute control over the main characters. They move easily and seamlessly over obstacles and in fights.

In the fight scenes, you actually start to see human-like characteristics and movements out of the two, especially the spider. Some of the moves are almost pro-wrestling-like, from body slams to what I think might have been a sleeper-type hold, but I’m not sure. I found the action with the tarantula much easier to control then the scorpion.

The tarantula was quick and deadly, while the scorpion was much slower, with a tendency to telegraph its attacks. There’s no doubt that this title is an innovation in Wii gaming. It’s precisely the kind of game that companies should be making for this system, as the Wii remote allows access to movements that you just can’t get out of a traditional controller.

Rather than tweaking hackneyed versions of traditional games, developers need to notice what THQ has put out. With more surprising, entertaining titles like this one, the dominance of the Wii is going to hold on for a very long time to come.

In Brief
The next several weeks promise to be very good to gamers. Several big titles hit shelves in the near future, and the frenzy started last week with a Watchmen title, dueling baseball games (MLB 09: The Show and MLB 2K9) and a Halo prequel (Halo Wars).

Then, batten down the hatches. Resident Evil 5 and the new super-violent Wii game Mad World dropped March 13 and 10, respectively. On March 24, the muchanticipated Legends of Wrestlemania hits, along with Wanted. The latter is based on the concepts brought forward in last year’s Angela Jolie/Morgan Freeman picture of the same name, but the fact that it’s not tied to any release has me chomping at the bit to curve some bullets of my own. The month winds down on March 29 with Guitar Hero: Metallica. Things don’t slow down after that, either, with The Godfather II and Batman: Arkham Asylum scheduled for release later in the spring.

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