Ever wondered why the vast majority of video games have humanoid protagonists? Outside of most space shooters and omnipotent “god mode” like games such as Civilization, the presence of human-like protagonists are very noticeable, and usually within good reason. Psychological studies tend to focus on humanoid characters in video games, arguing that players tend to have more empathy for humanoid characters and characteristics, since we can see range of facial emotions and familiar body language with humanoid protagonists. This is also why many players “project” fictionalized versions of themselves into character avatars, be it simple avatars like a Mii, or more complex, customizable characters.
Very few games break from that trend, and most of the time it is through independent gaming or obscure, titles from smaller companies. One game, however, was able to be high profile enough to not only gain some notoriety, but also showed off an emotional adventure by profiling two characters that we often see as pests in the real world. These two characters are a tarantula and a scorpion, and the game showcasing them is Deadly Creatures for the Nintendo Wii.
Developed by Rainbow Studios and published by THQ, Deadly Creatures is an ambitious title that took full advantage of the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls, attempting to deliver a unique take on the action genre. Development was primarily handled by lead designer Jordan Itkowitz, who originally conceived an action game where players controlled a snake with the Wii remote, based on a dream Itkowitz had. While the snake would not be playable in Deadly Creatures, two of the other creatures proposed, the tarantula and scorpion, made the cut. The snake itself would become a recurring boss in the game, so its presence is still noted.
Deadly Creatures is one of the few games developed exclusively for the Nintendo Wii, that took advantage of the Wii remote motion controls. It is also one of the few games to get mainstream promotion, including a faked “making of” trailer showing off a fake motion capture session with the games’ two stars. The only other games to gain widespread promotion for Wii exclusive titles included MadWorld and Boom Blox, for their controversial subject matter in the former, and the collaborations with famed director Steven Spielberg or the latter.
Rainbow Studios was, at the time, known for the MX vs. ATV game series under THQ, with Deadly Creatures being their only action title. Development on the Wii was also a factor to the control schemes of Deadly Creatures, featuring a large amount of motion controls designed to enhance the movements and combat of both the tarantula and the scorpion. Power attacks, jumps, even defensive postures are all done with button presses or flicks to the right and left.
Despite the focus on the non-humanoid protagonists, the game itself also features exposition and narrative with two human characters, voiced by Billy Bob Thorton and the late Dennis Hopper, who are looking for hidden gold out in the middle of the desert. Since the game is told from the arachnids’ perspectives, there are times where both the tarantula and scorpion witness the same events from different locations, and times where they almost come to blows with each other whenever they meet. These moments are racked with their own tension, which the developers likened to a monster movie.
That sort of King Kong vs. Godzilla feel is present for sure when the arthropods meet each other in the first ten seconds of the game. Both also play differently from one another; the tarantula can move and jump quickly, and is a more agile creature with a variety of attacks, despite being frail. The speed and jumping abilities of the tarantula give the creature an assassin-like spin on things, hit and run tactics are a must when playing as it. The scorpion, on the other hand is slower and bulkier. It sacrifices the ability to jump with the ability to defend itself, and uses its tail and claws in combination when fighting enemies to grapple and incapacitate them. In many respects, the scorpion is akin to a pro wrestler, using power and ground tactics to fight against faster opponents.
From this, the two creatures have different personalities, and by the final level we see some character growth in its most primal form shown, telling a story without dialogue or facial emotions. There is action and danger everywhere you go, but a game with such minimalist dialogue is able to suck you in through its visual cues and the almost desolate imagery of a hostile desert. This makes Deadly Creatures almost a throwback to the more old-school, action platformers seen in the bit console days; the type of game where exposition was at best an afterthought to why you were playing the game.
Sadly, the game was not a high seller and despite some glowing reviews. Much like other non-Nintendo exclusives on the Wii such as The Conduit and Madworld, Deadly Creatures sold poorly and Rainbow Studios never fully recovered. They made one more MX vs. ATV game after that ofr THQ, and reshuffled into a new studio, THQ Digital Phoenix for two years. THQ itself would go bankrupt, and the rights to Deadly Creatures were purchased by Nordic Games GmbH. Rainbow Studios has since been revived by Nordic Games, and in late 2014 released the latest MX vs. ATV title, MX vs. ATV Supercross.
So is there a chance for Deadly Creatures to be revived? There has been no talk of a revival of the title, but with Nordic Games releasing remastered editions of cult-classic games such as Legend of Kay and the Spellforce series, anything is possible. Still, for owners of the Nintendo Wii, Deadly Creatures was one of the few must own games that didn’t come from the Nintendo stable. Proving that a storyline can be done without human interaction, it is definitely a game that is vastly underrated, and one that is worth a play through if you have the chance to try it out.
Thank you for enjoying this week’s episode of Games You Never Heard Of. If you have any questions or suggestions for more articles in this series, please leave them in the comments section below!