Creatures logo

THALAMUS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Two years ago a game like this would have been banned, at least the programmer would probably have been strung up. But as times have changed so have the restrictions on what is acceptable and what isn't in the computer game world, so much so that games like this do exist.

Creatures is a puzzle game stroke platform run-around thing. You take the role of a cute and very stock little furry thing, and you must make your way through various levels dodging, shooting and collecting small creatures to make a potion with.

Once you have conquered these levels you are then faced with either a shop or a puzzle level. In the shop you are accosted by a shapely woman who tries to tempt you into buying something that will make you buy a weapon of some sort on the next level.

The lateral scrolling levels instantly reminded me of Ghosts 'n' Goblins except Creatures is a lot harder.

Basically Creatures makes a mockery of all the fluffy bunny games released in the last year or so, namely Lemmings, Skweek, Dizzy and platform games too numerous to mention.

You notice something is amiss on the title screen when you have two cute little fluffy things walking round the screen looking in complete harmony with themselves and their idyllic surroundings. Then a bloody great monolith with "Creatures" carved into it comes smashing down on top of them turning them into strawberry jam.

So I started playing the game with anticipation and at first I was quite let down. It just seemed like your average puzzle game. Then I got to a later stage called Torture. The screen opened up with your character at the bottom of the screen and another character very similar to yours glued upside down to a some sort of jack. This poor thing was slowly being jacked to another level with a very nasty monster standing on it that resembled a blue potato.

It was obvious that he was going to do something but nothing can describe just how graphic the mutilation is that occurs. So I blundered around trying to help my little friend but to no avail. He was jacked up to the monster's level and the nastiness began.

The creatures walked off the screen and came back with a chainsaw, turned it on and began to rev it up in front of the poor beastie glued to the jack. After a couple of seconds the animal that looked like a blue potato began to rip into the thing on the jack with merciless abandon. Let me tell you, the programmers left out no detail. The poor thing's body vibrates as his organs are sprayed from his body. Sick, very sick indeed.

There are three other forms of mutilation in the game - you may just be able to glean what is going on from the pictures but I won't 'spoil' it for you.

To stop this mindless mutilation you have to figure out the puzzle. It maybe involves jumping on seesaws or breaking glasses of fluid to kill the evil creatures but whatever it is, it is pretty challenging.

I think Creatures is a prime candidate for the cult game of 1993, but it is definitely aimed at an older age group than the usual fluffy bunny games. As long as you are not easily offended by violence then I would say Creatures is a good buy. It is challenging in every aspect and the animation of the creatures is fantastic.

My only beef is that it is a little too challenging in parts, and three lives just aren't enough. Oh, and don't show your granny.

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The title of this cute 'n' fluffy platformer is also a rather cunning acronym: Clyde Radcliff Exterminates All The Unfriendly Repulsive Earth-ridden Slime, or to be more concise, Creatures.

Contrived, mais non. The full title cryptically gives away the plot, but if you cannot manage to work it out here is a brief rundown of the essentials. Cute aliens land on Earth, find nice empty island, everything hunky dory. Nasty demons arrive, kidnap all the aliens except one. You are that one alien, Clude, and you have got to rescue all your mates.

Creatures is actually a conversion of a C64 game and was (according to Trenton Webb, ex-Amiga Format man and now editor of Commodore Format) one of the best games of 1990 on that format. Yes, 1990. What we have here is a three-year-old platform game that is almost a straight copy of the 8-bit original. Still, there is nothing wrong with sticking to a winning formula.

Let's face it, every English national sporting side sticks rigidly to the same squad until they get soundly beaten by a developing country with a population smaller than the Halifax Town FC supporters club. OK, maybe there can be some problems about sticking with winning formulas, but surely after three years Creatures is going to take advantage of the superior capabilities of the Amiga?

Bonny Clyde
The basics of the game are the same as the C64 original, and any other platformer you care to mention. Clyde has to go across a platform landscape taking out the baddies blocking his path and making it to the end of the level. Nothing outstanding here, but there is the usual amount of fun to be had from working out how to get past the difficult parts, and from discovering a new, nice-looking level.

Like most platformers, Creatures. has its own 'novely' bit, designed to make you think that it is a bit different. As you go through the game there are special creatures that can be picked up and exchanged in a shop at the end of each level for more powerful weapons. Once you have finished a couple of levels, you have to rescue a fluffy chum from a torture machine. This sub game takes place on a single screen, and as long as you have bought some decent power-ups in the shop it is very easy.

So, it is an average platformer but is it any fun? The levels are pretty dull, and only the odd bit of water livens them up; you can ride on a leaf across waterfalls and go swimming underwater à la New Zealand Story But it is not just dull. It is slow. Clyde plots around the screen at a really pedestrian pace which only emphasises the general dullness of the thing.

There are other frustrating aspects to Creatures. The game is full of smooth slopes, but as soon as you try to walk Clyde up one of them, you discover that you have to treat them as though they were blocky steps and jump up. And the collision detection is a little precise too. To make some jumps you have to be in absolutely the right place - usually with most of your character magically standing over the edge of a platform.

Even the early baddies need several hits to destroy them so you will find yourself playing like a madman - plodding along to reach the next baddie and then pumping the fire-button like a maniac to take the thing out.

Few creature comforts
For all its annoying faults, Creatures still hangs together enough to give a platform addict a few hours of enjoyment, but it has only got six levels and three puzzle screens, so do not expect it to last forever. Unless you are dying for another platform fix, there is not much in Creatures for you.

It is only an adequate conversion of the C64 game, and seems to have slowed down and lost some indefinable 'umph' in the process. And even if you do like it, there is not enough in the game (variety or size) to keep you playing for very long. In a budget range this might have been worth a gamble but at full price it just is not up to scratch.

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Am 64er steht der Name Thalamus für Action-Klassiker wie "Hawkeye" oder "Armalyte"- bloß die Amiga-Konvertierungen gerieten halt samt und sonders zum Flop. Ob mit diesem Jump & Run wohl neue Zeiten anbrechen?

Die Voraussetzungen wären sicher Günstig: Im Unterschied zu den meisten 8 Bit-Games aus der Thalamus-Werkstatt setzte Creatures von Anfang an weniger auf technische Mätzchen, und mit WJS-Design war ein Psygnosis-gestähltes Programmierteam in der Hand. Kurz, eine gelungene 16 Bit-Umsetzung sollte eigentlich kein großes Problem darstellen...

Die Vorgeschichte wurde jedenfalls schon mal unverändert übernommen. Die Fuzzy Wuzzies sind ein herzallerliebstes Völkchen weit draußen im Universum und befinden sich auf der Suche nach einer gemütlichen, neuen Heimat.

So stoßen sie auf die Erde, doch kaum gelandet, werden die Kuschel-Aliens von einem fiesen Erd-Dämon in dunkle Folterkammern gepackt. Einzig Clyde Radcliffe kann entkommen - keine Frage, daß ihm der mutige Solo-Spieler bei der Errettung seiner Freunde bzw. der Bekriegung seiner Feinde gerne behilflich ist!

Damit die Hatz durch finstere Höhlen, modrige Wälder und feuchte Tauchabschnitte nicht ganz wehrlos vonstatten geht, gehört eine zuverlässiger Standard-Wumme mit begrenzter Reichweite bereits zur Grundsatzausstattung.

Unterwegs werden dann neben den befreundeten Wuzzies auch allerlei Zutaten aufgesammelt, aus denen eine hilfsbereite Hexe Extrawaffen zusammen mixt. Derart hochgerüstet gerät die Geiselbefreiung letztlich längst nicht zum Kinderspiel, denn beim Durchstöbern enger Felspassagen und anläßlich luftiger Plattformtrips ist viel Geschick verlangt.

Ferner ist das Zeitlimit recht knackig ausgefallen, und die Gegner latschen mit Vorliebe in den ungelegensten Momenten auf. Unfaire Situationen bleiben somit nicht aus, oft ist das Fortkommen sogar mit einer Verlust eines der drei Leben nötig.

Schwer ist Creatures also mit Sicherheit, aber deswegen nicht unspielbar. Mit Übung läßt sich letztlich doch jede Situation meistern und damit es nicht langweilig wird, sorgen knobellistige Zwischenscreens ebenso für Abwechslung wie die gelungene Optik: Das hüpfen, springen und schweben die Feinde in den aberwitzigsten Formen und Farben sind schön, die Backgrunde sind detailliert gezeichnet und auch toll animiert - speziell der Wasserfall in ersten Level ist absolut sehenswert!

Begleitmusik und Sound-FX fällen im Vergleich zwar etwas ab, dafür sind die Ladezeiten angenehm kurz geraten. Und eine scrollende Übersichtskarte, anhand der man seinem Fortschritt innerhalb des Feindesgebiets begutachten kann, gibt es auch schließlich nicht alle Tage.

Fazit Gefällig? Bitte sehr: Creatures ist zwar nicht gerade überschauend originell, bietet aber dennoch eine solide Plattform Herausforderung. Auf den Nachfolger, der bereits im Herbst erscheinen soll, darf man jedenfalls guten Gewissen gespannt sein. (rl)

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So how well does the C64 smash hit shape up on the Amiga?

Mmm. Nice Thalamus intro sequence, anyway. CREATURES (an acronym for Clyde Radcliff Exterminates All The Unfriendly Repulsive Earth-ridden Slime, trivia fans), is a game which comes to us via the C64, on which format it was one of the most popular games of recent years.

Immediately, a thought came to me. Why not get esteemed AP contributor and Production Editor of Commodore Format, Dave Golder, to take a look at the Amiga incarnation and write half my review for - er, fill us in on a bit of background and give us his professional opinion? Over to you, Dave.

"I think the thing about the C64 version was that it was really nicely programmed, with lovely graphics and smooth scrolling and all that stuff. On the Amiga, all that is very ordinary, and all you are left is the actual game, which ends up being exposed as a bit ordinary. It IS basically the same game, but it is not so cute (I don't know why), it seems slower, and the jumping is really odd. It just does not seem to work on the Amiga. In fact, it is really quite tedious, isn't it?"

You know, he is right. CREATURES is a horizontally-scrolling (but only in one direction - so there is no going back over all those bits you have missed here) platformer, featuring six (count 'em!) levels of walk-along-a-bit-and-occasionally-shoot-things antics.

Unfriendly and unforgiving controls

In between these platform levels comes the game's Unique Selling Point - the torture sequences. These single-screen levels involve one of your little fluffy chums about to be horribly maimed with a chainsaw or big gun, unless you can somehow save them inside a time limit. Dubious taste? Well, maybe a bit, but the fact that the torture screens are by far the best bits of the game allows you to forgive any wee moral qualms you might have. It is harder to forgive how awful the rest of it is.

Now, you might be thinking I have skipped a bit on game detail here. Sadly, I haven't. That's all there is. You trudge slowly through unexciting scenery. Blocking your way are lots of baddies. Most of them need a million or so shots to kill, which you often have to administer one at a time, by standing on the very edge of a platform (i.e. Seemingly completely in mid-air), jumping up, getting a hit in and then repeating the whole procedure for the next year-and-a-half. Some of them are indestructable (although they may look identical to other, destructible, ones), which forces you to manoeuvre past them, usually with little more than two pixels of space to play with.

Even with the unfriendly and unforgiving controls, this is not especially hard most of the time, so long as you go very slowly, making the game even duller. Pixel-perfect precision jumping is required from the first level onwards, which would not be so bad if it did not mean you have to stand on thin air so much, but it is just another one of the elements which, when all mixed together, makes CREATURES one of the most downright unenjoyable games it's been my misfortune to play in quite a while. Like, did someone forget somewhere along the line that all this is actually supposed to be fun?

You want a tin lid for it all?How about annoying sound - average music, drowned out by staggeringly loud effects (which you can switch off if you like, but that's not exactly the point, is it?) and interminable disk accessing? This ruined my day, I can tell you.

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On the face of it, Creatures has a lot to recommend it. With the interesting mix of platform puzzle and shoot 'em up, and a few torture scenes thrown in for good measure. I was hoping for a lot. Unfortunately, the pleasures of Creatures are only skin deep and you soon begin to tire of the gameplay.

The basic premise is that you are Clyde, a member of a cute alien race that has crash landed on Earth on a remote tropical island. Unfortunately for the Blots (as they are known) the island is also home to a bunch of demons who take, none too kindly, to this invasion of their personal space. So, after a particularly raucous party the demons capture all but one of the Blots and cart them off to their torture chambers. So, as the only free one, it's your job to tootle off and rescue your pals.

Standing between you and them are six levels of baddie-infested islands. Luckily for Clyde he drank so much ale the night before that his breath has become a pretty nifty weapon and he can now spit gobbets of flame at the nasties. This can even be powered-up by the usual collect-a-flashing-thing-and-swap-it-later-for-a-bigger-gun routine.

You have to pick your route very carefully so as to collect the requisite amount of pick ups. As the screen only scrolls from left to right once a section has gone off screen it's lost forever. This, and the pixel perfect leaps required, makes Creatures fairly frustrating in a put-away-never-to-play-again kind of way.

If Creatures had been a cheap release I would recommend its purchase. However, for nearly £26 you could buy a much puzzler than this. Wait a few months and it'll be on budget.