Creatures Is The Only Digital Pet You’ll Ever Need

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Creatures can realistically claim what few other games can: that it’s fun to play from the cradle to the grave. Or more specifically, it’s fun from the incubation bin to the memorial headstone.

Creatures is one of the most unique games to come out in years. Seamlessly combining genetics, the processing of brain chemicals and artificial intelligence is something I don’t think has ever been achieved before now. And it’s fun too. The Norns that players have to nurture from birth are highly intelligent, curious creatures that require a gentle hand and a watchful eye. Having too many "alive" at one time can be quite a challenge, as they seem to sense when you are not around and use the time to get into trouble.

Visually, the game looks very crisp. It’s easy to tell that the Norn’s world was built as a model, photographed and then digitalized. The photo-realistic halls are just different enough from reality to be highly interesting. And of course the Norns, and even their evil cousin Grendels, are oozing with cuteness.

But the most impressive feature by far is the Norn’s ability to learn, ever faster with a helping hand. Players can easily teach Norns the name of their human benefactor and it’s a real kick to have them excitedly scream in joy when they see a player’s pointer hand has returned after a long time working with other Norns or objects elsewhere.

And each Norn has their own personality. One Norn we played with was always hungry and seemed to love honey over carrots, another was quiet and slept all the time. One was downright stubborn and rarely listened as we tried to teach her things the older Norns already knew. Still another male Norn turned into a real sex addict, constantly mating (or going through the motions) with all the females on the island. Funny, but he was always surrounded with females. Some Norns have all the luck.

The Internet trading feature is also very good. Almost everyone has created, through many painstaking generations, what they consider to be the perfect Norn — or at least the perfect Norn for a given characteristic. Good DNA is hard to find and it was a lot of fun swapping our creatures with others. We found that for the most part, Norns integrate well into each other’s societies.

And it was good to learn from game’s designer Toby Simpson that work has already begun on Creatures II, which will have more features than the original. I would like to see some higher functions in the game like having the Norns organize themselves into family groups, possibly claiming a territory on the island and dragging their favorite toys back there. It would be nice if they could be taught to defend their home from Grendels too, as they normally just run when confronted with a green meanie.

While Creatures’ overall impression on the game industry is still unknown, the hoards of people who love the game do prove that many players are getting sick of mindless shoot-em-ups and want a little higher thinking with their entertainment. If you fall into that category, Creatures is just what the doctor ordered.

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