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ups: Cute creatures, they grow and learn.
downs: Mind-numbingly dull, poor interactions.

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Creatures Exodus and Creatures Village Review
game: Creatures Exodus and Creatures Village
two star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Kutoka
developer: Gameware Development
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ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 09:04 AM Wed Dec 7th, 2005
last revision: 09:05 AM Wed Dec 7th, 2005

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Click to read.Kutoka is probably best known in the US for publishing the MIA series-a group of kids\' games featuring a cute little mouse. Their latest major franchise is Creatures, which is a funky artificial life sim aimed at children. The design is cute, and the worlds are crowded with kid-friendly diversions to experience with their artificial buddies. It sounds good, like a Tamagotchi for the new millennium, but parents should be advised that Creatures will likely appeal to a fairly small group of kids, and quite young ones at that.

This review covers two Creatures games: Creatures Village and Creatures Exodus. Each game offers a unique environment for the Norns (that\'s what the little critters are called) to explore and use, and the major difference is that Creatures Exodus allows users to take their creatures online to interact with other users\' progeny. With some 300 thousand copies of Creatures Exodus sold, there is an online community (although many of those folks speak French, which may or may not be an issue with communication).

In Creatures, you hatch a Norn from an egg. The little Norn wanders around its environment and you, as the Norn-watcher, praise or scold the Norn for different behaviors. The environment is goodly-sized, and there are plenty of things for your Norn to get into. In fact, sometimes the world seems chaotic with so many active elements, and it\'s hard to tell the non-interactive elements from the interactive elements.

By praising and scolding your Norn you can usher it into different activities. You can reward it by doing things like baking a cake for your fuzzy creature (which is made with eggs, thus leading me to believe that Norns are cannibalistic), or you can play little games with the Norns. The games are pretty lame, and some of these interactions involve your Norn disappearing from sight. Eventually your Norn will grow up and you\'ll send it to school where it will learn to talk.

Once your Norn becomes fairly self-sufficient, you can raise more Norns and then they will interact together. If you are playing Creatures Exodus, then you can take your Norns online to interact with Norns from other users. Since Creatures focuses on the simulation of artificial life and intelligence, the Norns develop unique personalities based on how they have been raised. Exploring the online component of Creatures, users discover a whole world of Creatures.

But all of this probably makes Creatures sound more fun than it is. The kids we surveyed were not interested in Creatures and unanimously said they\'d prefer the new Tamagotchi or that it was not as good as several other pet-raising or animal-oriented games. Kids do love the whole idea of raising creatures, training and interacting with them. The problem here is partly that the Creatures are so ugly and the game is not pretty either. The other part of the problem was the mind-numbingly dull interactions. Creatures is a game that you \"watch\" more than \"play,\" and what\'s there to look at is not all that pleasant.

Both games are repackaged collections from previously released titles, which probably accounts for the dated feel of the graphics and animation. It\'s not that I expect kids\' games to have the cutting edge graphics (in fact, parents should never have to worry about system requirements when buying games for kids), but the visuals in Creatures look best when paused. The colorful 3D modeling and clever designs are great, but in motion the game is stilted and jaggy. A more traditional cartoon approach would have lended itself to much smoother animation.

Although there are lots of things to do in the Creatures world, almost none of these things are any fun. The interactions are just completely banal, even for small children, who may not be fully formed adults, but who also are not braindead. In a way, it takes an adult to appreciate the AI and Alife development within Creatures, but I cannot imagine any adult spending more than a few minutes with the game before agreeing with the seven-year-old that it isn\'t any fun.

I was excited to play with Creatures, and I did my best to recruit some more youthful gamers to its cause. But none of us could find much to enjoy here. Creatures is an interesting premise, but after seeing a long line of sequels and re-packaging since its original release in 1996, it\'s clear that the franchise should be abandoned in favor of a newer and better take on the artiificial life sim.

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