Right, from this point on we can say I haven't played any of the remaining Thalamus games on the Commodore 64. That might sound a bit like sacrilege... the Creatures games are very highly regarded, after all. But I've only ever dabbled with those two on emulators, and only for a few minutes. I didn't have the patience to stick with them, for all the praise they received in their day. I haven't really got much choice now!
I knew I shouldn't have had those extra hot chillies on my pizza...
Creatures is a platform game, with cute and cuddly characters being the order of the day. That makes the storyline all the more surprising when you read it... a race of creatures from the planet Blot have left their planet in search of hipness. They have renamed themselves Fuzzy Wuzzies (know nothing about being hip, this lot), but before they could find a place of their own, they crashed on Earth. Luckily they ended up on an almost-deserted island, which they renamed The Hippest Place In The Known Universe.
Nice day for a balloon ride. Let's blow him out of the sky.
Pity, then, that the only other inhabitants of the island were demons who, having been annoyed by the Fuzzies' presence invited them to a party, then promptly captured them and whisked them away to be tortured. The only one to escape this fate was one Clyde Radcliffe (see? Not hip), who was throwing up in the bushes when the capturing took place, and so it is he, under your guidance, who must embark upon the quest to free his brethren...
Clyde Radcliffe, intergalactic jet-setter and playboy.
There's a premise for you. And with that, off you go, traipsing through a very pretty and colourful world, hoping to locate and free your fellow Fuzzies. Clyde starts the game with the ability to spit arcing fireballs at anything in his path, and if they prove to be ineffective, he has a short-burst flamethrower that he can breathe at the demon enemies, which will usually cause them to explode after a while.
It might be dark in here, but there's an extra life to help...
That sounds like a fine array of weaponry as it is, but if you should get far enough into the game you'll encounter a fine-looking witch who will be all too keen to sell you an assortment of upgraded, more powerful armaments, which should be enough to see off any demon that dare stand in your way. There's a catch, though; the witch doesn't give these away for free. You'll have to collect as many of the special flashing creatures that you can find throughout the world. These can then be used to mix the potions you'll need for your nice, new destructive toys.
Why, yes there is, as it happens. Pity I don't seem to be in the mood...
Eventually, having battled past shedloads of cute little critters, you'll find one of your stricken friends. Hurrah! Unfortunately, they'll be on the wrong end of a fearsome torture device. Boo! And in true Penelope Pitstop fashion, your friend is not immediately executed in front of your eyes... the demos will at least give you a sporting chance to rescue the beleaguered Fuzzy. Should you fail to get there in time, though, then a terrible fate awaits...
Now, what the hell is going on here?
I found Creatures to be a little bit of an odd game. The main game plays quite ponderously, with Clyde being a little bit on the slow side, and this being compounded by the size of the levels. They're huge, and can take ages to get through. Luckily the gameplay is decent, but if I'm being honest, I didn't find it that spectacular or markedly above any of the Commodore 64's better platformers.
Yes, hurry! The poor thing is probably afraid of heights, or something.
The torture screens, on the other hand, are twisted, sick and very funny. They're also pretty difficult to figure out, at least for one who appears to have lost his 8-bit gaming ability. That's the good thing, though... even if you're not able to figure them out, you can have a good laugh at the horrific end that befalls your Fuzzy friend.
Ah. Too late. Looks like he was worried for a good reason, after all.
Creatures, for me, is a game of two halves. I can certainly see why it was so highly rated back in the day... it's extremely polished, as you'd expect of a Thalamus release, and you get a huge amount of game. The main core of the game, trudging through the level to get to your friend, looks lovely, and even the bad guys are really cute and endearing. It's a shame that I didn't find the gameplay as endearing, though... a bit of extra speed in Clyde's steps would certainly have helped. It's the lure of seeing the torture screens that keeps you playing. They're the real works of genius here, and elevate a game that I found relatively average into something pretty special.