Creatures has been available for the PC for some
years now and version three has just been released.
For those that don't know, Creatures is a 'virtual pet'
type of game, but one that is much more advanced than
Tamagotchi. The game itself has won accolades for its
amazing AI, and has charmed millions of players across
the globe. The GBA isn't a powerful desktop machine
though and transferring a game of this type to a handheld
has always been deemed so difficult that most developers
have simply turned down the challenge. Although Cats
and Dogs (virtual pet titles, not the movie) appeared
on the GBC, this is really the first time a title of
this nature and complexity has hit the GBA. With rumours
of The Sims about to make a miniature appearance as
well, it'll be interesting to see how well Creatures
does as a precedent.
In Creatures you play the role of Scrubby the fairy
(no, really) who is basically the controlling entity
in your virtual world of Albia. Your job is to take
on parental responsibilities for Norns so how you raise
them is entirely up to you. You may choose to guide
them responsibly and show them what's good and what's
bad so they can develop a better understanding of their
habitat and cope with the requirements of their environment.
On the other hand you may want to create the Bart Simpson
of the Norn world which is possibly a little irresponsible
but lots more fun.
The Norns aren't entirely controlled by you and,
like any parents, you can't watch them all the time.
Albia is filled with much beauty but also great danger
and the simplest thing can throw your creations into
uncertain peril. For example they could meet the evil
Grendels who pose a great threat to them and who constantly
try to lead them astray. Furthermore, some of the foodstuffs
lying around are dangerous and certain kinds of mushrooms
can be toxic. The Norns attributes and characteristics
are also handed down from generation to generation -
as in real life. In this way, unlike real life, you
can raise evermore intelligent (or stupid), friendly
(aggressive), curious (indifferent) etc, Norns according
to your taste.
Although the game information lists Creatures as
a one player game there is the opportunity to trade
Norns with other players via a link cable which, depending
on how you've reared your pets, could be a good or bad
thing. Saving is obviously an important aspect of a
game of this nature and like the PC version, Creatures
saves automatically every 20 minutes or so.
Considering what you're charged with achieving during
the game the control system is actually quite simple.
Everything is used but the interface quickly becomes
intuitive and you'll be rearing Norns with relative
ease in no time. If it all becomes a little confusing
you'll find the manual excellent as it details all the
various commands. There's also a lengthy FAQ section
which comes in very useful as the game becomes more
The worlds that the Norns inhabit are beautiful not
to mention huge. Norns can also interact with their
environment which can occasionally trigger humorous
animations but there is a downside to all this and the
main sprite animation is questionable to say the least.
This is not unique for a title of this nature and the
limited animation is a result of the endless amount
of actions you're asking your newest creation to do.
Overall though it's sufficient and you should never
be in any doubt of your Norns' moods or needs.
Sound & Music
Sound in this title is fairly non-existent throughout
the game and you do notice that something is missing.
The only audio you really get is the abstract voices
of Norns communicating with one another and this only
infrequently. I can't help but think that even some
random forest sounds would have improved matters a lot
but, alas, this is what you're stuck with. EAGB recommends
turning the sound down completely and putting your favourite
CD on because anything has got to be better than this.
Creatures on the GBA is possibly one of the most
original titles to hit the handheld market and for this
reason alone everyone should at least give it a look.
It is, however, not for everyone and those who don't
relish slow, plodding, thoughtful gameplay should look
elsewhere. The absence of any real soundtrack could
be considered an oversight which, although also lacking
on the PC, may leave you feeling short changed. Overall
though a unique title with some minor flaws but one
that offers endless gameplay.