Summary: Does the expansion to Black & White do anything to improve upon the disappointing original? Terence investigates for us.
Here we go again
Firingsquad went out on a limb when we reviewed the original Black & White. We were one of the first reviews to give the game a bad score. While the vast majority of the gaming press thought that Black & White was the second coming of Christ, we didnít appreciate the repetitive gameplay and lack of depth. We were expecting a lot of flames, and we sure got them. But thatís not all we got Ė out of the hundreds of e-mails and comments there were actually more readers that agreed with the review than not.
Remember the singing pilgrims from the original Black & White? Well, those happy bastards made it, and they ended up landing on an island with no gods and a secret society of avatar creatures. No gods means you are the first and only god that the natives have heard about. No other gods means you have complete power over the island and no annoying neighbors.
Rufus offers to let your creature into the Brotherhood, but he must first pass a series of trials. Why exactly you would want to give up your creature I donít know, but apparently you do. Iím also not sure why the Brotherhood isnít threatened by your presence since theyíre obviously hiding from gods by living on an island without any. But the long and short of it is everything is lovey-dovey and your creature wants to wear a new shiny bracelet.
64 MB RAM
500MB hard disk space
8MB D3D compatible video card
1.0 GHz CPU
512 MB RAM
GeForce2 or better
It looks like a duck
Creature Isle is just an expansion pack, so there are very few changes to the graphics engine. Black & White doesnít really need any changes to its graphics though Ė itís still the best looking Sim game out right now. The tessellation engine scales the number of polygons in a model to allow you to zoom in to see a villagers face, or zoom out to see the entire island. The textures scale so the closer you are the more detailed the textures get. You can read the original Black & White review if you want more details.
It sounds like a duck
Sound effects and music are also unchanged in Creature Isle. Again like the graphics, this is a good call on Lionheadís part. The original Black & White has some of the best voice acting in a game to date. Creature Isle has much less voice acting, but the quality is still very high. The same great sense of humor is also still present.
There are some peculiarities with the voices of the creatures. For instance, all of the creatures in The Brotherhood can talk, but your creature canít. Itís disheartening to know that your creature is a few steps down the evolutionary ladder from the rest of the creatures on the island. It would be a lot easier to train your creature if you could say, ďDonít take a dump on the villagers!Ē rather than smacking the crap out of it when it does. Itís interesting and somewhat funny that this game encourages corporal punishment.
Also, all of the creatures on the island have some sort of accent. Granted, most of the voices in the original have British accents, giving them a certain charm that only uppity Brits can have. In Creature Isle the creatures go global with accents from everywhere. Iíd almost say some of them are borderline racist, except that the animalís accent has nothing to do with where itís from (and itís a 40 foot tall talking animal). The monkeys sound like theyíre straight out of Fat Albert though Ė I was waiting for them to offer me some Jell-O.
It feels like a duck
Creature Isle also keeps the ďHand of GodĒ interface from the original. Everything you need to do in the game is done through a hand Ė no menus, buttons, or lists to mess with. Need to move a tree? Just pick it up and throw it. To cast a miracle, just wave the hand around in patterns and you can conjure up a flock of birds, a pile of wood, or a bolt of lightning.
The trials in Creature Isle are either very easy, or incredibly frustrating. Before the turtle race youíre told that you only need to pass through the gates; you donít need to run the entire course. You can actually cut out half of the course Ė thereís no way you can lose since the turtle goes around the entire track. A few of the trials are no-brainers like this, but the majority of them will drive you towards the edge of insanity.
The frustrating trials have a lot of bad things going on for them. First, the interface isnít accurate enough for the precise trials. Take the soccer trial for example. You need to guide your creature to kick a soccer ball through a series of checkpoints. Itís fairly simple, but the pointer misses a lot. If you click on the soccer ball to have your creature kick it, sometimes heíll kick it, and sometimes heíll stare at it like dumbass because the game didnít register the click. You also have to position your creature since he can only kick straight, which suffers from the same lack of accuracy. Basically, you spend half the time clicking around to get your creature in the right position, and the other half clicking a million times on the ball so he kicks it. So you can see itís not that the trial itself is frustrating, but rather the poor interface that makes it frustrating.
Another gripe I have about the trials is that they donít depend on how well you train your creature. When Rufus explains that the creature needs to pass a series of trials to get into the Brotherhood, I got the impression that itís up to my creatureís skills to pass the tests. Therefore I would need to teach the creature miracles, let him grow, and make him strong. Man was I wrong. All of the tests center around how well you can order your creature around Ė they have nothing to do with how well youíve taught him. All of them center around how well you can click around the screen. For example, giant chasing test Ė your creature scares away giants by standing in front of them. You tell the creature where to go, nothing else happens. It has nothing to do with how strong your creature is, if heíll try to cheat if heís evil, or how scared the giants are depending on your creatureís size.
Itís not a duck, itís a chicken
One big selling point of Creature Isle is that your creature can have its own creature named Tyke. Your creature takes care of Tyke just like you take care of your creature. Heíll teach Tyke miracles, and how to treat villagers. Your creature will reflect whatever you teach it Ė if you want Tyke to be benevolent to the villagers then your creature needs to be good too. You canít directly interact with Tyke, only your creature can.
Tyke can actually get in the way of your creature during trials. In one trial your creature needs to destroy some buildings. Heíll cast miracles, throw rocks, or stomp on the buildings. The first time I tried this, my creature cast fireballs to destroy some of the buildings. Tyke sees a burning building and thinks that he needs to save it, so he casts water and douses the fire, causing my creature to lose the trial. Since you canít interact with Tyke, you canít tell him to not interfere with the trials, and that concept is way out of reach for your creature to teach to him. The only thing you can do is stick him in the ďTyke DaycareĒ or what I like to call it, ďGet the Hell Out of the Way You KFC RejectĒ.
Another lauded feature of Creature Isle is the ability for your creature to fall in love with another creature. Unfortunately, you donít teach your creature how to pick up chicks at a bar. Thereís no ďbest pick-up lineĒ trial. There are not even any female creatures wandering about the island to hit on. I wonít spoil the game completely, but the love aspect is barely there. Of course, Iím not sure if this is such a bad thing, because hot animal nookie isnít something I really need to see in a game.
Finally, Creature Isle is very short. It contains less than 10 hours of actual gameplay, or around 20 if you need to spend a lot of time training a new creature. Thereís only one island (the original had five), no conflicts, and a very thin storyline. Twenty hours is the average length of an expansion pack that sells for $20-30, but given the nature of the childish mini-games, itís hard to say Creature Isle is long enough.
SIDEBAR: The bearís trial is much easier than it looks, if you think outside the box. Just think Star TrekÖ
Good graphics: Easily the best looking Sim game out.
More of what you want: Lionhead took gamersí suggestions and made Creature Isle all about the Creatures.
Superb sound and voice acting: Just like the original, Creature Isle has great sound, voice acting, and a sense of humor.
Creatureís creature: Your creature can have a creature of its own. Tyke is a chicken you raise from a little chick to the biggest cock youíve ever seen.
Terrible trials: The trials in Creature Isle are a series of childish, frustrating, and droll puzzles any five year old could figure out. Unfortunately, thereís not much else to the game.
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