Creatures 2: Torture Trouble
for C64

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Mr Creosote:
Company: Apex / Thalamus
Year: 1992
Genre: Action, Puzzle
Theme: Cartoon & Comic / Misc. Fantasy / Humour
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 1473
Review by Mr Creosote (2024-01-13)
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The first Creatures had already felt like a late arrival / swan song for the C64. And yet, two years later, a sequel appeared. Which definitely nobody expected. Even professional reviewers of those magazines which were still (in theory) featuring the C64 seemed bewildered. Covering the game only in few superficial words in most cases. Praising it, but not giving it much attention. More than one made the semi-sarcastic remark that this must be the best C64 game on the market – referring to the generally empty shelf space of this system.

While being “the best” on an otherwise empty market may not mean a lot, it does not rule out true greatness. Re-using a lot of graphical assets of the predecessor, this sequel does put quite a different spin on the gameplay formula. The torture screens found between the main levels of the first part take centre stage. Regular scrolling platform levels have disappeared altogether.

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This can be seen as representative – even if unintended – of the home computer vs. game console debate which was flaring up at the time. Reaction-based gameplay received a slightly brainy spin. Because the ageing home computer platform could not compete anymore on pure flashiness? Not fully likely, considering that the same team came out with Mayhem in Monsterland another year later. Or maybe because the computer users actually appreciated this sort of variation?

What's for sure is that the designer got a lot out of the single-screen puzzles. The set-ups, most of them including funny ACME machinery, are not just a marvel to behold design-wise. Under time pressure, through trial and error, the exact sequence of actions needs to be figured out. Action and reaction. Drop a boulder on the fat belly of the sleeping dragon. Waking it up in surprise, flames emerging from its nostrils. Those flames melting the ice block imprisoning the penguin. Rush over to the the slide, aligning it so that the penguin will catapult to the torturer and knock him out. Pick up the key he dropped to free your family members.

This, of course, is not a real level, but you get the idea. The best puzzles being those which even require multi-dimensional thinking at times – for example to account for different movement patterns or non-obvious dependencies – on top of pixel-perfect control over the character.

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There it is again, the skill-based gameplay. Creatures 2 is actually tough as nails. Appropriate, considering a lot of the enjoyment comes out of seeing the traps trigger or the player sprite just dying a gruesome death for another stupid reason. Burning up, being dissolved in acid, squeezed or stomped to death etc. It is only appropriate that when the player finally makes it to the end, the sequence played as reward is protagonist Clyde taking his revenge on the final torturer… with a chainsaw! Imagine that on a “family friendly” Nintendo system…

Between the torture screens, there are some lighter interludes, referencing Circus games or other arcade action standards. None of them take a long time, either. Leading to a high frequency of variation throughout.

The same observation makes Creatures 2 a rather short game end-to-end. At least when not counting the almost endless repetition necessary to finally succeed. It is something which I may have criticised thirty years ago. I certainly won't today. Rather, I'm praising it as a great achievement on our beloved C64. This sort of thing made this little computer special and unique. Charming!

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Mr Creosote:
Yeah, well, you kidnapped my family first, you bloated bastard! Creatures 2 – Torture Trouble not only demonstrated technical excellence as often found towards the end of a system's lifecycle, but also exhibited the fundamental difference between the then dying home computer ecosystems and the tightly corporately controlled game console world. We gave up a huge amount of freedom of expression when we made the latter win.
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