Review: Impossible Creatures

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REVIEW Avery Phillips

If you’ve ever wondered if there is a game out there that allows you to combine a cheetah with a black widow spider, then the answer is yes: it’s a real-time strategy (RTS) from 2002 called Impossible Creatures, where creating such monstrosities is the entire point of the game. While most RTS games offer a selection of units to fight your battles with, Impossible Creatures instead has the player create their own by combining two animals (out of a potential 76) to create hybrids, which will form the army used to defeat your opponents and win the game.

Skipping over the blatant disregard for how DNA actually works, it’s a fun concept. Who doesn’t see the appeal of combining a tiger and a shark together before setting the end creation loose on a group of resource gathering henchmen?

The campaign story centres around the impressively named Rex Chance and his quest to avenge his recently deceased father, the leading Scientist working on the technology used to create the hybrid creatures.  His murderer is the predictable multi-millionaire who has  decided to steal the technology take over the world, with his subordinates being an assortment of stereotypical villains and an army of compounded critters. Assisting Mr. Chance during his adventure is the young, beautiful and brainy Dr. Lucy Willing, who at one point in the story gets captured by King-Kong-but-actually-not-King-Kong-because-that-would-be-copyright-infringement. That’s what happened to all young and attractive women in the 30’s, right?

I would be lying through my teeth if I tried to claim that this story is in any way complex or particularly enthralling; the developers were clearly aware that most players would only be interested in waging war with a bunch of freaky animal hybrids. There is plenty of period charm and humour to keep you at least a little entertained though, and it does deserve some credit for the unexpectedly good music and voice acting…excluding the henchmen, whose constant cries of “the critters are under attack!” quickly become grating on the ear.

The gameplay of Impossible Creatures also feels quite lacking compared to other games of the genre. There are only two resources to keep track of, a small assortment of buildings to create and minimal upgrades available for your base and workers. Despite it being a RTS there is very little strategy involved during the actual game, with most of the work going into crafting your creatures beforehand with the Creature Creator. It’s not a game that will appeal to more serious gamers or RTS fans, which I suggest is likely the reason for its’ commercial failure ten years ago.

Should the game be disregarded entirely because of this? I don’t think so. Whether it was intentional or not, the streamline gameplay and interesting premise makes Impossible Creatures very accessible to non-gamers and those who don’t have much experience with the RTS genre. While some people learn best by throwing themselves into the deep end, there are others who prefer to test the waters slowly before taking the plunge. If the latter is more your style, then I wholeheartedly recommend Impossible Creatures as an excellent game to start out with. If it’s not, then perhaps this one just isn’t for you.

(In a momentary lapse of judgement I neglected to check if you could actually buy the game before I wrote the review. Currently the only way to legally play the game is to purchase a second hand copy from Ebay or Amazon. Emphasis on legally)