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Creatures: Village

Score: 84%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Kutoka Interactive
Developer: Gameware Development
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: God Games

Graphics & Sound:

The world of Creatures Village looks like something out of a strange cartoon. Itís got a style about it that is so cute that it is almost unnerving. Everything is very bright and colorful and appealing in a nice, rounded sort of way. The Norns themselves look like a cross between an elf and a rat, and Iím still not sure what my overall impression of them is. The animations are a bit jerky though, and as the world is done on a 2D plane, everything is layered on top of each other, which can sometimes clutter the scene.

The sound is equally disturbing in a Teletubby sort of way. There is no music at all, and no dialogue, so the entire audio set is comprised of many sound effects. Your Norns will squeak and squawk, which also serves the purpose of communicating how they feel. But again, there are times when the scene is so cluttered with things going on that there are too many sound effects happening to really understand what the situation is.


Gameplay:

In Creatures Village, you are the caretaker of little creatures called Norns. The entire world consists of a village that you can raise up to four Norns at a time in. This village consists of places like your house, a garden, a forest, and other various locations for your Norns to visit. The purpose of populating this village isnít just for your Norns to explore it, but to live their lives in it and carry on multiple generations.

When you start the game, you hatch a Norn in the Nestery. Creatures Village uses what the developers call artificial life to simulate the genetic process of growing different Norns. Each Norn has its own set of Digital DNA, and will take on very unique appearances from one another. Once your Norn is hatched, you name it and then thrust it into its new world.

From here on out, itís up to you to take care of your Norn, if you so wish. Norns get hungry and have to eat, they get sick and have to be treated. Norns get bored and like to play, and Norns also mate and die. How you treat your Norns is completely up to you. You can be nice to them and try to grant them an easy, fulfilling life, or you can just be downright mean and let them starve to death.

Creatures Village isnít the type of game that encourages being evil as much as it does being good. The manual is set up in a way that implies that the game can teach young children about the different aspects of life. Norns have all the basic needs and wants that people do, so the emphasis is on how well you can care for them, not how well you can go from one end of the paternal/maternal spectrum to the other.

As Norns go about their daily routine, they are constantly learning. If you leave them to their own devices, they will usually end up having a chaotic and rough life. In order to help them get about easier, you use positive and negative reinforcement to help teach them the ways of the village. If they do something that is good, like eat healthy food or play with another Norn, positive reinforcement will tell them that they should continue to do that. On the other hand, if you see your Norn doing something you donít want them to do, you can just as easily use negative reinforcement on them. Both positive and negative reinforcement are handled by two strange, flying creatures that swoop down to your Norn whenever you tell them to do so, and either tickle them or spray water in their face.


Difficulty:

Creatures Village isnít meant to be a difficult game. Itís more of a teaching tool than anything else, but it does it in a subtle manner. This is another aspect of the game that lends itself to helping children learn the values of life in a fun environment. This isnít to say that the game is too simple for adults though. The act of raising one of these Norns is a task that is universal, and as children may think of it as a game more than a challenge, adults will find a challenge in seeing just how well they can handle raising four artificially living creatures at a time.

Game Mechanics:

Creatures Village can be considered somewhat of a god game. As in similar titles like Black & White, you are represented in the world as a hand. With this hand, you can lead your Norn around, call your Norn to different places, and interact with a multitude of items strewn around the village. This is how you cook your Norn food, play with your Norn, and teach your Norn. This method is very simple in design, but some control issues crop up when there are lots of things layered on the screen, which makes selecting an item difficult because of the imprecision of the hand.

The Norns communicate via their onscreen appearance and by various bubbles that pop up over their heads. How you react to these messages is totally up to you, and can be accomplished in various ways. The most common situation that arises is that your Norn gets hungry. You can either lead your Norn to the garden and hope they eat something good, or you can cook your Norn some food, your choice of dish, and bring it to your Norn. The kinds of effects this might have would be to either make your Norn independent when it comes to finding food, or fat and lazy as they wait for you to bring it to them. Itís this kind of learning system that makes raising your Norns such a large task, as you may think you are doing the right things only to find you have raised a spoiled brat.

The world your Norns live in is just as dynamic as they are. Seasons are constantly changing, giving you and your Norns new things to do and explore. There are also a ton of mini-game type activities that you can partake in with your Norns, and these games also help them learn different lessons.

Each Norn only lives five hours, and after that they die and are buried in the garden. Before this happens, you want to make sure they mate so their lineage can carry on. Some Norns will mate on their own, others will have to be told to do so, and yet others might hate the rest of the Norns and not want to mate at all. This can go on for as long as you are able to mate your Norns.

The problems in Creatures Village arenít really in the design of the game, but in the implementation of all its parts. For one, the cluttered screens are a bit of a chore to deal with. There are also software problems that I simply couldnít understand, as the game wouldnít load at all on my monster rig but ran perfectly fine on my completely inferior laptop. A lot of these issues crop up now and then, and you get the impression that Creatures Village was developed as a game first and a piece of software second. This is even worse when you think that they are trying to market this game to children as well, a group that doesnít have the patience to deal with technical issues when it comes to playing their games.

I havenít used the term Ďoddí to describe a game in a while, but I think that adjective applies here. It is very unlike most other games out there, and for this I commend the developers. Had it been a more solid piece of software, it may have been able to reach the masses, but as it stands right now it will probably only find a niche market.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/ME/XP, 900 MHz Prcessor, 128 MB RAM, 12X CD-ROM, 560 MB Hard Disk Space
 

Test System:



Windows ME, AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, 128 MB GeForce FX 5200 Video Card, 40 GB Hard Drive, Creative Labs Sound Card, Cable Modem Internet Connetion

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