Life in your hands
|Minimum System Requirements Mac|
|16 MB RAM|
|35 MB Hard disk|
|256 color display|
Parents never let you have a dog? All your lizards seem to just die? Your landlord won’t let you own a cat? Whatever your reason, if you are looking for “life” (and don’t care if it is on a computer), you have found it. With Mindscape’s newest gem, Creatures, artificial life is now possible, and as long as you have a lot of time and patience, you wont be disappointed.
You’ve heard of AI right? Well, Creatures is a completely new kind of game that actually incorporates what Mindscape calls “artificial life”. With no distinct levels, final goal or end, it is hard to categorize Creatures into any known genre, but it could probably be best described as strategy or simulation like SimCity. Basically, the player must successfully hatch, teach, grow, and breed generation after generation of creatures, coined Norns. Each Norm has different “Digital DNA” (six genetically different eggs per CD). Each Norn has different characteristics and looks. Sounds easy, right? Nope, not even close.
Unless you’re the patient type and have a lot of dedicated time, you will soon find yourself cursing in frustration. However, the sacrifice is well worth it. Each creature is genetically different, having traits from both parents. Without any final goal, the only gratification the player can get is to know that he/she created generation after generation of Norns to live, produce more offspring, and eventually die.
Once again I will stress that playing Creatures is fun, but can get annoying. First the player must teach their newly hatched Norns 14 basic concepts: sleep, look, push, pull, stop, yes, no, come, run, get, drop, what, right, and left (made easy by a computer). From these the player must teach creatures everything they need to know: eat, take food, take/play with toys all within their world, Albia. This is basically all done with a simple scratch on the head for good and a slap on the ass for bad. Soon (depending on how well you teach) Norns should have a grasp of many different responsibilities making your job of managing the overall health, communication, discipline, and breeding of your new Norns easier.
A couple of obstacles stand in the way of a successful Norn life cycle. Diseases, usually common colds which are easily treated by good foods and/or various Chemicals (i.e. Cough Medicine, Adrenaline, Sleeping Pill, Antioxidant). And Grendels, other creatures who carry disease and takes foods from Norns. Both are a constant threat to the well being of Norns and must be constantly attended to. A number of monitors and charts help you monitor many Norn feelings such as health, sex drive, and brain usage.
Due to the nature of the game, you won’t see any spectacular technological advancements. All graphics are 2D bitmaps. Albia is an oversized flatland full of all sorts of food, toys, and creatures (some helpful and some detrimental to the Norns). The game is run in a maximized window, the same resolution as your current screen. Game play should be smooth on almost any machine due to the simple use of graphics. Although simple, the graphics still look good. Norns appear as cute little creatures that actually grow during their life span (which is from birth to death about 15 hours). Simple objects appear as exactly what they should be, nothing special. Albia is made of a couple of areas including a hatchery, carrot field, ocean, and Desert Island.
Like graphics, sounds throughout the world sound exactly like they are supposed to. Like water falling, Norns taking, bees humming, etc. all sound exactly how one would think they would be. Unfortunately, there is no music, but you can always turn on the stereo. This keeps realism but causes sounds to get repetitive and boring.
Creatures uses the best artificial intelligence I have seen (at least in the form of a game) and is a terrific new concept. If you are dedicated and patient, you will soon be breeding generations of Norns and discovering new Norns with characteristics that have never been seen before. I got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing these Norms living an enjoyable life and also having the knowledge that I allowed all of that to happen. Not everything was perfect. I spent a lot of time gritting my teeth due to complications experienced. (For example I couldn’t get one of my Norns to do anything. She just wouldn’t respond. A genetic dud.) Nevertheless, I enjoyed many hours with the Norms’ life in my hands.