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Black & White: Creature Isle Review

publisher: EA
developer: Lionhead Studios
genre: Simulation

PII 350, 128MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 450MB HD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jan 21, 02
» All About Black & White: Creature Isle on ActionTrip

February 22, 2002
Dusan "Lynx" Katilovic

Less than a year since Black & White appeared, Lionhead brings us its first official expansion pack named Creature Isle.

Considering the fact that the concept suffered some severe changes since the original game, you shouldn't be too surprised that there are no gods apart from you on Creature Isle (sounds good?), and your main task will be the most demanding one you can possibly get - raise a child.

This autarchic island is a home to a bunch of creatures which do not have a master, and decided to form some sort of a brotherhood. In order to become a part of it, your creature has to pass a number of trials.

The game is completely focused on the creature you control. You can choose whether you want to control the creature you trained in the original game, or start off with a new one. Unfortunately, many people finished B&W, uninstalled it and deleted their old creature, sentencing themselves to play Creature Isle with a monkey as their new pet. Whatever the start may be like, your creature is in for a series of trials that will test all its skills and abilities. Each of the trials is introduced by a member of the brotherhood. For instance, the turtle will want to race your creature and the wolf will want to play hide and seek. Winning at the trial gives your creature the right to assume the shape of the animal it defeated. The number of the members of the brotherhood is well over twenty, and each of them has been well-designed and coded. All creatures have characteristic voices, outlooks and animations.

Now, the problem is that even though the challenges are supposed to test the abilities of your creature, you will have to pass them yourself through a series of arcade mini-games. All these games will require you to do something through the game's complex physics engine, which makes luck the most important factor for winning. This approach to game design will make you feel you have been presented with a compilation of outdated board games, rather than a sequel to one of the most innovative games ever. There will be some interesting trials, but they are usually too easy to pose a real challenge. The engine which functioned perfectly in the original game, which was primarily an RTS, is far from acceptable for this add-on, which has a completely different concept.

Regardless of how advanced your creature may be, the fact that its success in an operation is connected directly to your skills with handling the game interface is less than commendable. In Black & White, all events and course of the game depended both on you and your creature. Now, in stead of this live protagonist with a personality, you have a mere mechanical operative which is strictly following your commands. This is why Creature Isle definitely lacks that Godly feeling about it; it simply requires you to handle your mouse proficiently.

OK, I don't want to make Creature Isle sound like a complete flop... it does have some good sides as well. Some of the missions are really involving, like the one where you have to organize a team for taking Kula, the polar bear to some colder places. Your creature will now be capable of learning more advanced skills, the most important of which is constructing buildings. It also features two new miracles: anti-spell and haste.

Now, the real way to test how well you trained your creature is to engage it in the Tyke challenge! What is Tyke? Tyke begins as an egg, hidden in a crown of a tree somewhere on the island. Your creature has to find it and put it somewhere warm so that it could hatch and turn into a chicken. And just as you were a virtual parent to your creature, your creature will be a virtual parent to Tyke. Tyke will imitate your creature and learn from it. If it gets what it should do, it can be a great aid to your peasants. Unfortunately, it seems that Tyke is not all that interested in its own education, and the same goes for the tutor.

You are probably quite aware of the fact that it is not so easy to get to the... heart of a woman... and have you ever wandered why the hell should you bug about Tyke and all those trials? Well, the answer is - Eve! Eve is a mysterious female character which is there as a prize for all the hardships you endured; she will agree to prolong your species with you if you prove yourself worthy; now, that seems a worthy cause.

Creature Isle is a tough game to review. It can get tiresome, it can get too easy. It is primarily focused on creature rather than on the village (which is neither good nor bad, it simply has a different approach than B&W), but it does have one big downside - your creature lacks the personality it had in the original game. In fact, in comparison to B&W, Creature Isle is more of a new game than an expansion pack. It is technically perfect, but far less intriguing and innovative than B&W. Some of the B&W fans will love it, and others will be disgusted by the way it deformed its authentic philosophy.


5.9   Okay

Completely different concept than the original (if you like it); all creatures are characteristic;

Completely different concept than the original (if you don't like it); the physics engine taken from the original game is not adequate to the new concept; many tasks are too easy; lack of the emotional bond with the creature due to the fact that it lost its personality.



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