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Impossible Creatures Review
game: Impossible Creatures
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Microsoft Games
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Feb 9th, 2003
last revision: 06:51 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

By Todd Allen

Relic\'s most recent production, Impossible Creatures, definitely deserves praise for its novel ideas and fresh take on army building within a real-time strategy title. The big gimmick behind this game is to create strange new animals to fight for you by melding the characteristics of two different creatures. This system, along with a lighthearted story, is the crown jewel of Impossible Creatures, which unfortunately lacks any other highpoints to speak of. All in all this title proves entertaining for only a short time.

As mentioned before, the story provides quite a bit of entertainment to accompany the campaign mode. It takes place around the early twentieth century. Rex Chance, the antagonist, bears more than a passing resemblance to an old whip-cracking hero from the old Temple o\'Doom we loved to root for from the same time period. Things get into motion when Rex receives a letter from his long lost father who\'d been hidden away conducting some weird science in the South Pacific. Rex\'s father has deemed that now is the time for him to share his research with his son in case something were to happen to the old doctor. Up until that point Rex had been unaware that his father was even alive so he rushes down to the islands to meet the old man. Upon his arrival, though, all he finds is an abandoned factory of some sort and a nasty welcoming committee. He\'s attacked by some half scorpion, half lion looking monster that\'s eager to make a meal of our poor hero. At this point you come face to face with the creatures\' master, a man named Upton Julius. This guy is certifiable and wants to use the technology, Sigma, Rex\'s father had been working on to breed super predators in his unholy bid for power. He has no love for Rex and just as his pets are about to end our hero\'s short career a woman named Lucy Willing comes to the rescue in her hovering steam engine. She explains that your father is in trouble and that you need to take control of Sigma and create some hybrids of your own to combat Julius. At this point you begin the single-player mode campaign.

This campaign mode is probably where you\'ll be spending the most of your time due to the intensive story, which will keep you playing. Since you\'re not very close to exceptionally large landmasses, you\'ll be doing a lot of island hopping as you pursue the insidious Upton Julius and his cronies. Tampering with the genetic makeup the wildlife, while fun, will take some work on your part in the story mode. Rex must explore his surroundings to find what inhabits the island and shoot it with his tranquilizer gun so he can collect a DNA sample. Only then will that animal\'s genes be at your disposal. The story will keep you on your toes as well because Rex and Lucy will usually have several objectives needing to be carried out. These range anywhere from protecting the local natives to finding special resources for Lucy\'s technology.

The game also provides a tutorial mode, which is unnecessary if you\'ve already begun the campaign mode. As you play through the story the various facets will be explained albeit certain camera controls that are found in the tutorial. Other than the creature melding, which I\'ll explain later, the remaining strategy aspects of Impossible Creatures seem awfully dull. If you have any experience in base building from other strategy titles you\'ll be fully equipped to take on this game. Construction and resource gathering border on mindless tasks you\'ll wish someone else would take off your hands.

Visually, Impossible Creatures falls somewhere in between. Certainly the graphics are by no means badly done. They just fail to leave any sort of a lasting impression. There are a few little touches here and there, though, like the wave effects on the beaches. Perhaps I\'m just a bit nostalgic and think that purely 3-D strategy games are a mistake. Besides exceptions like Warcraft III and perhaps a couple others, I have yet to see their merit. Trust me. I want to be a believer, but Impossible Creatures fails to sell me. Audibly it gets the job done with several voiceovers and animal sound bytes. The music also helps the story move along with some good adventure tunes.

So why give this game your time? The answer to that question is wrapped up the novel creature melding system, Sigma. Wish you had a soldier that was as fast as a cheetah, but a bit more heavily armored, or even an airborne chimpanzee? Players can settle this by hitting the creature management button on the in-game interface. Relic really did do a good job of making this potentially intimidating system quite user-friendly. Accessing the creature combiner tab will bring up a list of all the available animals at the time. Find two that you want to experiment with and the fun begins. At this point you\'ll be given a view of what your potential creature could look like accompanied by statistics like health, defense, and speed. Interestingly each of the stats is affected by which parts of each animal you choose to use. For example say you\'re combining a cheetah and porcupine. Using the cheetah\'s legs will give your creature a speed boost, while keeping the porcupine\'s body would enhance its defense. The possibilities are quite open ended along with all the quirky looking animals you\'ll produce. At this point Impossible Creatures really shines. All good things must come to an end, though. Life outside the creature combiner is pretty boring.

Actual battle is lackluster at best. After you\'re convinced you\'ve built a killing machine your life is reduced to watching two weird looking animals smack each other till one falls over. Of course there\'ll be more than two in pitched battles, but that doesn\'t smooth anything over. Certain animals do have special abilities, but they are of little consequence in the middle of battle. Apart from offensive and defensive stances, actual control over your army is lacking especially with the absence of any battle formations. This coupled with the other dull aspects of base building and resource gathering make for a bit of a disappointment.

In the end I find it difficult to recommend Impossible Creatures wholeheartedly. While it makes for some very entertaining episodes, the game lacks any real staying power. The campaign mode is somewhat satisfying, but beyond that you\'ll be hard pressed to stick around after you\'ve had your fill of making goofy looking hybrids. I\'ll admit the ideas behind this title are fresh and promising, but it would have been much more satisfying to see the developers cover all their bases. Finding a place in your wallet for Impossible Creatures is tough with Warcraft III and Age of Mythology under our belt and Rise of Nations and Command and Conquer: Generals on the horizon.