UGO

Review:

Creatures
by Cyberlife Technologies/Mindscape


Forget the virtual pet craze, Creatures has arrived! Creatures is a very entertaining simulation that allows you to hatch and breed artificial life forms called Norns on your PC. Norns are cute, amusing little beings who live in the land of Narnia. When you run Creatures, the world of Narnia is brought to life on your desktop.

Your start out with six eggs, which you can select and bring into your play area and hatch (you know what sex your Norn will be ahead of time). Once the Norn is born, he or she will crawl around freely and explore the environment. You then can begin teaching your Norn. There's a computer console in the building where your Norns hatch, and you may use it to teach simple concepts to your Norn. Once the basics are laid out by the computer (eat, sleep, push, pull, yes, no, etc.), you may point to objects and assign words to them as well. Eventually you'll have an intelligent, functioning Norn. Hatch more Norns, and you'll have even more of them running around and exploring. Once the learning process has begun, the older Norns may teach concepts to the younger ones without your intervention, providing that they are well versed in the concept themselves. Norns have a lifespan of around ten hours, but in that time they'll develop, grow, breed, and get into all kinds of mischief. With the proper care, Norns will continue to breed and reproduce, keeping your world full of the little critters. You will need to continually monitor the health of your Norns, making sure they don't get sick and pass their illnesses off to the youngsters. The world also contains nasty creatures called Grendels, who will beat up on your Norns and pass along diseases. If you value your Norns, you'll quickly teach them to stay away from Grendels.

The graphics in Creatures are very well done, the Norns themselves are well animated and lively. Some objects throughout the world look more realistic than others, but everything basically looks quite good. The only real graphical problem lies in the fact that many of the word balloons spoken by the Norns, you, the computer, etc., tend to overlap on the screen, rendering them unreadable. It is a bit frustrating to say something over and over again simply because you couldn't read the reply. Sound effects in the game are good, you can read the translation of the Norns' speech, but what you hear is their actual language - they even sound cute. Certain events trigger unique sounds as well. When young Norns discover each other, you'll hear little "kissy" noises, and when Norns mate you'll hear a distinctive "pop".

You are portrayed in the game by a hand icon, and this is how you interact with the Norns. While you cannot pick up the Norns directly (something that would have been greatly appreciated), you can call them or lure them where you want them to go. Tickling their nose is a method of reward for learning a concept or doing as you ask, and a little spank on the rear punishes them. Once they've learned the concepts of "yes" and "no", they may be encouraged using the words. Norns have a mind of their own, and sometimes they just won't listen to you. As a responsible caretaker, you should make sure to only reward good behavior and punish only bad. For instance, if you teach them that eating food is bad, your Norn will soon starve.

After a few generations, mutations and breeding experiments will cause Norns to be born that really stand out from the crowd. Unusually colored Norns may appear, or those with distinct personality traits. The genetic soup in Creatures is quite diverse, Norns are almost as distinctive as people. Surprises will pop up continually through the generations. The progress of Creatures is saved when you exit the program and just as in real life, there is no going back to a previous time. Norns also die after a time, and a funeral kit is included so you can preserve the memories of your favorites. A built-in "Import/Export" feature exists in Creatures, which allows you to exchange Norns with your friends either on floppy disk or email. Cyberlife's web site also has an abundance of add-ons, utilities, and even new Norns that you may download and import into your game.

More of a toy than a game, Creatures is an extremely entertaining program that will keep you amused for a long time. A lot of care was taken to ensure that the Norns react like a true life form, and it succeeds admirably. Norns are fun to teach and play with, and their intelligence will amaze you.

Graphics 81%
Sounds 85%
Gameplay 95%
Interface 87%
Overall Impression 90%

Bottom Line: Extremely complex artificial life simulation. Norns are cute, smart, and will amuse you for quite some time. Word balloons and Norns sometimes overlap on the screen, making it difficult to do exactly what you want. Sometimes Norns need a little too much micromanagement.


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