Some days I just wish I’d taken up a career in Mad Science. I think back to my boyhood days, playing with frogs and puppies, like many boys do. I’d be wistfully dreaming about combining those two treasured pets into some horrible, monstrous freak of nature. And why stop at Fruppies? Certainly we could try to see what would happen with a dash of turtle and a pinch of monkey. And then there were all those real animals that had misleading names: Catbird…dogfish…ant lion…my versions would be so much better. Of course, all of these creatures needed something to do, and what better job for these aberrations than to further my plot for world domination? Alas, those boyhood dreams gave way to the practicalities of Grownup Life, and thoughts of bending the earth to my very will became nothing more than fond recollections. Then came Impossible Creatures, a game that allows me, in some small way, to revisit those Golden Days of Yore, and send the Laws of Nature screaming into the night.
Impossible Creatures is, simply put, a game about combining real-world animals into new and exciting creations. Oh, there is a RTS game in there somewhere, which is alright as far as that goes, but the real thrill is in the making of these new Creatures. The game is set in a pulp sci-fi 1937, a world in which was discovered the amazing Sigma technology, a wonder of science which allows the combining of everyday animals into devastating weapons of destruction. Some also make pretty good pets.
The single-player campaign of the game, where Impossible Creatures really shines, is a very enjoyable time. The campaign chronicles the adventures of Rex Chance, son of the inventor of the Sigma technology. Rex decides to pay his old man a visit, and so heads off to a remote chain of islands somewhere in the Pacific, where his father has been living for quite some time. Upon arriving, Rex meets the beautiful Lucy Willing, assistant to his father. There he learns of the mysterious Sigma technology, the untimely death of his father, and his connection to it all. In an incredibly well written story, Rex and Lucy work to thwart the will of the evil Julius and his cronies. The story is campy, cornball, and perfectly pitched to fit into the pulp feel of the game. The RTS missions are well scripted, with some of the usual “destroy the enemy base” mixed in with some more interesting objectives.
Unfortunately, the RTS part of the game is actually the weakest aspect. While never truly bad, there just isn’t anything here we haven’t seen before many, many times. Gather resources, construct buildings, build up an army, and get ‘em. The battles are pretty frantic, so tactics are pretty much out the window once the fight is joined. Some of the creatures have special abilities, such as a Frenzy attack or a radius attack of electricity, but more often than not the battle is over long before there is a chance to pick out the unit and trigger its ability. Some planning is necessary before battles. The main challenge in Impossible Creatures is to decide beforehand which types of units to send into a given situation. All of the traditional RTS unit types are available—fliers, swimmers, ranged, melee, and artillery. Scouting ahead is vital to determine which is the most appropriate combination of animals and units to send, because once the battle is joined, it’s usually too late to switch tactics.
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