"The V is for Vivid and Vapid"
A few unique graphics can go a long way in a visual medium. The success of Avatar proved this with its beautiful 3D world, not the overblown Pocahontas in Space script. Similarly, the Super Nintendo smash hit Donkey Kong Country was a good Super Mario analogue elevated by its then-impressive pre-rendered character models. The iPhone game CreaVures works similarly, or it would, were its gameplay polished enough for the unique art style to be a total compensation.
CreaVures (so named because misspelling is apparently stylish) casts players as a number of bizarre animals living in a darkened rainforest. This jungle is so darkened because the worlds' very light has been extinguished, and it's up to the CreaVures to restore it. You start as a beast named Bitey, who looks like a cat covered in glowing tribal tattoos. You later acquire a horned-toad-thing named Pokey, gaining several comrades with similarly obvious names. Each level is an expansive side-scrolling world that requires you to combine CreaVure abilities to solve puzzles. For example, Bitey is more acrobatic and can grab high ledges with his jaws, while Pokey uses his porcupine spikes to create ladders. While you can only use two CreaVures per level, you must alternate between both of them and make sure the pair gets to the exit.
It cannot be overstated how impressive CreaVures looks. Though the world is darkened, the traces of bioluminescent light make it a beautiful world, and each object carries plenty of well-lit detail. The CreaVures are also impressive, their illuminated hides highlighting very unique designs influenced by real-world animals. The music is exceptional, using several cool, atmospheric tracks to perfectly capture the mood. It's the gameplay, unfortunately, where CreaVures falls apart.
Like many side-scrolling iPhone games, CreaVures uses a virtual controller set-up, with sections of the touch screen emulating a joystick and buttons. Also like many side-scrolling iPhone games, this makes CreaVures a finicky and frustrating experience. Movement with the virtual d-pad is slippery, and it can easily send your CreaVure to their doom without full concentration. The jump and attack buttons are very close together, making it easy for an adult-size thumb to hit one when the player intends to hit the other. Since platform games require precision jumping, CreaVures' poorly implemented controls badly hurt the overall experience.
It's a shame, because CreaVures could've been an exceptional game. The visuals and audio shine beyond most iPhone games, and the world is unique and compelling. The gameplay itself, on the other hand, isn't terribly original, owing most of its design to character-swapping puzzle-platformers like The Lost Vikings, Sonic Heroes, and the LEGO games. The frustrating controls force players to fight with the interface more than they fight with the levels' obstacles, and while it's not unplayable, it's not exactly fun, either.
GameDynamo's Score for CreaVures (Mobile)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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