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Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G4 @ 700 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 300 MB    Graphics: 800x600

Creatures: Exodus
September 15, 2006 | Joseph Cadotte

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Creatures: Exodus is a virtual pet simulation, much like The Sims and Tamagotchi. It is targeted at children and is suitable for adolescents, though it has elements that are too complex for younger children. There are three simmed creatures in Creatures: Norns (your pets), Ettins—benevolent but ineducable entities—and Grendels, who eat Norns and Ettins, and are really the only peril in the game.

First and foremost, your little pets in Creatures do not die from neglect like Sims do. They are intelligent enough to feed themselves, to teach themselves, and to run away from things that hurt them. In fact, you need not interfere with them for their entire life-cycle. The AI is that good. Children (and malign adults) who neglect the Norns will find them in good health and spirits when they come back to them. Unlike Sims, Norns won't die of starvation five feet from food; they will seek it out and even figure out how to use machines to make it, if the machines are simple enough.

Second, the Norns will reproduce, and the children carry traits of both of their parents. They start this fairly quickly, so it is feasible for four or more generations to be living together and learning from each other. The children learn nouns quickly, less so the verbs, and will watch others to figure out how things work. All Norns pay attention to what you do as well, as represented by your cursor, thus if you put them in front of an elevator and push the button, they will figure out how to do so themselves.

Third, it is theoretically possible for the Norns to not just use tools (called gadgets), but to create them. This requires significantly more interaction with the Norns. I was never able to get them to create a gadget, but it clearly is possible. As to pre-existing gadgets and toys, they are curious enough to seek them out and play with them. My Norns were always obsessed with music, and would play with drums and the jukebox.

Finally, there is some downloadable content provided through the Docking Station side of the program. I found it sparse, but as users can upload content to their friends, if one develops a relationship with people online, gadgets and creatures can be sent back and forth.

As for the negatives, well, there are a few, but none of them are terribly crippling, just annoying. As mentioned above, the online section, while being robust and full-featured, really requires gathering online buddies for its use. This is a problem when you first start playing, and, for shy children or children of parents who don't want their kids interacting with strangers online, this is a pretty useless feature. There is little to ease someone into the online game, a distinct oversight.

Interacting with the Norns is fairly easy. To get them to learn a noun, you turn on the help function and click on the object. They will approximate the word a few times, and then learn and remember it. To get them to play with something, you move them close to it and click on it, petting them when they get it right. If you want them to avoid something, you can give them a spanking when they get near it. The idea for the interface may seem familiar, especially if you've played Black and White, but the implementation here is much better and more effective.


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