© Microsoft
Article by Ali "Sob" A.

Available : Spring 2002
Developed By Relic Entertainment
Official Homepage
Screenshots 09-20 were acquired during the preview

Every few years, someone somewhere comes up with this outrageously weird idea for a video game, be it Geoff Minter's Llama's in Space, the ZX Spectrum’s Pyjamarama, or Neversoft's the Neverhood; these examples of rare human thinking are never better executed than on silicon! Mind you they don't have to succeed commercially, but they usually create some sort of cult following that is unique to each and every game.
Cue Impossible Creatures, an RTS game with a twist that just grabs you from the throat and refuses to let go. It's amazing why someone hadn't come up with such an idea a LONG time ago, taking the simplicity of the concept yet sheer twist in events that it leads to. To put you in the picture more clearly, Impossible Creatures follows the adventures of Rex Chance, who landed in the South Pacific in response to a distress call from his father, a scientist working for Sigma, a company carrying out experiments in the heavenly South Pacific islands. Upon arrival our hero finds out that his dad is mysteriously missing. The story is told in comicish style still shots that your granddad would feel at home with. Still this adds nicely to the atmosphere of our game. Rex then finds a new friend, Dr Lucy Willing, who is more than willing (pun intended) to help Rex find his father and also needs him to help her fix her Flying Lab... From here the single player campaign starts.
So what is the game all about? Essentially Impossible Creatures is an RTS, with the usual resource management (Coal and electricity) and the units that are deployed to do various tasks. But that is where all resemblance to any RTS ends. Instead of having fixed units that you can build (e.g. soldier, tank, aeroplane etc..) Impossible Creatures is about "creating" your own units according to what you deem fit. A little bit of explanation is due here:
The Sigma experiments are based on combining genetic materials from various animals (50 of them to be exact) and mixing them with each other, to create an "impossible creature", a beast that's half one animal and half the other. These creatures are created in your laboratory, but before hand you would have had to obtain the genetic material for each animal you want to combine. Obtaining this is easy, as Rex carries his trusty needle gun around to sample DNA from the animals wondering around the maps. Once these blueprints are gathered, you take them to your base where the army creation process begins. It is this part of the game that adds so much to it's potential. Army creation is a matter of selecting 2 animals, any ones you like (e.g. crab + tiger, gorilla + skunk, dolphin + giraffe), the possibilities are endless. Mix them together and you have a new beast, wittily named after it's 2 parent animals (e.g. crager, gorilunk and so on). The new beast is made of 50% of both its parents. It doesn't stop here though, you then can specify what part of your new animal's body comes from which parent. As such an animal can have all the body of one parent, and just the head of the other. Or the legs of one with the body of the other, and so on and so forth that just thinking about the probabilities is mind boggling. Ofcourse this feature is not just for fun. Each animal has it's own strengths, and combining a strong part of one with the other is what this game is all about. One example comes to mind is combining a skunk (weak) with an electric eel.. The resulting skeel would be a generally weak animal but gifted with the essential stink and electricity attacks that are very powerful. These attacks are called triggered attacks and are found in various animals. Combine a giraffe with a tiger and you get a fast running beast that has loads of health. The list goes on and on ad infinitum. Ofcourse in our army creation screen the properties of each animal are shown, and any changes made to the child will reflect on its characteristics. Once you are satisfied with your beast, just rename it if you want and save it in your army and you're ready to create some more. Some creatures cannot be created straight away, and require your research level to be upgraded. This is just a matter of having enough resources to upgrade your lab. Resources are gathered by your faithful, stout handymen rather than by an animal!
The game then becomes a matter of deploying your units to complete the task required, as usually known in RTS games. The missions are varied and well balanced, and the addition of a story line that is triggered when you reach certain areas is refreshing too. Graphics wise Impossible Creatures has a beautiful engine, the islands look fabulous with the water effects around the shores and trees and so on, camera movement is free and fluent, with great detail both in close up zoom or from a distance. The new animals you create are drawn with great detail also, and have a bright fusion line between their different parts. These nice graphical touches add to the feeling of a well-made game. Ofcourse multiplayer games are supported, and it would be interesting to see what your enemy on the other side of the world has conjured up in his/her lab. Impossible Creatures also departs from the regular RTS in that you won't really need to create loads of buildings in your base, as most things are carried out in the lab. This leads to faster more frantic battles both in single player and multiplayer modes. RTS purists may dislike this fact but the micromanagement of creating the animals more than makes up for that. Sound wise the game offers 3D audio and Dolby 5.1 support, yet many sound effects need to be added to the game, as all the new animals seem to woof like a dog rather than use unique calls and cries.
All in all Impossible Creatures is a refreshing new idea to the worn out RTS genre, which no doubtly will be cloned in the future by other companies, and perhaps improved upon. There are still many more months of coding to be added on to smoothen out any glitches that occur now and then, but we are faithful that the end product will please both followers and sceptics alike. The well-balanced gameplay, the great graphics and the whole idea of making units to suite your needs is what the whole game is about, and it is done well. Now is the prefect time to fire up your favourite RTS while waiting for this gem.