You’re So (“Very”- Ed) Special: Creeper World

By Kieron Gillen on August 6th, 2009 at 9:50 am.

Crysis III decided to strip it back a little

Don’t be deceived by the screenshot. Creeper World is the most apocalyptic game I’ve played in ages. Hell, even Defcon’s millions pales before the 300 Billion which gets offed in the opening moments of this Tower-Defence-esque indie RTS. The plot explains all: basically, evil goo appears in the far future, killing everyone on humanity’s enormous empire. Less than 50,000 are left, who must now make their way across the universe while (er) shooting goo. It’s Battlestar Galactica meets The Blob. And, despite me having spent all yesterday downloading SFIV, this morning it’s kept me away from the joy of Chun-li’s chunky-thighs. The five level demo here, but some more thoughts and a video follow…

Each level – at least in the demo – takes the same rough format. There’s a landscape. Goo comes from set places, at a steady rate. It spreads across the landscape, filling troughs and valleys and being diverted by peaks. In the map, you have a variety of powery-thingies, all of which have to be connected to your base network to create the level exit. In other words, the job is to make a base which can both power and build the defenses requires to hold back the goo so you can finish your actual task. For example, Blasters are good for dealing with goo as it moves across the plains, while the slower-firing Mortars are best for deep pools the goo have ran into. What I like best about the game is how the organic-flow of your opponent is mirrored in the mycelial-growth of your base structure. The shape of both your base and your mindless-opposition’s flow is as much a product of the landscape as one-another, with you creating thin connecting strips between the large, thick clusters either required for defence (Chokepoints, high ground near the flow’s path) and production (the wide plains full of generators).

Here’s it in action. As you can see, functional is the word – though to be fair, it uses its functionality with style, and it’s a good example of where a game’s fiction absolutely helps with the impact of the game.

My only real reservations on the game are the scope of the demo itself. Not its size – it’s a good half an hour’s worth of game here, at least – but because while it explains the concept, doesn’t exactly hint at the full options. There’s a whole lot of spaces for other guns and similar devices in the interface, and it’d be good to have an idea how the strategy would develop. There’s online high score tables, plus – in the full version – 20 Story missions, 25 conquest missions and 10 Special Ops missions. Which will cost you twenty earth dollars.

I liked the demo a lot. The only question is why, if your city is able to fly through the portal to leave each level, why you don’t just fly over the goop and side-step the whole game?

(Because that’d be boring – Mr Game Designer)

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44 Comments »

  1. Thingus says:

    Flying cities? Power mechanics? Smells a bit like Perimeter. I’ll give the demo a go later.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Actually, that was the reference which did come to mind, oddly.

    KG

  3. Thingus says:

    Well, Peremeter DID feature massive amounts of goo. Maybe it all went wrong, and this is a sequel?

  4. Tunips says:

    Anything that’s a bit like Perimeter is good news in my book. Except Harvest: Massive Encounter, which this is also like. Didn’t care for that one. I will play this one.

  5. Tunips says:

    Also,
    @Thingus: Perimeter did go all wrong. It was called Perimeter 2

  6. Thingus says:

    Never played that one. Maybe this was how it was all supposed to go wrong, as opposed to how it actually did?

  7. Okami says:

    So that’s what we get for helping those cutesy goo balls in World of Goo? Total genocide? I knew I should have never trusted anything with eyes that look so innocent..

  8. roBurky says:

    The demo does end rather quickly, before you get any sense of challenge. Some of the worlds I built up were quite nice. We could have easily stayed there.

  9. CMaster says:

    Looks rather like The Space Game (very good, play it if you haven’t) all linked up like that, although the way to goo works sounds quite intriguing.

    Also for post-apoc tower-defense ish play, (again in browser) check out Super Energy Apocalypse:Recycled. Gets the feeling of deperate survival down quite well I think. (The recycled version is basically a major revamp to the original)

    Anyway, will check out the demo when I get home.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Roburky: Yeah – but you *do* get a sense of how the challenge will appear, if you see what I mean. It’s not as if the levels solved themselves. You saw the sort of thinking you’d have to do.

    KG

  11. Richard Beer says:

    Being at work and unable to go demo-crazy, can someone say whether those atrocious blocky graphics dispel the immersion at all? The menu screens and everything else looked quite good, so I presume it’s a deliberate design decision to go for the 8-bit look. Isn’t it off-putting?

  12. roBurky says:

    The blocky look of the terrain is what I like most about it. I thought the menu screens were considerably less attractive.

  13. gehrig says:

    Holy crap, this game is awesome. About to buy it.

  14. Sagan says:

    This is the way the Tower Defense genre should move. Improve the optimization challenge.
    Don’t try to keep me busy by having me click on sunshines repeatedly.

    There was a brief discussion about this in the last Tower Defense thread, where it was argued, that we should expect to see the sunshine-clicking mechanic from PvZ copied by other games.
    Only from playing the demo I think that the basic mechanics in this game work better than in PvZ. It doesn’t show the same charm or creativity, but I think it presents a more natural evolution of the Tower Defense genre.
    It simply didn’t fit, that you had to click on stuff all the time in PvZ. This game on the other hand doesn’t have to keep you busy while playing, simply because there is constantly something to do.

    Also it reminds me of Settlers 2, and for years I have yearned for something similar to Settlers 2.

  15. Hypocee says:

    Definite buy for me, thanks RPS. And thanks Tunips, I was trying desperately to remember ‘wasn’t there a new/upcoming RTS based around connection like this?’ It’s a very tough description to ask about!

  16. Schwerpunk says:

    Hm. I like the concept; goo is certainly an interesting innovation on the standard creep/td mechanic.

    Maybe a more thorough try will yield satisfaction, but for the nonce, I’d give this a pass.

    It failed to hook me.

  17. EyeMessiah says:

    I too sighed a bit at the sunshine clicking “innovation” in PVZ. This looks interesting though, will have to have a go at it when I get home.

  18. TeeJay says:

    “sunshine-clicking mechanic” AKA “whack-a-mole”

  19. the affront says:

    Not bad at all.
    That said, I’d buy it for 5 bucks. For 20, not so much, considering what else you could get for that…

    And yeah, I hated the sunshine mechanic in Protoss vs Zerg (can’t help it, I always read PVZ as that :P) with a passion, too. They should have let you plant something that auto-collects like the magnet shroom for coins, at least.

  20. Sporknight says:

    So far as PvZ is concerned, keep in mind it *is* a PopCap game. Random clicking to keep you distracted/amused is almost a must.

  21. TeeJay says:

    I’ve just played the 5-level Creeper World demo. It was fun but I wish it had been a bit harder/tactical (at least on the final level) as I managed to get through it by just building tons of stuff – I never ran out of energy or felt I had to work out any tactics/strategy.

    Unfortunately I keep catching myself comparing all ‘strategy/building/management etc’ games against Alpha Centauri…

    (now there’s a game waiting to be made: real-time SMAC)

  22. CMaster says:

    Just a re-made SMAC would be good.
    Bring in the resource system of Civ 4, and remake the game and balance it a damn site better this time round (ie make factions other than the Hive and Unviersity stand a fair chance, and make the top difficulty levels actually a challenge). Also, less relentlesssly ugly.

  23. PleasingFungus says:

    Review it for us, Mr. RPS! Review it! I cannot spend my hard-earned cashmoneys without being told what to think first. It is a fact!

  24. amishmonster says:

    Yeah, having now played parts of Perimeter (thanks, GOG), I finally realize where this, Space Game, and Harvest: Massive Encounter all got their ideas from. Which isn’t a bad thing.

    How does this compare to H:ME? I didn’t like that one either, but the base system seems sound.

  25. Hypocee says:

    Oh, and anything that looks and acts this much like Moonbase Commander basically has an uphill battle to not win my love.
    If you dig this, try Moonbase Commander.
    If you dig this but wish it had multiplayer, try Moonbase Commander.
    If you dig some portion of this but it doesn’t quite grab you, try Moonbase Commander.
    In almost any other circumstances, try Moonbase Commander.

    http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net/game.php?id=5060
    http://mbc.strategyplanet.gamespy.com/

  26. Lucas says:

    Perimeter and Moonbase Commander were great. Perimeter for its essential puzzly weirdness and refusal to let you take the easy way out, and MBC for just perfect play design and great multiplayer. MBC especially could use a 3d remake, as it’s now hard to find, and some players had trouble gauging shots up and down hills with its isometric view.

  27. geldonyetich says:

    After playing the demo, I’d have to say it has next to nothing to do with Moonbase Commander, inherits only one thing from Perimeter, and actually has a lot more like The Space Game: Missions versus slime.

  28. Matzerath says:

    Aw man, I wish I could find my old CD of Moonbase Commander.
    GOG!!! Insta-sale over here!

  29. Kommissar Nicko says:

    I really, really don’t like it when there’s something included into the game that makes you go, “Well, why don’t they just do this and sidestep the game altogether?”

    A good example is Prince of Persia 3(?), which my financĂ©e is playing while I watch occasionally, and when sassy dudeman falls off the cliff, sappy dudelady just teleports you back to where you fell using her teleportations. Which leads to the question of why dudelady doesn’t just teleport you, instead of making you RUN ON WALLS and SWIRL AROUND COLUMNS et cetera. Seems easier to me.

  30. john t says:

    Bought it, played all the way through story mode in one sitting — took about 6 hours or so. I need a life :(

    It does get challenging, but not incredibly so. It’s very easy to get into a stalemate situation until you get reactors, but it’s hard to tell you actually are in one until you’ve been in it for quite a while, then you just might as well give up.

    Basically the challenge usually just how to grab and defend enough land early to support expansion after you run into the goo.

    The story, btw, is completely worthless.

  31. Heliocentric says:

    This game mathematically distills rushing and booming. Sometimes its best to build up your power, others an early gun will save you grief. But i need to mention, its such a rip off of perimeter there is likely precedent for legal action. Also, $20 is too much for what is essentially a flash version of a game you can get on gog for $10. Also, the best way to play perimeter is another person. But fluid dynamics make an interesting rival nevertheless.

  32. roBurky says:

    Wait, what is similar to Perimeter? It doesn’t have the transforming units, the terraforming or the signature shield.

  33. Heliocentric says:

    Facts for both games.You have a city that can fly. It creates a visible link with your power generating buildings which a required to be linked to function. A complete chain back to the city for function.

    The power generating buildings require surrounding flat (different applications here) ground, thus the generators are optimally applied at a distance from each other.

    The structure called a relay generates no power but allows for long range links.

    All maps require that you charge (a) pre placed building(s) with power to leave the level, after which the city will fly to the portal generated by the buildings.

    There is more, but i think i made my point.

  34. Hypocee says:

    Perimeter is such a ripoff of Starcraft.

  35. Quasar says:

    Starcraft is such a ripoff of Dune II.

  36. Sam says:

    Maybe I’m just stupid, but is that a Radiohead reference in the title?

  37. Hypocee says:

    Of course!

    OK, I’ve played the game now. This is great! It does feel very MBC-ish, in that the interaction between the creeper and the terrain moves through time like an MBC multiplayer match. However, at the same time, the simple nature of the missions makes them very puzzle-like and optimisable like the MBC campaign missions – which is to say that I’ve played the missions in the demo 3 times apiece to improve my scores and times. It’s a single-player RTS where you do time trials. It’s priced steeply for the apparent amount of content, but they’ve got me.

  38. Hypocee says:

    Oh, and the portal doesn’t exist when you arrive, so there’s nothing for the city to fly to; you have to power up the totem thingies before they can make it. Obviously!

  39. john t says:

    Strategy:

    Build your initial collectors in single link chains. The worst thing youc an do early on is create a webbed network because it drains your energy and builds everything slowly. Build 1 drome early, and put out mortars out on your frontier (no more than one on each high ground point to start). Always get energy related (green) upgrades before red ones.

    Early on, your goal is just to reach equiplibrium with the goo. Use mortars to do this by just continuous pounding on the goo as it comes in.

    Once you figure out your boundaries, then fill in every inch of available space with green. Build sams if it’s a spore level. Once you’ve got your collectors maxed out, start building reactors, but only build 1 or 2 at a time, until you have a lot of excess energy. Don’t build the red or green diamonds, ever.

    Build 1 drone at a time. As soon as the first one actually launches, build another one. You’ll probably ultimately want 6-8 of these.

    Blasters are for offense, not defense. Build 6 of them, and keep them together.

    Your strategy is going to be– use the drones in groups of 2-3 to knock back the goo. Fly in all your blasters to the ground that cleared off, and back fill with collectors. Keep leep frogging over collectors as you move. You need to head toward the goo generator that’s on the highest ground first, cap that one off with a blaster, and then move around the board.

    It’s really just a matter of persistence. Once you cap one off, the rest usually get wrapped up pretty easily.

    Btw– hardest level so far was Special Ops:Gump — i had to be really flawless there in the beginning — building 4 collectors close to the city, getting two mortars and a drone in place, and then slowly building one nuclear reactor at a time, until i was generating enough energy to build blasters and advance out. Took me hours of trying to finally get it, and I almost lost even the winning round a few times before i stabllized it.

  40. Armyo1 says:

    I know my post is a little late coming, but I wanted to say that I love the game. I found it on I-Am-Bored.com, the demo like game there is more extensive and you get a much better feel for the scope and feel than the downloadable demo. I don’t think it’s mentioned on here, but the price has dropped to $10 for the full game on knucklecracker.com. It’s an excellent game and I would recommend it to anybody.

  41. Armyo1 says:

    I know my post is a little late coming, but I wanted to say that I love the game. I found it on I-Am-Bored.com, the “demo like game” there is more extensive and you get a much better feel for the scope and difficulty than the downloadable demo. I don’t think it’s mentioned on here, but the price has dropped to $10 for the full game on knucklecracker.com. It’s an excellent game and I would recommend it to anybody.

  42. vt382 says:

    the last lvl of the full version is very hard! so if you dont think its hard you would be suprised

  43. Creeper World says:

    Half-priced Creeper World is now available here at one of our sponsors:

    Creeper World Half-Priced

    Good luck,

    Virgil Wall

  44. Keith says:

    Thanks for the article. Well done but you left out what really makes Creeper a hit for me. After you play all the levels you have only just begun to figure the game out. Now you can access over 2800 custom maps made by hundreds of players. One player currently has created 288 maps. You can download the easy-to-use map editor and create your own maps too.

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