Forget Tamagotchi. Those bleeping little LCD creations are nothing compared to the artificial life in Creatures 2. Following on from the first version of the game (if game it can be called), version 2 has an even more realistic environment for the intelligent race of Norns, over which the player has at least some control. Starting with the hatchery and the incubator, the player’s goal is to give birth to (in a virtual sense), and look after, baby Norns, which are full of curiosity about the world around them. These cuddly little creatures are highly intelligent, so it is not too difficult to teach them how to search for food, learn from machines and even communicate verbally. You soon forget that what appears on your screen is just a collection of computer-controlled pixels, because the Norns are so life-like that they demand your full attention.
Even the world in which the Norns live is a fascinating place. Albia has its own ecosystem and, although there are no natural predators for the Norns to be scared of, they do rely on the food supply, which itself relies on insects to pollinate the plants, and so it goes on. The attention to detail is frightening – this really is a self-contained world over which you have some, but not total, control.
As your Norm learns more, you can eventually communicate with it using speech, although it won’t always obey your commands. It doesn’t take more than a couple of hours for a Norn to reach maturity, but they don’t live for a particularly long time. Their lifespan is just ten hours, so it is important to persuade them to breed in order to create new generations. You can even splice the Norn genes with those of another race to produce brand new creatures, if you can find one of the many hidden machines that add an extra element of experimentation to the game.
The technology used in Creatures 2 is, according to the developers, also of interest to certain military institutions both in the UK and the USA. So, perhaps Creatures 3 will let you create and nurture a race of self-centred, self-destructive bipeds which eventually wipe themselves out with unfeasibly large weapons. Just a thought…