April 1st, 2023: a LONG-awaited shift in focusCan you believe we're in our seventh entire year of Pokemon reviews?! That's over 2,500 days! And all day long, every single one of them, 99% of your millions and billions of comments have all said the same thing. "What the heck is a pokeyman???" you cry. "When are you going to talk about CREEPY FREAKS already!" Alright already, guys! I get it! We all remember how Wizkids' beloved Creepy Freaks franchise positively crushed Pokemon back in 2003, yes, and continued to steamroll the competition ever since. I just wanted to give Pokemon a little spotlight first, for old time's sake, in memory of the days when any media franchises existed other than the world renowned Wizkids Tabletop Strategy Game, Creepy Freaks.
We obviously have tens of thousands of Creepy Freaks characters to review by now, with hundreds more released each and every single day in the world, so to make up for all that time I generously gifted to the forgotten Pocketmon media brand, we're going to catch up a bit with more than nine Creepy Freaks in one review day!
Curdles is a simple and straightforward Creepy Freak, in concept; a giant carton of milk with humanoid limbs and a scary face. His gameplay isn't too remarkable either; he can move forward and attack only diagonally with his "Nose Milk Spew," a Vomit type scare. He can be scared six times before he Freaks Out, with a weakness to Critters that will automatically bring him to scare level 2 and a weakness to Brains that will bring him to scare level 4. Critters I can understand - bugs would make pretty short work of rotten milk - but Brains? Different Freaks interpret Brains in either the literal sense of gruesome brain tissue or in the sense of intellect and psychic power, but I'm not sure why milk would be afraid of either one. What do we not know about milk that you do, Creepy Freaks???
Curdles is one of a few freaks whose official artwork actually obscures his design, since the art has him spewing a torrent of nasty old milk from his nostrils. The figure's design doesn't even have nostrils, just a jagged Jack O' Lantern kind of mouth and two big, bulging black eyeballs on the front of his carton. Simple and stylish.
This Freak's best detail, however, is on the back of the figure; where old-fashioned milk cartons once reported missing children (yeah, that was a thing, look it up!), Curdles has what looks like an actual child, or at least a bright blue muppet-like child-creature, reaching out from a square aperture on his back, over the words "GOT YOU!" I guess this is parodying the "Got Milk?" ads of the 1990's and early 2000's? In any case, I'm impressed by the level of detail here, especially the kid having a painted tongue and eyes, not to mention the whole interior of the cavity painted black, so it just looks like a dark void. Hilarious.
Every single Creepy Freak also includes a small, three panel comic strip on the back of their official character sticker (which is where we get the official artwork.) These often see the Freaks interacting with a rotating set of cuter, more generic monster characters, like this little werewolf kid, which the fans are still demanding as figures of their own. Personally, I kind of like that they only exist in the comic strip continuity. We've seen in other CF media that the figure characters are basically the celebrities of their world, elite monsters of exceptional Creepiness and/or Freakiness. Obviously every rando wolf and vampire wouldn't make the cut!
In this strip, werewolf kid asks Curdles how chocolate milk gets its color, which is a fundamentally stupid as hell question anyway, and Curdles refuses to give away the "secret"...until that muppet child pops up out of his carton, and thanks Curdles for letting him wash his socks in his inner milk guts. Ha ha! I get it!!! ...But this also implies the "kidnapped kid" is just Curdles's friend? Neighbor? Actual child??? Maybe he was "kidnapped" from a home so terrible, he decided he was better off living in a milk monster? Is Curdles, in fact, a vigilante antihero who liberates the victims of abusive homes? Sometimes I think what we don't know about these world famous characters could fill an entire tenth fan wiki!
Not a bad Freak, either way. Pretty much my base measure of an average, solid quality Freak!
Some Freaks are grossout jokes, but other Freaks are relatively serious horror concepts. At least, this biomechanical xenomorph-like creature exploding from a tiny teddy bear feels relatively sincere to me. It has a clawed, humanoid upper torso on a long, segmented wormlike tail, and a Tyranid-like head with big red buggy eyes.
Chester can move in four directions, and his "Trojan Toy" attack is a Critters-type Scare. I don't know if I agree with that typing; Critter scares usually indicate that the Freak has unleashed rats, insects or worms on the opponent, but "Trojan Toy" implies the "critter" in question is the teddy bear host, and clearly that's not the part that does the "scaring," is it? The "scare" is Chester emerging from the toy, but strangely, they never added any general category for "surprise" or "shock" type scares. As a xenomorph homage, maybe we could interpret "Trojan Toy" as Chester releasing a larval offspring hidden in another doll or bear.
Chester has a weakness to the "Biohazard" scare type that will jump him up from neutral to already 3x scared, then a weakness to "hairballs" that will jump him one level further. Yeah, they gave "hairballs" an entire element of their own, despite not many Freaks who can use it. Chester will freak out at only one more scare, however, which actually makes him a bit weaker than Curdles.
Oddly, Chester's official artwork forgot his little teeth, giving him a more harmless-looking face, but the figure has finely sculpted rows of fangs. It's certainly a dramatic figure, too, and it's one of the very few in the first generation with no color-swapped counterpart.
Chester's comic is kind of just the obligatory demonstration of his entire concept. Another of the comic-only "cartoon" monsters, a horned goblin, greets Chester with "You don't look too frightening on the outside!" so Chester can pop out of his teddy bear and say "It's What's INSIDE you that counts!" I feel like the goblin didn't need to specify "on the outside!" for the joke to work, however, and frankly it's not a normal sane thing to specify in any casual interaction. It's socially risky enough to comment on someone's appearance without implying you've already reserved judgment of their innards.
This living toilet monster kind of feels to me like the "mascot" of the franchise, or like it should have been, but they utlimately gave that role to a skeleton in a baseball hat named "Skelehomie." Nothing against Skelehomie, mind you, it's still great that a skeleton is their Pikachu* but a toilet monster sort of summarizes the spirit of Creepy Freaks more accurately.
Along with its color-swapped counterpart "John," this Freak consists of entirely of a commode with a pair of bloodshot eyeballs emerging from its overflowing tank, sharp teeth on the underside of its lid, a plunger for a left arm, a scrubber brush for a right arm, and even a strip of toilet paper for a "tongue." It's a fairly cool, fun design, though I do feel like the yellow-painted sludge was a bit much. A nice bright green would have sufficed.
Mr. Mouth can move in six directions, apparently only unable to navigate in a Northwest direction, for some reason. His "Back Up" attack is Toilet type, because there is a Toilet type. He can be scared six times in total and with three weaknesses to hairball, vomit, and snot scares. More odd choices; aren't those all normal enough things to flush down a toilet? A guy who perpetually barfs piss-sludge is that picky?
The figure really shows off that great level of detail we already talked about; many mini-based games skip out on painting every distinct detail, but on this figure alone we have a different color paint on the toilet, the plunger head, the ooze, the brush, the red corneas of the eyes and even a dash of silver paint on the flusher!
The comic strip is kind of a dull one; the horned goblin and the toilet are playing cards, so the toilet gets to say "A FLUSH beats everything!" as he devours the goblin alive. It's about time, though. Goblin was kind of a creep.
*A yellow rodent-like animal marketed as the most prominent "Pokemon." Yeah, sorry I still think in Pokemon terminology. What can I say, I remain one of its few devoted fans! I know we all love Creepy Freaks, but sometimes I wonder what our cultural landscape would look like if literally any other game was still being made, anywhere in the world even!
This Freak is nothing but a giant, bipedal rat, rather morbidly carrying a sack with a human arm dangling out of it. The flute in his other hand implies he's a "pied piper" who may have only put the human victim to sleep, I guess, but I dunno, that's a corpse-sack if I'VE ever seen one. I'm not big into the design here, since it makes him look more like a generic cartoon wolf than a rat.
Hamlin's "Creepy Music" is a sound type scare, he can move 5 directions, and he can be scared 5 times in total with a weakness to "Stink" and "Toilet" scares. Now, you'd think a giant rat would be afraid of hairballs, seeing as one of the few hairball users is also one of the only feline Freaks in the game, but remember: every Freak is a unique character, rather than a species. "Stink" and "Toilet" scares encompass all things smelly and rotten, so I believe what they were actually going for here was humorous irony. Hamlin is a giant rat, and a Creepy Freak no less, who CANNOT ABIDE unsanitary conditions. He is, after all, also a musical artist! He's a classy giant rat, at least in his opinion! It kind of makes me think he should have a snooty accent, which I think would also fit his design in the official art.
Had Hamlin ever appeared in any of the myriad hit CG films, I always thought he should be voiced by David Hyde Pierce.
On the other hand, Hamlin's figure communicates an entirely different personality, and I'm honestly a lot more partial to this design; the fatter muzzle and blockier teeth make him look more like Disney's Goofy in an endearing way, and the deranged buggy-eyed stare feels more fitting of a Pied Pipe rat man. This Hamlin feels more like a Dana Snyder or Tom Kenny character, if you ask me. Alas, we have seen his color-swapped counterpart in the movies, at least in a non-speaking role, and that was modeled much closer to the artwork-Hamlin.
Hamlin's comic strip is a weak joke in which a little martian mistakes him for Britney Spears, because in 2003 it was popular to make her the butt of jokes for no reason other than the fact that she was popular. Then again, Hamlin's description of his own music can be taken either positively or negatively, so maybe the Martian actually liked Britney and her music, but didn't know what she looked like? Funny enough, Hamlin's design feels yet again entirely different here, more like a fluffy scuzzy Disneyfied rat-dog. It's like no two artists could agree how this poor guy should look!
It's both surprising and quite disappointing that there's only one Bug Creature design in the original run of Creepy Freaks. By now, of course, with going on a million official Freaks we have tons of them to pick from (I'm especially partially to Lousy Louise and Beelzebarf, which I'm sure we'll get to in only another six or seven years of reviews!) I'm glad the first was a cockroach guy, sure, but I'm not as big on his fleshy, pointy-nosed Count Chocula face. At least it's funny that he wields a rolled up newspaper and a pesticide sprayer?
He can move in six directions and he can be scared six times, probably because of insects having six limbs and whatnot, while his weaknesses include Snot, Cloud, and Mouth type scares. These all more or less make sense; "Snot" is used to include anything exceptionally sticky and gooey, the bane of many an insect. "Cloud" includes all forms of gas, including poisonous fumes, and "Mouth" scares tend to include any Freak with a huge enough maw or any Freak that threatens to eat its opponent.
What I don't agree with is that Crawley's own "Bug Spray" scare is cloud type, and his own comic tells you why, which we'll get to in a moment.
Crawley's big nosed vampire face, unfortunately, looks even goofier and more awkward on the figure. I wish he just had an exterminator's breath mask, or something! Alas, even by my standards, not enough of the Freaks take the "cool factor" design route where they easily could.
Crawley's comic demonstrates why "Bug Spray" shouldn't be a "Cloud" scare. The entire joke is that it sprays bugs! It's the very definition of a "Critters" scare! I think making it Cloud type was just an oversight they never felt like retconning. But hey, there's the aforementioned Skelehomie! He's actually one of the only Freaks that also appear in the comic as one of the "cute" monsters. You have to wonder if he was conceived for that first, and they just liked him so much they decided he was mascot material.
This Freak is a half-rotten zombie cat rising from a litterbox as if it's a grave. Does this imply someone buried this cat in its own filthy litter, or that's where it originally died? Poor kitty. I don't like that either way :(
The kitty can move three directions and endure six scares, though Cloud scares will jump it up to scare level 2, and vomit all the way to level 5. Why is the cat afraid of vomit? There really should have been something like a liquid or water category. His own scare attack is Toilet type, and consists of throwing cat litter clumps everywhere. Lovely. It's his color-swap that properly wields Hairball moves.
Very nicely detailed figure, though, this tiny painted sculpture really communicates a raggedy, rotten feline carcass, rising from the litter pan on a fleshless spinal column. Gruesome!
The comic features Martian Guy again, nagging Litter Kitty about living in filth, asking "don't you know what you're missing?" This is an oddly worded question, but the setups always are. Litter Kitty pelts the alien being with litter clumps, and the martian complains how it "wasn't missed once." Ha ha!! Words can have two meanings.
MONSTER UNDER THE BED
Classic! Just a big, warty purple monster, almost kind of like a sharp-fanged hippo with demonic horns and humanoid arms, rising up from the floor with an entire little kiddie size bed on its head. This will actually be the only Freak in our review that can handle seven scares, the maximum possible, before it Freaks Out. Only a few Freaks in the whole first series are that tough! "Stink" will bring it to scare level 2, and "Brains" based scares up to level 4, but with no further weaknesses, you'll have to scare it three more times no matter what, making it one of the tankiest of all first-gen freaks! Its "Moan of Doom" is a sound attack, and it can move or attack in six directions, making it also one of the first gen's most maneuverable.
The figure is pretty striking; nicely colorful and one of the bulkiest in the line. It definitely looks like it should be such a strong figure.
The comic has a younger Monster complaining to its mother that it's afraid of the monster under its bed, until mom reminds it that it IS that monster! Hilarious! I know the fandom is harshly divided over whether the figure is canonically the child or the mother in this comic, especially since a blurb in the DVD instructions calls it a "he," but I lean towards the figure monster being the mom. The bed design is closer, and they wouldn't base the figure on the smaller, less impressive of the two! I mean, come on!!!
This is one of the weirdest Creepy Freaks, by which I mean one of the very least weird, making her kind of a reverse-misfit. There's no horror angle, there's no grossout, there's literally just an elf-eared fire elemental girl with pilot goggles and a t-shirt. This is the only first-gen Freak with no obviously unsanitary or grisly twist going on, as if she was designed for a whole different game...but that's alright. In fact, I wish at least a couple more of them broke the usual mold. Yes, the usual mold is more often to my taste, but slimy mutants kind of lose their edge when they become status quo.
Barbi's "Dazzling Fireball" is a cloud scare, she has 5 movement directions, she can handle 6 scares, and she's only afraid of Snot and Vomit, I guess because they're the two scare types you could most easily use to put out a fire. I do think they should have just been rolled together into something like a "muck" or "ooze" scare type, but on the other hand, they're scare types, and people can feel dfferently about mucus than they do about regurgitant. Both the fandom and the game itself can have a hard time finding the line between scares as psychological tactics and scares as actual elemental battle moves.
The figure isn't too bad; it doesn't quite capture the gaunt fairy looking features of the artwork, but it's made of a translucent resin with a more yellowish color for her flesh and more orange tint to her flames.
The comic has the werewolf kid coming on to Barbi, getting fireballed, and quipping that she's "hot." I don't think I like knowing that the werewolf kid experiences lust. Otherwise, I guess this kind of underlines why they made this non-gross monster girl to begin with; they wanted at least one Creepy Freak to be nerd wife material, and they chickened out of making it another barf creature. I guess it worked, since Barbi remains the Gardevoir* of Creepy Freaks to this day.
*The most popular "Pokemon" creature in the anime body pillow market.
The only Gen one plant Freaks are Daisy and a color swap of daisy, which go the rather typical "Audrey II" route, but I'm glad there's a plant monster either way. The official art has her spitting a seed from a puckered mouth, but she only looks that way for this particular pose. Her "Spit Growing Seeds" attack is "Snot" category, for some reason, even though it's described in the instructions as seeding the opponent with living plant sprouts, and I think that should have been an example of the rare "Biohazard" scare type. Meanwhile, Daisy's only weakness is "Cloud," which I guess makes sense if that also includes Barbi's fire and (mistakenly or otherwise) Crawley's spray.
Movement in three directions, the bare minimum, makes sense for a potted plant Freak. Daisy can handle five scares, which if you haven't noticed is the most common "health bar" by far.
Daisy's figure shows us that her mouth is really a big, jagged set of jaws, and that she has reptilian eyes surrounded by little leaf lashes, something also not as obvious in the artwork.
The comic shows her actually using her attack to grow vines out of goblin guy. Or maybe he's a devil? He has horns. I don't know. Is he a little bugbear? Whatever he is, I trust him the least of the "cute" monsters. Maybe it's because my first impression of him was Chester's comic, coupled with the fact that he doesn't wear a shirt, I don't know. Like I said, this "scare" is clearly a biohazard of some sort.
One of my absolute favorites; you can never, ever go wrong with a disembodied eyeball! Well...almost, I guess. I love that Eyesore consists entirely of an eyeball on a long, writhing tangle of red nervous tissue, that's cool as hell, but I'm not a fan of how the cornea and pupil are "scowling," as if the white of the eye is functioning like an eyelid? I'd have rather he just had a normal, round center. Can't win them all I guess.
Eyesore has one of the few "Eye" type scares, simply called "The Stare." He can move 6 directions and can take 6 scares including weaknesses to Biohazard, Brains, and Cloud. Biohazard and Cloud scares, such as gases, make perfect sense as an exposed eyeball's weaknesses, but I'm still confused as to what "Brains" is all about. They should have really split it into something like a "Mind" scare for the genius telepath angle and a "Guts" scare for the "showing off your brain tissue" angle.
The figure is an excellent sculpt, exactly like the art and cast in transparent resin, while the scleral tissue of the eye was left unpainted and totally clear. In both the artwork and the figure, I love the almost flame-like shape made by the squirming tissues!
Unfortunately, my Eyesore came a little warped, leaning far backwards on his stand, and other Eyesore figures I've seen have been bent, skewed or broken in other directions. Creepy Freaks figures are actually made of a fairly breakable resin, which isn't great with all the fine details and skinny appendages they're designed with. They really should have been made of a softer, more flexible and rubbery material.
This isn't saying much, but Eyesore has one of the funnier comics, with a fish man complaining that he feels as though someone "has their eye on him," but it turns out Eyesore literally has his eyeball pressed straight down on the guy's head. I didn't say it was STELLAR, mind you, I just said it was "funnier" than the low bar we're accustomed to here.
All complaints aside, this is easily one of my top three Freaks and would possibly be my go-to of the first wave, which means this is also the first to earn my highest personal rating:
S.B.D.(Silent But Deadly)
But, at the other end of the spectrum, I felt like I had to include at least one of my non-favorites to change things up, and I'm sorry to say I'm just not a fan of this guy. I'm not a fan of fart jokes in general, and he is nothing other than a floating, ghost-shaped fart with a human face and a clothespin on his nose. Maybe if he had a more ghostly or monstrous face I would find him more visually charming, and could overlook what he's physically supposed to be, but a sentient fart with a nearly human head is just too uncanny.
Unfortunately, they decided to make Deadly one of the most "important" Freaks, another that can handle 7 scares and can move in any direction. What's more, he's been the main villain of the animated franchise, a hedonistic fascist dictator, since the original pilot. There's a reason his face became such a pervasive edgelord meme for the past decade.
This douchebag's weaknesses are Critter, Snot and Toilet scares. I'm not sure why those three specifically, but one Toilet scare will actually knock him automatically up to scare level six, and if you're one of the few fandom outsiders still unclear on how this works exactly, it means that even the weaker and more common Potty Mouth can bring Deadly from full "health" to the very brink of defeat in a single turn. Good. Get his ass, Potty!!!
The figure isn't bad for what it is, another transparent one, with only one eye and the clothespin painted. It just sucks that one of my least favorites often occupies the "rare" slot in a booster pack, which is wholly unnecessary anyway, since you can't play the game without a starter set, and one of the original starters already came with him.
Deadly's comic is also one of the dumbest. "Oh does he know how bad he smells? He NOSE!" It's bad even by Creepy Freaks comic strip standards and by pun standards.
This is my other favorite Freak, just barely exceeded by Eyesore, and the other Gen one Freak based on a body organ. A human brain and spinal cord, with its eyeballs, suspended in a cool looking green-tinged, tubular glass tank! I like the grimy metal base and the machinery on top, too. Three movement directions, and of his 5 "health" he's just weak to...Stink and Brains?! Why Stink?! Where's his nose?! Brains I actually approve of as a weakness wholeheartedly, because if the Brains Scare in question is a gruesome use of brain tissue, of course that disturbs this guy, and if it's a demonstration of exceptional brainpower, the implication would be that it makes him feel threatened.
What I TRULY don't get, though, is why his own scare attack is "Sonic Destruction," a Sound type. An entire scare type is called Brains, encompasses both visible brains and ingeniousness, and they didn't give it to the one and only figure who is a visible ingenious brain?!
Jar Head's figure looks great, but I'm using a photograph from the weirdotoys.com blog, because I have actually owned two Jar Head figures in my lifetime and both of them broke the same way. Nothing but a short drop caused his spinal cord to snap, leaving the brain rattling around inside a tube that is permanently and very, very firmly glued shut. Terrible structural decisions. They should have just encased the brain in solid resin, or something.
I like Jar Head's comic. The punchline is just "Because I wanted to get aHEAD in life," which actually doesn't make that much sense, because we don't really think of an exposed brain as a "head," do we? But I like that it starts with the alien guy saying "you've become a telepathic evil genius brain ina jar?!" I don't know, I just like that it implies he used to be something else that the martian was acquainted with. That maybe they have a history. One of the only Creepy Freaks with any implied lore!
Speaking of "Lore"...
Direct Video Link
The original "Creepy Freaks" starter set actually came with a DVD that included, among gameplay instructions and other features, a fifteen minute animated series pilot. It isn't fine art, mind you, but it's a charming effort for what it is, with a very "Nicktoons" sort of visual style - the kid characters could have been Hey Arnold extras - and even some moments of decent animation for its period and budget.
The story has a group of schoolkids stumble into the alternate universe of the Creepy Freaks, where hideous monsters hold "Freak Out" arena battles to prove who's the Creepiest and Freakiest of all. Unfortunately for them and the audience, we all know who rules this other dimension with an iron fist-shaped-gas-cloud, though he's animated a lot more like a fleshy slug, making him feel even more like a ripoff of Jabba the Hutt.
Direct Video Link
The most interesting thing about the pilot is the unresolved foreshadowing involving none other than Jar Head. The cybernetic brain serves directly under Deadly as his highest-ranking minion, but doesn't seem terribly happy about it, and there's a little moment where the "computer nerd" kid smiles on seeing Jar Head for the first time. The scene focuses in on this, and I don't think it would have if there hadn't been some plan to team them up later. This means that the "Creepy Freaks" cartoon pilot was setting up a villain redemption arc for Jar Head, right? Or would Jar Head have convinced the nerd kid to turn evil?
Tragically, we'll never know, because despite my brilliantly convincing ruse throughout this post, I have been tricking you this whole time. There aren't tens of thousands of Creepy Freaks. It doesn't have a fandom. I don't even actually get millions and billions of comments. I am a master of deception and April Fooled you to the bone. Might I ever do this again? I don't know. I've waffled on how and when to review anything about this game since I first set up this website near the end of my teens, and I guess I just owed it to that weird kid to finally do this, but it's two entire decades later and I'm a bald grown man with back problems. This is already way too much effort talking about a game with a character named Potty Mouth in it than I should ever admit to on a job application.
Direct Video Link
"Creepy Freaks" is at least noteworthy, however, for the unique way in which it reflects the shifting cultural landscape of 2003. Pokemon was in its fifth consecutive year of almost inescapable success, flooding American toy aisles and television networks with an unprecedented invasion of Japanese battle monsters whose popularity seemed ready to burst at any moment. Parents were sick of spending money on all these perplexing Yugimons or Digigotchis, teachers were sick of breaking up fights over pieces of cardboard with words like "Bulbasaur" on them, and even kids themselves were growing steadily divided over whether Pikachu was only for Dumb Gay Babies.
According to the sacred traditions established by Rat Fink almost fifty years prior, the time was ripe to skewer this infamous trend with a rude, crude, grotesquely irreverent parody franchise. This had been such a tried and true formula for success, for so long, everyone involved at every level probably considered it foolproof. Giving Pokemon its first real Garbage Pail Kids treatment would have seemed like a plan that couldn't possibly, possibly fail...but fail it did. Non-electronic gaming was a hard enough sell to a generation of children surrounded by their pick of Playstation, Xbox or Nintendo consoles, and an even bigger nail in the coffin might have simply been the rapidly changing mindset of their intended audience.
By those early 2000's, an exponential influx of anime was offering more dramatic, higher-stakes storytelling than anything my generation or older had grown up with, and when 2003's average ten-year-old did have a hankering for juvenile comedy, they secretly snuck episodes of South Park or Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Creepy Freaks was a funny idea with a respectable level of affection poured into it, but on the business end of things, it unfortunately targeted a demographic that had already outgrown the sensibilities it was counting on. These poor things released to such indifferent reception, booster packs were getting marked down to a dollar or less within a week at my local "K.B. Toys," and I've seen original, unopened factory cases sell for less than thirty to forty dollars as recently as just last year, having somehow accrued little to no collector's value over the course of those two decades. Almost unheard of for a gaming product!
Ironically, I feel like today's market might have better understood and appreciated Creepy Freaks as a concept, but I also feel like its failure is a part of the charm, the Plan 9 From Outer Space of battlemonster games.