Flock

It'd be a forgiveable mistake to believe that Flock was named because of the main theme: herding flocks of animals to a particular destination. It's not though. The game is called Flock simply because it's impossible to complete the game without at least once thinking "Oh Flock" or "Flocking hell". If neither of those arise, it'll undoubtedly be "Flocking brainless sheep" that gets adopted. The rather obvious reason is that the game requires players to herd a variety of farm animals towards an alien ship (called the Motherflocker), using smaller flying saucers. This would all be fine, were it not for the fact that the animals (and the sheep in particular) are stubborn little bastards who refuse to cooperate in any useful or meaningful manner. It doesn't make the game mad, but it certainly makes it frustrating.

The main single-player campaign in Flock involves small levels composed of blocks of turf, trees, islands, fences and other features, which can all be used in a seperate level creator, with various animals scattered across the land. Often, groups of sheep or cows will be distributed across the far reaches of the level, and you, controlling a flying saucer, must herd the animals (scared of your energy-emitting beam) towards a mother ship, which will vacuum the pesky animals inside, in classic alien-abduction style. Moving the flying saucer, with its beam directed below, is relatively easy, and the grounded animals are certainly responsive to the energy beam's touch, but the difficulty arises in directing the little animals in a desirable manner. It'd obviously be too much to expect that each animal would react to you by diving in the direction you want them to, but deliberately turning 90 degrees, or darting straight into a fence or wall seems plain malicious. The game isn't particularly difficult at all, but it's extremely challenging as a result of the frustrating little fuzzballs, and can become somewhat infuriating.

Flock

The question, then, is this: why doesn't this wreck the game entirely? It's perhaps the cuteness of the animals, with tiny little white fluffball sheep bouncing energetically across the level, or maybe it's the satisfying feeling when the little gits finally cooperate, but whatever it is, there's definitely something that prevents Flock from being a complete disaster. A key element in adding to the fun is the cooperative mode. Even if the pesky muppets won't play ball, you can at least count on a human collaborator to help persuade the animals in the right direction. The co-op game isn't just tacked on either. Alongside the single-player game is a completely new set of levels, designed specifically for co-op play, featuring puzzles that require both players to act as a team to find a solution. The frustration factor is somewhat reduced when two human players are both confronted by the same mischievous morons, and forced to solve the problem together, particularly since some of the mechanisms to do so are quite amusing. For example, one level involves a player squashing long grass using the "push" beam, while the other player encourages a flock of sheep through the resulting gap. The complexity is increased by the fact that, firstly, the long grass soon pops back up, locking the sheep in place, and secondly, each sheep must first be shrunk, using a water fountain (more comedy) so that they can fit through a fence to reach the field in the first place. It's somewhat fiddly, but quite well thought out, leading to some entertaining puzzle solving.

With a level editor (and the ability to upload and download user-created levels) adding to the single-player and cooperative campaigns, there's actually quite a lot to do in the game, which helps (somewhat) to justify the high price of the game (Flock is almost ten pounds on the UK store, making it quite a pricey title). There are also trophies to keep players happy, with targets usually relating to number of animals herded, or perfect scores on levels (achieved by successfully herding all animals safely to their destination).

Flock

The visual side of things is an important component in Flock, since the cuteness of the animals is a major factor in stopping players from swearing constantly at the sheep. Bright, colourful graphics, light up the screen, lacking in detail, but compensating for this entirely with boldness of colour. It looks like a happy place to live, which makes it all the more surprising that the sheep seem so determined to throw themselves over the nearest cliff. The sound effects are the same, with dopey over the top effects put in for comic value (try launching a cow over a long distance, for example), which are funny, by far from refined. The music isn't outstanding either, but once again emphasizes the care-free, cutesy simplicity the game is aiming for (and again makes it tougher to swear like a chimp at the screen).

Overall, Flock is the sort of game that could probably make a vegetarian consider eating meat, since none of the animals here have more intelligence than the average spring onion, but that somehow doesn't matter a huge amount. The game is funny to watch and, in small doces, a good laugh to play, especially in the co-op game. Flock does a lot of things right, that go a long way to compensating for the incredibly spiteful AI, making Flock an above-average, reasonably enjoyable game. The fact that it might tempt in non-gamers, lured by the sight of silly fluffballs, is also a plus, making Flock a good recommendation for people with patience.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Capcom

Developer:

Proper Games

Players:

1-2

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2009-04-09

Trophies:

13

Review summary

Gameplay:

Great fun in small doces, and great for a quick smile

Graphics:

Very simple, but effective, cute and cuddly

Sound:

Crisp, clear and not too annoying

Lastability:

Quite a few levels, but limited replay value

5.9

Neutrino

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User comments

MeteorStorm

20:29:26, May 11 2009

Gah! Those tedious little sheep! They never behave as you want them to. Still got a bit more to do before this game can be properly reviewed.

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