Team 17, who are better known for creating highly addictive puzzle games with a sinister undertone that inflicts excruciating slaughter methods on sweet innocent looking creatures such as Lemmings and Worms are back at it again! This time it is all about Sheep in their newest IP – Flockers. This new brain-teasing, often mind-boggling title is another fantastically designed puzzler that closely resembles Lemmings in terms of gameplay, but with a Worms style design for the environments. It is difficult not to compare Flockers to Lemmings because each level is filled with dangerous obstacles in your path whilst controlling a herd of sheep from one start location to their final destination as you would with Lemmings.
Flockers is just incredible in the way its complex puzzles can leave you determined with a will to succeed when you do not want the level to have beaten you, and at times it can really make yew frustrated. In the beginning, you get led into the traps and puzzles with baby steps as the first few levels are simplistic with prompts in place to point you in the right direction. This is just a teaser to give you awareness of how the game functions because a few more levels down the line and those prompts have vanished, the Sheep count increased; they then start coming out from more than one direction all heading for a buzz-saw to their death unless you can save them in time. It very soon becomes a fast frantic “what-must-I-do-next” situation leaving you no choice but to think quickly about your next move.
Unlike Lemmings there is less creativity in how you travel from your A to B destinations, but I’d say Flockers has far more difficult obstacles in your path with far more larger sinister environments to confuse you. Whereas Lemmings was all about how you got to your final destination with a vast range of available tools to use at your disposal, Flockers is more about avoiding danger within far more imaginative level designs using less tools making it more difficult. If the SAW movies had Sheep, this would probably be it! Flockers really does get your mind thinking as to how the hell can I make this happen! There are no ropes to swing from nor bridges to build as Sheep simply ram into crates to unlock your tools which give you a limited number of items to use on the Sheep themselves to allow them to do a few tasks that interact with their environment. The minimum you need to survive and move on is just one Sheep, but that poor little Sheep would have been through one hell of a disturbing journey as the puzzles become increasingly difficult. It is certain that you’re unlikely to get them all there in one piece as some Sheep must be sacrificed in order to allow the survival of many others as you take them from your destination A to B.
If you’re a little curious about what the Sheep are ramming to unlock their tools for survival, then fear not as you are given Jumper Crates to allow your Sheep to jump from ledge to ledge, an Exploder Crate to carefully select those you want to blow to pieces which in turn can unblock a few areas laden with blocks or walls hindering your path. There is also a Super Sheep Crate which will don that baaad ass livestock of yours with a cape and allow them to rush up walls and land to safety from high places. Then, there are other crates such as Block Crates which will allow you to build both vertical blockades and steps with your Sheep to allow others to reach places they might not quite be able to otherwise. Finally, there is a Release Crate which will allow you to undo the blockades and steps created with the Sheep and they can move their way through the level or to their impending death! However, if you don’t like all the blood you can turn it off in the Settings menu.
The controls are simplistic and very fast once you get the hang of multi-tasking between selecting Sheep and zooming in or out of the level to see what is going on in other parts of it. You have an on-screen cursor which you can move around with one analog stick whilst the other moves the camera. LT & RT will zoom out and in respectively, whilst the bumpers toggle through your available tools unlocked from the Crates on offer. A is to select and B is to delete, so once you have mastered how to use all almost simultaneously the only thing that can wrong is not being able to correctly master how to use your tools in each situation within the level. There are many different things to hinder your survival such as Teleport Pods that transport Sheep to other areas, Gravity Pods that flip them upside down, and switches that may or may not work in your favour. Among other deadly threats are spikey floors, large vehicles driven by a familiar Worms characters all in a gory glory steam punk art style.
It can and will be an entertaining challenge, but your efforts will reward you with prizes of customised Sheep that vary in wacky woolly multi-coloured designs and styles to play with. You are scored depending on your timings, how many Sheep you saved, and other factors that make up your Star count. Scoring will place you on the games Leaderboards, but depending upon how well you perform will give you a Level Star count that will unlock more rewards and levels.
Flockers, from Team 17 is a refreshing change and the first new IP from the developers in over ten years. With obvious inspirations from both Worms and especially Lemmings; the similarity between the two games only enhances the Flockers experience with a familiarity of an old gaming experience on a new-gen console as you get a sense of having played it already! Remarkably fun and exceptionally designed puzzle levels will leave you satisfied as one mean beast of a Shepherd. It’s rather sinister, but rewardingly pleasant also.
A sure fire hit and a hope for a sequel. Flockers is released on September 19th 2014 for Xbox One, PS4 and Steam.
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