If I were one of those soundbyte men, designed to write a front of box quote, I’d say something like “Flockers is Lemmings for the Angry Birds, Headshot generation”. It’s complete with lashing of gore, simple controls and levels filled with tricky puzzles to get your head around.
Of course, I am one of those men who’d say exactly that, in a vain attempt to boost readership.
Team 17 seems to know exactly what everyone did when they fired up Lemmings – Set down two blockers to crowd everyone into a single place, and set them all to explode. Come to think of it, that’s all I ever did in Lemmings. Anyway, what you’re actually supposed to do in Flockers is get a little legion of sheep from one part of the map to the other, avoiding all manner of scrapes and japes by using your limited tools. Got a long drop? Better chuck a superhero cape on them sheep! Need to get over a gap? Pop on a wooly hat from their shaved brethren, they seem to be able to jump after that. No, I don’t get why either.
But who am I to argue? I’m not a game designer. But like every other game these days, Flockers was released on Early Access, to ‘ensure the community gets a chance to help us shape it’. I don’t know about you, but if a bunch of nerds got together to tell a game designer what to do, you’d be playing ‘Officer Give No Fucks who has to fight his way to kill the evil Saucy Strippers who are holed up an Anti-Gravity Explosion factory’ before you can say “Kickstarter”. Although to be fair to Team 17, the time I looked at Flockers, it’s to be a full formed game, worthy of review. By the time you read this, it’ll actually be officially out out on Playstation 4 and Xbox One, as well as PC.
Much of what you actually do is click on a command and then apply that to a location on the map, or to one (or many) of your loyal sheep. Your powerups are relatively limited at any one time – you rarely have access to every option, so you need to get creative with how you use them. Some of the trickier levels will see your sheep diving headfirst into buzzsaws a number of times before you figure out exactly what you need to do – like what specific timing you need to hit, or how to make your sheep into rudimentary steps. However, once you figured out your mistake, it can be a bit of a chore having to get back through the level to that specific section to see if your plan works. Thankfully, there’s a fast forward mode, but having to repeat the same steps for the tenth time can be a bit tedious.
Of course, there’s a casual, Angry Birds style difficulty to Flockers in that it’s easy to learn, hard to master. It will take a few tries to complete a level, but nailing the coveted three star score requires laser precision and expert management of your equipment to get all the sheep (that you can) out of the level, and collect the special ‘Golden Sheep’. Just rattling through the game quickly meant I never hit that three star level, but I got close enough times that made me think about how I could be more resourceful in the future.
The initial opening cut scene looks great in a ultraviolent, puesdo Wallace and Gromit kind of way, but in the game proper, you’re going to see an awful lot of the same environment. Eventually you escape the factory you start off in, but you’re going to be playing for a while before you get there. I think I would have preferred fewer levels in favour of getting to the environments faster, but this seems like the sort of game Team 17 will iterate on with new environments. For the time being, anyway.
The various bleets of the sheep are all very well and good, as is the telltale sound of sheep meeting their gory doom, but given the verbose nature of Worms it all seems awfully bland. I’m certainly not asking for a CGI, wisecracking sidekick called Biffy voiced by Bruce Willis, but a little more aural excitement would not go amiss.
Now, the important £11.99 question – is it actually any good? I rather enjoyed puzzling my wooly chums to either salvation or their untimely demise. It’s certainly an easy game to pick up for a couple of levels any time, but the problem is that is a more casual title something I particularly want to be sitting down and playing at a computer? I felt like I’d be playing this a load more if it could conceivably make it to my phone, so I could play it for a couple of minutes here and there. The current control scheme works lovely for a mouse interface, but with a bit of tweaking, this might make a better game to play on the go, than experience on your computer.
Flockers was reviewed on the PC. It’s also available on Xbox One & Playstation 4, and is out now.