Flockers is instantly recognisable, for a variety of reasons. The latest puzzler from veteran developer Team 17 is an attempt to bring the maniacal spirit and gameplay of Lemmings to the new generation. Take away the Lemmings and replace them with sheep, is that what we have here? Well, not exactly…
Ah, Lemmings, what a classic. I remember Lemmings very fondly, those green haired suicidal cuties (as for many people) were a part of my gaming education. So it was with great enthusiasm that I picked up Team 17’s take on this classic game mechanic. Before I get too ahead of myself, let me explain what to expect for the uninitiated. Flockers takes place in a 2D environment, with your job being to guide a heard of zombie minded, endlessly walking sheep to safety. Always wanted to be a shepherd? Well here’s your chance.
Your flock of sheep will vary in size from level to level, dropping from the stage entrance ready for you to help them on their way. Those of you familiar with this brand of A-to-B puzzling will find the powers you can afford to your sheep familiar. You can make them jump, stop, stand on each other’s shoulders, and build stairs for their woolly friends. Team 17’s heritage comes into play with the addition of the Super Sheep power. All sheep lucky enough to get this power will don a fetching red cape and have the ability to fly up vertical structures. There is one more power on offer from the get go, which, though not new, leads me to one of Flockers more unexpected features: the exploding sheep power. This can be used to detonate one of your flock and clear obstacles, and also showers the environment in a spray of blood and sheep entrails.
The first time you pick up Flockers, it will only be a few seconds before you see your first massacre, with the screaming, desperate sheep tumbling onto an array of deadly implements. Buzz-saws, spikes, and gravity itself are all waiting to claim the lives of your flock. Where Flockers really excels is with the intricate level design, as each level progressively provides more of a challenge than the last. It’s not just a case (as with previous titles Flockers borrows from) of building bridges and getting from A to B, Flockers requires far more thought than that, especially if you want to finish the level with a respectable number of your flock still intact.
Your flock will unwittingly walk over buttons that trigger traps, and it’s up to you to come up with ways to avoid them. Sacrifice a sheep, or two, or three? Do it once , maybe twice, but suddenly your back is up against the wall and you only have one exploding sheep left. Getting your timing right is crucial if you are to avoid a bloody mess, especially when you have two distinct flocks of sheep plodding around the level, having come out of two different level entrances. This isn’t a game for the easily deterred. Those who persevere will try to get three stars on every level, as points are earned by the number of sheep saved and the amount of time left on the clock.
Flockers’ steampunk art style lends itself well to some of the more complex level’s set pieces. Your flock of sheep will find themselves riding on gloriously constructed vehicles that have the sort of throwaway charm seen in LittleBigPlanet. Your journey through Flockers will take you through three distinct worlds, from the steampunk beginnings, to lush farmyard inspired fields, and all the way to the desert. Most of the levels are constructed out of bits of old pipe and rusty tools, with the sheep looking most at home in the grassy surroundings of the second world. Flockers is a charming beast to look at, if a little unspectacular. Worms fans should look out for a few familiar artefacts, too.
Where would a Team 17 game be without an array of ludicrous sound effects? Flockers comes fully loaded with the sort of audio we have come to expect, that being absolutely class. A moody soundtrack gets lost behind a wall of visceral chainsaws, sheep squeals and general chaos. Delightful.
Flockers comes with nearly seventy levels to navigate your way through, with the challenge of achieving a three star score on all of them likely to take even the best players to the edge of their sanity. There a number of unlockable, and quite dashing, sheep to unlock, and online leaderboards if that is your thing. There is no question that the challenge will put off the less patient player, and my attention was beginning to waver dramatically at just past the half way point, as there really isn’t much the game does differently to keep things feeling fresh throughout – and this is a key point, if you can’t concentrate, you can’t possibly hope to save any of your flock.
VERDICT: Flockers is a welcome new IP from Team 17. How lovely it must have been to work on something different after so many years of putting out Worms sequels. Flockers brings new life to the A to B puzzler, with its use of new age tech and brilliant level design making it a must see for fans of the genre, and a great place to start for those who have never seen a Lemming with green hair.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.