Its Christmas time and in the Northwest that means sheep. Lots of sheep.
Sheep everywhere. Sheep needing
shepherds. Sheep getting run over by
tractors, eaten by hay sharks, diced by robots, and generally being the annoying little
buggers you always knew them to be. Or maybe
this is just me. Ive been playing Sheep
from Empire Interactive, and if you love puzzle games like Lemmings, Sheep will make for
an addictive holiday experience.
Sheep's premise goes like this:
apparently, several million years ago an advanced alien species deposited some observers
on little planet Earth. Time goes by, America
elects George Bush Jr. president, and now the aliens have returned to our corner of the
universe and found their observers silly, stupid, and living in Florida. And they look just like sheep. In their wisdom, these friends from the stars
kidnap four potential shepherds Bo Peep, Adam Half Pint, Motley, and Shep
and its up to them (i.e., you in the guise of said kidnapees) to rescue as many
alien sheep as you can.
Though I'm not a big fan of puzzle
games, living out my shepherd fantasies was fun. Sheep
takes place over seven worlds, each of which is cleverly constructed. The graphics make good use of color, look anime
cool, and are often funny; who wouldnt laugh at mobster cows with laser guns? Each world is then divided into four levels, which
can be completed with four different types of sheep: the pastorals (dumb from the fields),
factorals (dumb from the factory), longhairs (a corporate execs idea of hippies),
and Neo Genetics (dumb, good with computers, and a possible poke at the game-playing
public). Finish the world and youre
treated with a nice cut-scene to advance the story.
The controls are simple and easily
mastered. Using the mouse, keyboard or
joystick, position the herder behind the sheep in the direction you wish them to go. They flee and you follow, trying to keep them all
going in something resembling the same direction. Running
makes them move faster. Creeping gets you
closer before the sheep scoot (also allows you to catch them). Shout and they scatter. Different kinds of power-ups help you to motivate
your charges as well. The basics can be
figured out in ten minutes or less. Music and sound are okay, too.
The only problem with Sheep is that
it, like most things sheep- related, can sometimes get repetitive. The worlds of Sheep change as you advance but
really just present amped versions of the same challenges contained in the lower areas. Rather than
requiring different strategies and more complex thought, the advanced sections of Sheep
demand only persistence.
But mostly Sheep is a fast, witty
puzzle game made with obvious care. It's like
Lemmings if you can imagine Lemmings on adrenaline and blessed with a wicked sense of
humor. Even gamers who lean towards action games
will have a blast with Sheep--at least for a while; the later levels may be too frustrating for the
fast-twitch crowd. But puzzle fans will love it
throughout--for them, picking up a copy of Sheep should be a no-brainer.