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by Empire Interactive

It’s 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.  I’ve 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 it’s 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 wouldn’t 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 exec’s idea of hippies), and Neo Genetics (dumb, good with computers, and a possible poke at the game-playing public).  Finish the world and you’re 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.   

Matt Blackburn


Ups: Like Lemmings, only faster and funnier; nice looking graphics and clever game worlds.

Downs: Later levels can be repetitive.

System Reqs: P166, 32MB RAM, 80MB Hard Drive, 4MB Video Card (no 3D accelerator required)


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