Im all for cartoon
gamesthe zany possibilities are endless, and they have an automatic edge where
nostalgia is concerned. I was especially excited when I saw one of the great parings of
Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf in a Tomb Raider spoof. This game had tons of potential
starting out, but as I played through the levels, I found that although the cartoon antics
were fun, the makers really could have taken more of a lesson from the Laura Croft school
of thought than Daffy Duck. Because of the title, this game asks for a comparison in which
it doesnt always come out the winner.
Sheep Raider features a training level
(a la Croft) and 17 levels of sheep stealing mayhem. The goal of each level is to steal a
sheep and get it to a goal marker (in one piece, I might add) and to evade Sam Sheepdog
while doing so. Each level brings new surprises and skills, with Daffy Duck helping you
out with each new addition. There are also conveniently located mailboxes where you can
order supplies from the Acme company. Each mailbox orders one specific item and then loses
its usefulness. Items are stored in an easily accessible pull-down screen on the L1
button, and items can also be combined with each other by using the map screen.
Ralphs map also details the location of items of interest, mailboxes, lettuce (used
for luring sheep away), and most importantly, Sam and his flock. If all else fails, there
are signposts and an occasional character along the way to give you hints.
on this game leave a wee bit to be desired. There are lots of polygon problems, which are
annoying even in animated cartoon characters. This is even the case with cut scenes, which
are generally the places where programmers work hard to make things look extra nice. But
the problem is bad enough that Daffys beak looks deformed and his voice doesnt
even fit its movements. The backgrounds during the cut scenes are better, but lack
3-dimensionality and depth. In actual gameplay, the main characters, Sam and Ralph, look
very nice, but the backgrounds become the problematic element. The landscapes are very
simple, and the lack of detail occasionally causes problems in figuring out where to go in
a level. For levels that are fairly small and simple, I was hoping for a bit more detail.
The camera is
well done for the most part. There is a little lag in switching angles when characters go
around corners, but otherwise it is fairly reactive. You can even rotate the camera 180
degrees each way with the L1 and R1 buttons, or, even better, you can choose the
"Wolfs-eye view" and see a smooth 360 degrees along with horizontal and
vertical control by pressing triangle and using the directional buttons.
options are satisfying as well. You can run by tapping the circle key, which occasionally
lets you outrun Sam Sheepdog (though dont always count on it because he is much
faster than you would guess from looking at him). Jump and double jump are available, but
two of the Tomb Raider perks are missing herethe first being the ability to
grab/climb and the nifty feature of being unable to fall off inclines when you are walking
(or in Ralphs case, sneaking). For a game that almost guarantees younger playing
audience, the latter function would have made an excellent addition.
The music is
reminiscent of seventies funk, which gets old after a while, but I wouldnt have
dreamed of turning it off because of the great sound effects. From Ralphs plummet
down a cliff (complete with the moment of toe searching for ground and the poof of dust at
the bottom), to Sams bashing when he catches Ralph, and the cute sheep bleatings,
the game gives enough laughs to keep the stereo off and the sound up.
biggest place where I found myself wishing for a good dose of Tomb Raider was in the level
construction. First, most of the level is shown on the map (some missing/obstructed parts
dont show up), along with the location of a good number of the items you need to
pick up. This totally took away the "ah-ha!" factor of discovery in the game.
Besides this, the levels are very small and fairly simple. It doesnt take too long
to find out where the goal is and to get a good idea of what strategy needs to be employed
to retrieve your sheep. Problems occasionally arise when the lack of rounding and detail
keep you from finding access to parts of the level that are necessary to complete it.
Occasionally it also causes problems because you may understand what has to be done to
solve a problem, but it is difficult to see what needs to be done to solve it. This
doesnt mean that it requires skill and practice necessarily, but merely the blind
luck of repeated attempts. Some might argue that the levels dont need to be that
detailed for a younger audience, but I would disagree. I think of all the fun that kids I
know have with Mario and Sonic (which have multiple and large levels, with increasingly
complex goals), and I begin to think that Looney Toons has underestimated its younger
In the end, Sheep Raider is a game that has a fabulous premise, funny elements, and
lots of potential that just doesnt come through. I laughed many times with this game
and the cartoon additions of silliness, but the gameplay alternates between too
frustrating and too simple. I applaud the attempt, but if a game is going to try and stack
itself against a goliath like Tomb Raider, or pull off a spoof, it better have all of its
in a row.