Sheep, What a splendid idea for a game.
Isn’t it? And Minds Eye have done a tremendous job in turning a great idea into a highly playable little gem. Not simply a One Man And His Dog affair, Sheep turns out to be a fantastically quirky little puzzler in which you must herd a small flock of sheep to safety through seven themed worlds and 30 levels full of traps.
Herd them to safety? Why, are you an animal rights activist on a mission freeing sheep from the clutches of some evil corporation carrying out cloning experiments?
Not quite. You see, today’s modern sheep are in fact aliens.
It turns out they’re really the ancestors of a bunch of woolly explorers who found Earth thousands of years ago. Their mission was to study man while posing as stupid peace-loving animals, but these ‘early’ sheep unfortunately forgot about the job in hand and slowly they evolved into the dumb creatures we now compare to the modern Man. United fan.
So, aliens or not, they always were a bit on the stupid side then
Mmm. You have a point there. But anyway: now the sheep ancestors have returned to Earth to reclaim their lost flock and they’ve implanted several of its home denizens with the ‘urge to herd’ so they’ll round up all the lost sheep and bring them to Mount Mouflon for the journey home. And that’s where you come in: you’re one of these special shepherds.
Marvellous. And what kind of environments must you negotiate your sheep through?
Very colourful isometrically viewed 3D ones. They cover six themes: Polygon Farm (a set of pastoral levels of fields and farm yards and dangers such as tractors and combine harvesters); then there is Village Fate, Lost In Space, Mr Whoppy’s Ice Cream factory, Jurassic Playground and Club Nation (in which, if you’re not careful, your sheep become totally distracted by dance music). The final fiendish level is the Temple of Loom – the place where all your sheep, hopefully, will catch their ride home and escape the clutches of the evil Dr Watson.
The evil who?
Ah yes. Forgot to mention him. Also visiting Earth is a mad scientist who wishes to steal the alien Sheep technologies so he can rule the universe. Through his hench cows he will seek to thwart the sheep and their shepherds throughout their dangerous pilgrimage.
You can play as more than one shepherd then?
Indeed you can. There are four shepherds in all: Bo Peep, formerly a sexy rock singer and – since her abduction – a friend to all things woolly; Adam Half Pint (a Fox Mulder-type); Motley – a timid (he’s even scared of sheep) pet dog – and last but not least, Sheep – a handsome, heroic sheepdog.
And, you have to ‘get behind’ your sheep to herd them, do you?
Well, there are in fact three ways to herd your sheep. Shouting (or barking) is the most important of these, and the volume of your calls (there is a scale of 1-10) will either put the fear of God into them or coax them gently. You can also bribe your sheep with sweets to get them through scary obstacles, and, as you’ve just intimated, you can try using a little less skill and physically herd them. If you can that is, because not all breeds of sheep want to be herded through traffic, especially not your Modern Factoral.
Are there different breeds of sheep too?
Yes. You can choose from four breeds of sheep (of which you must attempt to herd your sheep in a given time limit): your basic Modern Pastoral (which are extremely timid and stupid, good for virgin shepherds); Modern Factorial sheep will follow anything if it’s fashionable and are prone to getting themselves into all sorts of dangerous situations, bless ’em; your Long Wool is a dreadlocked hippie breed of sheep (beware of dance music) and as a result it’ll try anything once but is also extremely stupid; the cool, bespectacled Neo Genetics are not phased by technology (like traffic) but are still hopeless when confronted with something like an open tract of grass.
Fun is it?
Absolutely! It’s really quite a relaxing game – even given the frustratingly stupid nature of the creatures you’re dealing with – and it’s packed with jokes and inventive dangers: ice cream factories, electrified rail tracks, snow, cattle grids, combine harvesters, tall fields of wheat – they can all bring your sheep to a sticky end, or merely confuse them. And, platform fans, you can pick up power-ups and collectibles which can make your sheep jump through hoops.
Do you reckon Sheep might make an impact on the public?
We hope and think it should. It’s certainly funny, immersive, original and bonkers enough too. Look out for our forthcoming review.