A generous sprinkling of Lemmings and a dash of LittleBigPlanet go a long way to making Flock! one of the trickiest and most charming downloadable games out there. As with all great puzzlers, the premise is simple, yet completing each level is anything but. You must use your UFO’s beam to herd different animals into a mothership, and as easy as that sounds, there are tons of hazards and increasingly complicated level layouts doing their very best to make sure you lose as many animals as possible along the way.
Your creatures can easily slip off the edge of an unbordered cliff and drown, as well as be eaten by predators in the night-time levels unless you scare them off with your beam. Not only that, your critters can be grabbed by moles and thrown a few feet to one side, usually over the edge of a cliff. Animals can also be scared by evil scarecrows causing them to run away in panic – again, usually over the edge of a cliff. Finally, creatures can be distracted or held up by thick crops, pinball-style bumpers and piles of shit. There’s danger everywhere, and one over-enthusiastic nudge of your UFO’s beam in the wrong direction can end it all.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat the hazards if you’re smart and pay close attention to the start of a level when you’re shown the locations of the animals and points of interest. Cows can knock down fences that smaller animals such as pigs and sheep can’t. Roosters can flap their way across gaps. Sheep can mate with a special pink ewe on a ‘love patch’ and produce lambs for those times when you start the level without enough animals. There are catapults to help your animals get across wider chasms. Water geysers temporarily shrink sheep allowing them to slip under fences and these can be zapped up using your tractor beam and placed across gaps as makeshift bridges. Crops can be flattened using your depressor beam. You get the picture.
There’s a hell of a lot going on and there are always a few different routes and ways to get the animals to the mothership, but you need to be seriously quick to earn a gold, silver or bronze medal. Keep every animal alive and you’ll also earn a ‘perfect abduction’ star, which along with gaining medals rewards you with items to use in the excellent level editor. There are already hundreds of user-created levels to sift through with some truly fiendish ones among them.
And as much as the sheep, cows, pigs and roosters do tend to regularly annoy you by wandering off yet another cliff, you’ll want to abduct every last one because they’re so damn cute. How can you not love a sheep made out of cotton wool that squeaks adorably when it moves, or a toy cow that you’re able to catapult up into the sky? Flock! is a delight and totally irresistible. If you’re still dithering after such a glowing recommendation, then just let us say this. You owe it to yourself to give Flock! a go. At a humble price, it’s one of the best-value downloadable games out there. Did we mention the cute sheep?
Apr 8, 2009