Flock! - hands-on

Abduction isn’t normally a funny thing. But say it happens to animals instead of children, and the kidnappers are aliens instead of a sex slave cartel, and it gets pretty hilarious. That pretty much explains Capcom's upcoming downloadable title, Flock, an adventure in animal theft. Playing as a flying saucer, you guide farm animals to your mothership to take them into space to... well, we don't know, but we've been assured it's positive and for a good cause.

Sadly, you can't just pick up a mammal yourself and drop it off; that would be too easy. You must make do with a light coming out of the ship that scares the little guys into running away from you. Much like Batman, you use that fear to control them, making them run to your home base, which then sucks them in until you've met your quota and can move on to the next farm. The challenge comes from getting the livestock into the ship, instead of accidentally making them fall into the many pits and other obstacles all over the area.

Each area contains tons of problems to work around. Each farm is on a tiny island, surrounded by sharks that will rip the animals into bloody carcasses, rending flesh from bone in a hilarious cartoony fashion. So don't lead them off the edge. Or into holes in the ground. Or off the side of a ramp. And when the lights go out, that means predators are sneaking around, ready to take your furry friends before you can steal them first. Grand theft sheep isn't supposed to be easy.

This could all make for a harrowing, puzzling experience, but the different types of animals can actually help you out, and they're all as adorable as their meat is delicious. The starting levels are filled with sheep, flocks of them even. They move at an average pace, but can be used in interesting ways. Get them wet, and they shrink for a short time. Find a female sheep, and males of the species can't help but follow in single file. Later, you'll find bulls that can bust through fences but don't move as fast as the sheep, or pigs that - when scared - roll into balls that move very fast but fall off of everything. There’s even a bit of animal husbandry later; if you can't hit your abduction quota, you might have to make new ones.

Flock’s comical design, such as the goofy bounciness of the sheep or pigs loving to roll in crap, may help lighten the load of some of the tougher areas later on. On top of that, its map creator looks pretty deep, and it has timed challenges to complete and high scores to achieve for the very skilled. When it comes out sometime this year, we look forward to getting some pigs to the end of a stage without a bloodbath.

Aug 13, 2008