If you’ve ever played the well-known Amiga classic Lemmings, then you’ve technically played Flockers. At the core of the game’s DNA, it’s subbing out the humanoid Lemmings for a flock of death-bound sheep. Now, that’s not a knock on the game or its developer Team17, as Flockers ultimately ends up being a decent homage to the classic. That said, I will knock the game for its questionable design choices and lack of soul.
Flockers’ gameplay is all about trying to get as many sheep as possible to each map’s exit point. In addition to guiding the sheep, you’ll have to dodge all kinds of gloriously gory deathtraps such as saws, spikes, high falls, pounding slabs of metal and more. While your first patches of sheep die, it’s hard not to feel for the fellas and even let out a laugh, but after two levels, the charm and dark humor of the sheep dying fades away. What’s worse is that said charm is substituted with stress and multiple hits of the retry button.
Now, guiding the sheep is handled by the manipulation of their ability to navigate. They’re constantly walking forward and it’s up to you to make sure they’re prepared to jump over gaps, rocket up to high ledges, or stand on each other to create steps. The trick is applying these different abilities at the right times, as each ability is limited to only a certain amount of use. For instance, you can apply the jumping ability (which is a beanie) to 30 sheep or you can have the sheep-stacking ability usable for four times in a round. Thankfully, it’s not too frequent where you are absolutely out of something you need, but this can lead to a lot of frustration and trial and error.
With such a small set of commands, this can also lead to repetition. It’s a weird critique, I must admit, since adding more commands would undoubtedly make the game even more needlessly complex. It’s like if someone were to design a fighting game where all you could do was punch, kick, jump, and crouch. Sure, it’d be passable fun, but not for any longer than ten minutes.
Scattered around the levels are hidden sheep, bonus level unlocks, and teleportation machines. These add an extra layer of challenge for those seeking it.
Speaking of the teleportation machine, I feel like this is an unnecessary addition to the game as it makes it more complex than it should be. As a matter of fact, the whole game kind of screams of unnecessary additions. Anti-gravity? Really? I get the need for adding these as a way to spice up an old formula, but maybe Team17 should have incorporated them a bit better. And yes, I know that the point is to make it challenging, but come on, it’s still got to be compelling, right? At least the actual layouts of the levels can get pretty creative.
Perhaps this issue could have been side-stepped entirely if it weren’t for the title’s damned camera. It doesn’t feel fluid at all as you’ll be over-zooming in or out quite frequently. This is especially relevant in later levels when you’re trying to manage a split-up group of sheep and the camera is just at odds with you rather than helping. It’s not the worst camera gaming has ever seen, but it still can be a really frustrating time.
The game’s workshop-like atmosphere and simplistic art make for a pleasant presentation. Hearing the sheep give out that last dying breath for the first handful of times definitely stings, but it also elicits a little chuckle because, come on, sheep falling off of a high ledge into a giant spinning buzzsaw blade is a wee bit hilarious.
Flockers is a strange title for me. Not once did I hate it, but I was never compelled to play it for more than two, three levels tops. Perhaps it would’ve been better served as a tablet/smartphone game, but I wouldn’t know how they would compensate for the camera controls. It’s a hollow experience that’s missing that special sauce to really make it something you want to have extended sittings with.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.