And, thankfully, it's better than your average title when it comes to the gameplay as well. Sheep
is cute, quirky, and a hell of a lot of fun, reminding me the most of a cross between Lemmings
and, well, sheep. Like in Lemmings
, you've got to contend with the stupidity of your ward, but instead of using special powers to get them past the various obstacles, you've got to use elements of the maps themselves, the occasional boom-box, and a whole lot of quick thinking.
You play as one of four shepherds (two humans and two dogs), given the duty to get a flock of sheep from one end of a level to another. And, in the end, that's all there is to the game -- successful navigation of a level. Of course, that navigation is far from trivial, and with four different types of sheep to contend with, you'll find it enough of a challenge.
The four types of sheep each behave slightly differently. The Pastorals, for example, are scared of absolutely everything. The Factorals, on the other hand, don't give a damn about running in front of anything. The Longwools are a compromise between the two, and the Neo-Genetics are the easiest to have avoid death, but also the hardest to get moving. Of course, all of the sheep are damnably obstinate when you need them to move, and more than happy to go places you don't want them, but there's a noticeable difference in the behavior patterns of the different flocks.
Each level has its own tricks and obstacles. Sometimes you'll have to have your sheep avoid deadly shearing devices. Other times you've got to get them launched over castle walls. Each set of four levels has a theme, from the forest to space, and you have to use each of the four flocks in the four levels. So just because the Neo-Genetics are the easiest to get through some of the levels doesn't mean you get to use them for all four.
The basic mechanic of the game is this: when you move towards the sheep, they move away from you. Period. You can creep up on them, and they won't move, or you can yell, and they'll scatter. Every command has its use, and you'll find yourself fighting like a madman to keep the sheep "in line." They're dumb as bricks, but they utilize basic flocking techniques, and move "realistically." I'm saying that euphemistically, as I have no idea how real sheep flock. But it's convincing enough to me. There's invariably one sheep who wants to stick around that you've got to convince otherwise. But while you're doing that, the others meander around. It's frustrating, but definitely an important part of the game.
There are also a few "extras" in the game. If you find all of the golden statues in a set of worlds, you get to go to a bonus game to get some extra points. And there's a goofy soccer game that you can play with two players where you've got to herd your sheep into the ball and make them score for you. It's even more frustrating than the main game, because your friend screws you up just as much as the computer. The real meat of the game, however, is the simple herding of sheep. And since you can always try the levels again to get a perfect survival ratio, there's definitely replay value here.