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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Flockers (Sony Playstation 4)

Review by Brad L.

Flockers represents a lot of my PC gaming childhood; when I wasn't playing the latest Sierra and LucasArts point-and-click adventures, I was playing Lemmings, Lemmings 2: The Tribes, and Worms a lot. With Flockers, Team 17 has flown in and basically given me the core mechanics of Lemmings, with the humour of Worms, and I couldn't be happier with this. 

 Flockers follows the Lemmings tradition of completely misrepresenting the animal the game is based off . In the game, you're in control of a flock of sheep that following each other from A to B, regardless of the danger that it poses to them. While we now know that neither sheep nor lemmings actually follow each other to their deaths, it is still endearing to see the sheep happily and stupidly bouncing away and playing follow the leader to their deaths.



Where Flockers breaks away from Lemmings and makes its own mark on the puzzle genre is with the incredible traps laid out in front of the sheep, as well as a leaderboard that adds way more to the game than most leaderboards do. I'm not sure about most people, but this is the first game that had me playing levels repeatedly - and not to double check for my review, either. I was replaying them so I could attain the highest score out of anyone (and I did, on level 1, at the time of writing this review!). The sheep in Flockers meet much gorier, untimely deaths than the lemmings as well. It is a sight to behold, in this Shaun the Sheep meets Steam Punk world, when your flock of sheep mindlessly wander into the path of a giant buzz saw, with no way to stop them, blood and gore flying all over the screen. Flockers isn't for the faint of heart, but I couldn't stop laughing all the same, even though I failed my sheep (and many of the levels) miserably.

Hidden under the gory Steam Punk aesthetic is a quality puzzler, too. Even though in every corner lies spike traps, buzz saws, and crushing devices, Team 17 have done a great job of creating levels where it is challenging - but never impossible - to save all of the sheep. There's a quality mix of trial and error and forward planning in there, something I believe that has been lacking in today’s age of mobile puzzlers (and please, let me know of some quality puzzlers in the comments below; I like to be proven wrong!). Most levels require a look around at the entire level in advance, while your sheep are dying of course, in order to understand the layout of the level, and to formulate a plan to get those sheep to the end. Teleporters often take your sheep to far away locations in the level, building that sense of timing that is so crucial in games like this. I have not played a puzzle game like this in so long that required such serious brain power. Flockers is a very, very difficult game, but one that always has a solution, and practically keeps you engaged every step of the way. As mentioned previously, at the time of writing this review I had the number one score on the leader board in the first level. As of now, I still only have a two-star rating. That is how hard Flockers can get!


The levels in Flockers are also made better through the small amount of abilities given in the game. While Lemmings had diggers, builders, stoppers, pole vaulters, and over 10 more abilities, Flockers merely has leapers, super sheep (who fly up vertical walls), exploders and a small variety of sheep platforms, which serve as small bridges and walls to stop the sheep in their tracks when necessary. The powers are not given at the beginning of a level, either. The sheep need to work for their powers, discovering crates that are littered around each level. Certain crates give certain powers, so it becomes apparent very quickly that the sheep can’t just rely on the same power for every situation. Some of the trickier puzzles require having a sheep stand on another sheep, while exploding the bottom sheep so that the other sheep basically rocket jumps to a higher platform or hits a button so the rest of the sheep can advance in the name of its fallen comrade.

There are some boss levels throughout the game, as well as some secret levels that offer an alternative goal. They do a good job of giving some variety to the game as well, and while not completely necessary, do round up the game nicely. There is also a rewards system in place, so that the sheep can dress up as Zombies, Pirates, and even 8-Bit costumes, which increases the re-playability of Flockers. Really, the only drawbacks I can come up with is that, despite there being a touch-pad right there on the DualShock 4, it is not used as a mouse, which is a puzzling design choice. There is also a level editor available on the Steam version of Flockers, which isn’t available here.



Flockers will not only test your puzzling ability but also the ability to not feel like a baaaad (man, Brad, you almost managed to get through the whole review before doing that - ed.) person as you laugh at every sheep's' untimely end. Flockers is a clever game for the thinking gamer and those fans of Lemmings who have been waiting for so long for another quality puzzler in the style. If Team 17 can bring the level editor and level sharing ability over from the PC version in a future update, as well as a touchpad interface, I’d give it that last star.



- Brad L.
Contributor 


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Review: Flockers (Sony Playstation 4)
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