The Xbox One Game Marketplace, not yet a year old, continues to grow before us. That growth was slow in the beginning, but as we race towards the year’s end, the pace of game releases (especially of the ID@Xbox variety) is intensifying. With titles coming out so regularly it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Luckily, we have you covered. This week sees the release of Flockers
, the latest from Worms Battlegrounds
developer, Team 17.Flockers
is an A-to-B puzzler that pits a flock of cute and cuddly sheep versus a series of environmental dangers, in short: it’s a new take on Lemmings
. These sheep of yours march methodically and adorably towards their inevitable end, whether it’s the end of the level or a gruesome death is entirely up to you. With no explanation and a minimal tutorial, you’re thrust into a steampunk world of spinning saw blades, threatening spikes and smashing platforms. This is no place for sheep. You are, however, given a small assortment of abilities to help your flock traverse this cursed place. They may jump, fly, fall, stack and even explode their way to victory; while these abilities are used cleverly they are very few in number and don’t add much variation to the all too similar looking levels that you’ll continually face.
Speaking of levels, there are over sixty of increasing difficulty to choose from and their challenges are the game’s greatest strength. Flockers
continuously finds ways to force you to use your few maneuvering options creatively and by the end of the game you’re still finding new and complex methods with the same choices you had at the start of your twisted adventure. The objective of victory is simple: get one of your sheep to the exit of the level, just one. The more that survive and the fewer abilities you use increases your score, placing you onto the game’s leaderboard and awarding you a level ranking of up to three stars. This layout works, but you may find it all too familiar to that mobile game that we’ve all played. Sporadic boss levels make their way into the campaign as well, but too often they feel like wasted opportunities. You’ll come across a big tank or massive mechanical spider but they just serve as another obstacle to shuffle past on your way to the level exit. They shake things up a little, but not enough to truly vary the gameplay.
One thing (probably the first thing) that you’ll notice shortly into your grueling challenge is the violence. Oh the violence. Don’t be fooled by these cute animals and their adorable outfits, this game is gruesome. When that huge, precarious axe swings free and comes crashing down on your little guys, the result is an explosion of blood, gore and all manner of sheepy bits as they’re strewn across the desolate landscape. Platforms pulverize, spikes impale still-writhing bodies and saw blades tear your fleecy buddies limb from limb. It’s bloody, it’s gross, it’s entertaining but above all: it’s effective. You can feel the horror as your sheep let out screams of terror as they face death. You want to save them, you have to save them. You will not succeed, not with all of them. This over the top violence and terror lead to a palpable tension as you struggle to get every fluffy body across the finish line.
What gives the game lasting appeal is its substantial challenge. As you near the later levels, your tasks seem increasingly insurmountable and it’s this difficulty that will likely be what brings you back, as you desperately try to complete that one that got away. You’ll find yourself pausing time, a useful feature, and mapping out the entire expanse of doom that lay before you just to catch a glimpse of possible survival. That survival does not come without frustration however. More often than not you’ll be restarting a level because you didn’t see that axe, or didn’t know that platform was going to move. There’s even an unlockable reward for restarting a level 200 times, a reward I acquired easily nearly halfway through the game. The biggest offenders are the “lambo” (Rambo
, sheep puns are everywhere you see) levels in which you are given a single sheep to traverse a landscape of great peril, which translates to a lot of instant failures and level restarts. A “please sir, may I have some more” attitude is not only recommended, but essential here. There are cheap deaths and there are last minute blunders, trial and error is the motto in Flockers
Achievement wise the list is strong with a good mix of early rewards, quirky accomplishments and completionist challenges. One such achievement, getting three stars on every single stage
, is a truly terrifying concept. But at 100 points and likely an insane ratio, it’s the type of challenge TA’s most hardcore can strive for. Also available are in-game rewards for achieving certain criteria such as killing a certain amount of sheep in various gruesome ways or attaining each level’s collectible. The rewards come either costumes to change the appearance of your flock or blood types to change the color of their squishy insides. While purely cosmetic they do help to freshen things up a bit, especially when you’re staring down the same drab gray-brown expanse of death for the hundredth time.
While the challenges will test both your skill and patience, the biggest challenge may be the game’s cost. Coming in at $24.99/£19.99 it’s not exactly competitively priced, we’re talking nearly half a full retail title here. You may get a hefty amount of challenging puzzles, but for the money it’s light on the content side. There are no competitive or cooperative modes, nor are there any alternative game types to shake up the pace. Taking the leap to buy now is tough, especially given the expansive list of exciting games lined up for release this fall.
But at the end of it Flockers
fits a distinctive gap in a growing Xbox One marketplace. Whether you’ve been craving that tough puzzler to come along and really give you a challenge or you just want to blow up some sheep, it will fit the bill perfectly. It’s just a shame that what you get comes at such a hefty cost.
The reviewer spent approximately twenty hours playing the game, unlocking 16 out of 20 achievements for 700G, and completing 57 out of 60 levels. This review copy was provided courtesy of the publisher