For most folks, herding creatures probably sounds as stimulating as watching a 24-hour ski-ballet marathon on ESPN2. Who would have thought an entire game devoted to herding could actually be entertaining? Entertaining for some, anyway. At its core, Herdy Gerdy’s a puzzle-solving platform game for kids in the 8-to-i2-age zone. In addition to its Disney-cartoon look, it contains very G-rated dialogue, a kid-friendly story, and stays far away from violent themes. With that in mind, HG definitely has a place in some households, but certainly not all. The most difficult parts of the game are navigating vast, maze-like levels and completing quests for key characters to advance the story. This is where younger minds, and anyone who isn’t used to puzzle-based adventure games, may run into problems. Some of WG’s levels are almost labyrinthian, making it too easy to get lost, and the confusing map hinders more than it helps. Also, you’re only given one chance to absorb pertinent info given by non-playable characters. If you don’t, you’re forced to run around every nook and cranny of the level to find out what’s been opened up. Sticky camera angles make for frustrating gameplay when it comes to platforming actions like trapping Gromps (WG's monsters) and traversing areas requiring delicate balance. For what it is, HG’s a well-designed game, albeit mainly for precocious gamer kids.
Novel herd-the-critters gameplay, slick puzzles, lush environments, unruly waterfowl-all the ingredients for a good time are rounded up in Herdy Gerdy. It’s too bad so many important details slipped under the fence. Gamers prone to motion sickness might upchuck from the choppy visuals and squirrely camera, which flits around with a mind of its own. And levels get too large and puzzling too quickly; I wasted a lot of time wandering between maps trying to find needed items. The game’s at its best in the small stages, when you’re figuring how to herd multiple species simultaneously. If it had more focused fun like that, Gerdy would’ve captured me.
It’s difficult to believe just how much fun Herdy Gerdy isn’t. No matter how long I spent running through its convoluted levels, the gameplay just wasn’t happening. Herding creatures, be they Doops, Bleeps or anything else, is a tedious chore thanks to general choppiness and a confused, haphazard camera. I’ve lost count of all the brown ledges, brown rocks and brown trees I’ve seen instead of Gerdy. It’s also a struggle to figure out what to do; the game lacks direction, and its technical and aesthetic flaws emphasize that. This isn’t Jak & Daxter and it sure isn’t Pikmin, though it tries to be a bit of both. It will frustrate kids and irritate adults.
Download Herdy Gerdy
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The guys at Core Design have been working on this genre-defying adventure/puzzle/herding game for, well, longer than they care to admit. In fact, Herdy Gerdy--due in March--was originally conceived as a Nintendo 64 project, until Core showed the concept to Sony a few years ago. "They were like, 'How about doing this on PlayStation 2?'" Core Design's Adrian Smith told us. "We said, 'How about giving us a dev kit and we will."' Sony, apparently, was excited by Herdy Gerdy's novel gameplay, which has you--as a shepherd named Gerdy--herding critters who frolic in a wild kingdom of oddball animals. All the beasts interact with Gerdy and each other in a variety of ways. The game has a food chain, for instance, so if you use the bell power-up to attract the tiny animals you need to herd, you'll also attract the bigger beasts who dine on those animals. It makes for a complex ecosystem kinda like the one promised in the now Xbox-only Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. "If Gerdy runs through a group of cows and they scatter," Smith said, "they might scatter a group of animals you need to herd and make your job harder.
It's like dropping a stone into a pool and watching the ripples go out." So, long story short, Core got one of the very first PS2 dev kits, and Herdy Gerdy is one of the first games built to take advantage of the hardware. "People who complain about PS2 and say it doesn't have enough memory should come work on Gerdy," Smith said, "because 90 percent of the textures seen in the world are specifically drawn for that area, so you don't see a patch of grass again and again." This mountain of texture data has forced Core to ship Herdy Gerdy on DVD instead of CD. "It's the closest we've seen so far to a Disney movie," Smith said.