Sheep Dog ‘N’ Wolf
It's certainly not the first time the Warner Brothers 'it's over 50 years old but we're never letting go' cartoon franchise has wriggled its way into the gaming world, usually pupating into some kind of over-easy platform game with only the characters' reputations offering any kind of purchasing incentive. But what's new about that, eh? More of the same here, then, but this time... this time...
Let's concentrate on looks first. It's obvious that cel-shading, (a graphics feature pioneered by Jet Set Radio, that seems to be spawning rapidly into almost every 3D cartoon platform game) has been used extensively here, although to be honest, I can't really tell if it makes that much of a difference in portraying the 2D visuals in 3D effect. It helps, sure, but away from the inimitable graffiti-daubed stylistics of Jet Set Radio it often feels too overstated. Especially when you think that it's been taken from an actual cartoon that didn't need to draw big black lines around characters to make them look 'authentic'. (It's true, animation fans - I remember them doing this in an early episode of Tasmania and the effect looked distinctly off-putting.)
However, these stuttering attempts to move into 3D show that the technique is a long way from perfection. It's natural that, with current technology, it can't compete frame for frame. Admittedly, the backgrounds look splendid and capture the Looney Tunes spirit well enough but, then, some of the characters look like they've just won a first-class cruise on the SS Fist. The worst victim of this evidently being Daffy Duck, whose familiar features have been bent wholly out of shape as he gains this other dimension.
Look Who's Talking...
And what's happened to everybody's voice? The original artists may be dead, but these pale excuses for imitations seem to offer all the panache and feeling of a school play rehearsal. Thank goodness none of the lead characters speak or we'd be howling at the moon in protest right now. And let's not mention the music. No, let's do mention the music. Imagine if all that classical orchestral music (and established sound effects) that fit the cartoon so well had been rammed in the aural bin and been replaced with some horrifically muted easy listening jazz that rips the soul out of a potential classic. Well imagine no more: just buy the game.
But, y'know, playing it for a while, I found most of these presentation faults got gently pushed aside - except for the music: that's unforgivable - and I found myself beginning to appreciate the game's structure and content. And moan about that instead...
Surely Not? Look Atthescore
There are only 17 levels to go through, which means it's all over in a few days. There are two secret levels, but don't be fooled as they're counted as part of the overall goal and it's easy to find them once you've got a few bonus points. These bonus points come in the form of hidden time clocks on each level - the points traded in for access to things like artwork, storyboards and behind-the-scenes info. Not much of a reward but one that expands the game's longevity a tiny bit further, since, rest assured it needs it. But ignoring the shortness of the game for now, let's concentrate on level design because that's where the final score draws most of its points.
Indeed, attempting to steal a sheep from the watchful gaze of Sam Sheepdog isn't even the half of it, as you first have to reach the herd, not to mention getting back to the goal as well. While levels seem large at first, you're really confined to a set linear path, gradually solving one puzzle after another. You can easily take each level and divide it into different sections, where the key to progress is confined to a small area. This is generally proven by the fact that, if you get caught, instead of losing a life or going right back to the start, you'll be placed at the set-up stage of the current puzzle you've been working on. On a higher level, the illusory hub structure belies the fact that levels can only be completed consecutively.
It's probably this aspect that makes the game easier than it should be, but, then, it helps to reduce frustration down from a gah! to a nngh! level. It's possible to not so much breeze, as lightly gust through the missions, it being less about action and more about 3D object manipulation for the most part. That is, until you get to the horror that is level ten and the mid-game 'boss', a section that calls for some tricky manoeuvres to be performed three times while avoiding the clutches of a big red hairy monster. It seemed to take me about the same time getting past that as it did playing through the whole of the previous levels. Anyone else who manages to do that section without falling into the lava more than 20 times without any foreknowledge of what to do deserves to have their name written on a plaque.
What - and here's where it gets really positive - makes the game better than it should be, though, is that a true effort has been made to make sure it never gets too repetitive. The new objects or obstacle introduced every level ups the enjoyment considerably, you're eager to figure out what they roduced every level ups the enjoyment considerably, as you're eager to figure out what they do and what you're going to get next. It's all your standard Acme products, but designed so as to actually slot seamlessly into the puzzles and integrate themselves with less incongruity than would be expected when trying to capture the more warped aspects of a classic Warner Brothers cartoon.
Triangle, Square, Circle, Alt
It's an arcade game first and foremost of course and has a k real arcadey feel to it. Fortunately, it's easy to r control with the keyboard. The game calls for precision P jumping a few times, however, the slower nature of the game and the close restart points make it less of a chore. The camera, - the bane of any 3D platform game - while not perfect, performs adequately, adjusting itself for the best possible view and only occasionally gets stuck on scenery when it was essential to maintain an ideal view.
To sum up, it's alternates between long lengths of easiness and short periods of ire-inducing frustration. Then it's all over just as you're getting into it. Nevertheless, the non-repetitive nature and puzzles make it fun to get through and one I found myself enjoying. Not a Classic but one of the best attempts I've seen at capturing the spirit of Looney Tunes in gaming. Except for the music. God that music...
Here, sheepy, sheep, sheepy, sheepy...
What can we expect in the way of gadgets then? Picking stuff out of the range randomly, there's a strap-on rocket that sees you careering about the skies with all the grace and poise of a drunk elephant. Seesaws are usually used to propel hapless sheep across the map with the aid of huge boulders, while giant elastic bands are used as either catapults or precariously unsafe bungee ropes. And... lettuce? Used to attract hungry sheep into your clutches. Ignore the stealth bushes, though. They're usually about as much use as a quid in a London coffee shop.
Download Sheep Dog ‘N’ Wolf
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP