Easily the weirdest game to hit the PS in a while, Empire's Sheep is actually looking quite good. Sure, these screens don't look like much, but herding your flock around the many obstacles in each area of Sheep is so addicting. You push the flock with your "circle of influence" through each area, avoiding traps like wheat sharks, tractors and deadly sheering machines.
Meanwhile, driving the little balls of yarn over ramps and through "sheep dip" (see top picture) yields bonus points. Each world gets progressively weirder, including a space level that promises lots of low-gravity antics. Empire's guaranteeing a variety of unique multiplayer games when Sheep is released this October. The developer, Mind's Eye, is touting Sheep as a "great flockin' game." Well...what the heck else could they call it?
Set for release from British softco Empire Interactive before the end of the year is a simple but effective action/strategy game called Sheep. Imagine something that's kind of a cross between Psygnosis' Lemmings and Team 17's Worms and you'll have a rough idea of what this thing rs about. Control the sheep, guide them to safety and commit acts of unspeakable violence in an oddly cartoon-like environment. It's all a bit disturbing, but it looks like it might be quite fun.
Aliens are among us and have been since the dawn of history. But these aliens aren’t dark and menacing -- they’re cute and fluffy. Deep in the past they came to Earth to observe and nurture the primitive life forms just beginning to see the first glimmerings of intelligence. Over the countless millennia their descendants have forgotten their task and blended into the world around them. They are Sheep.
Now their brethren have returned to Earth and recruited you to help return the lost ones to their home. Your mission is to escort four flocks of lost sheep through dangerous landscapes to reunite them with their forgotten past. Along the way you’ll encounter hazards ranging from crazed shearing machines and vicious cornfield sharks to boiling tar and black holes, all of which will try to destroy your flock.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Did you ever play Lemmings? I loved trying to get those little guys home through the twisted levels and hazards (I also loved the way they grabbed their heads and squealed as they exploded). Sheep offers much the same premise, but with some delightful twists.
You play as one of four Shepherds: Bo Peep, lead singer in a rock band; Adam, former bank manager turned private eye; Shep, the aging sheep dog; or Motley, loveable house pet with dreams of greatness. Choose your avatar carefully -- each brings different skills to play. For example, while Shep is slowing down with age, his years of experience make him more adept at controlling the sheep and keeping the flock together, while Bo Peep has a knack for guiding stray sheep away from danger.
Each of the four flocks you need to rescue (Pastoral, Factoral, Long Wool, and Neogenetic) has a unique personality that affects how they will react to you as well as the world around them. Pastoral are your basic dumb ruminants -- they’ll flock with each other and run from most dangers, but get one separated from the herd and he’ll wander into trouble faster than you can turn around. The Long Wool tribe, on the other hand, is more aggressive. They’ll charge into danger more often than their cousins, and can be much more stubborn when you’re trying to guide them to safety.
As the Shepherd you don’t control your sheep directly -- instead they react to your movements and the world around them in occasionally unpredictable ways. All four flocks will shy away from most dangers and once grouped they will stick together. You have more influence on them than anything else in their environment. If you’re not careful you’ll have them running from you straight into hazards. Getting the flock where you want them takes skill and practice.
You do have several tricks to help you out. In addition to running behind the flock you can sneak up on the sheep and even pick one up and carry it for short distances. Add in "enhancement" devices that will give your flock temporary special abilities and you’ll have all the tools you need to bring them safely home. But move fast, you’re up against he clock and every sheep counts. The levels start out fairly easy, but they quickly become tougher -- providing a solid challenge for the player -- even the most experienced Lemmings herder will find beating Sheep no easy task.
Graphics & Audio
Cute is the operative term here. From the bouncing and bleating as the sheep move around to the often hilarious effects for sheep falling into traps, the animations and sounds in Sheep are hysterical. While the goal of the game is saving the flocks, watching them get caught and die in the various hazards can be a lot of fun too. I found the shaggy Longhair tribes antics most amusing. The video clips are the only thing I didn’t like -- not because they weren’t good, but because I saw them way too often as I replayed each level trying to get through the game.
Pentium 166 MHz (266 Mhz or faster recommended), 32 MB RAM, 80 MB Hard Disk Space, and a 4X CD-ROM drive.
Sheep is the kind of fun, quirky puzzle game that doesn’t come along often. Fun and addictive, this one will keep you playing for hours. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a puzzle game I enjoyed as much as Lemmings, but Empire has a winner here. So grab your Shepherd’s crook, boot up, and get ready to herd -- the Sheep are waiting.