by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
You know those lovable explosive sheep you find in the Worms games? They don’t just fall from the sky, you know. Well they do fall from the sky in the game, but I mean they have to be manufactured somewhere. Flockers is a new game from Team 17 which takes place in the same universe as the Worms games. There’s an entire factory for manufacturing the sheep, but they want to escape. They may be fairly mindless, but that doesn’t mean they want to be blown up.
The crater good
Think Lemmings mixed with the style of Worms. Flockers is a tactical puzzle game where you start with a few dozen sheep. They will run in a single direction without question until they hit a barrier, and then they’ll walk back again. It’s up to you to guide them using various formations and power ups. For example, if you stack two sheep in a column, the rest of them will bounce off and walk the other way. Or, you could stack three of them in the form of steps, so the rest of the sheep can reach higher levels.
Your objective is to get as many sheep as you can to the end of the level (although one will do), where they will be funneled off into the next level, furthering their pursuit of freedom. If the sheep run over a crate - certainly familiar to Worms fans - you will be able to use whatever ability or sheep formation tied to that crate. One crate will allow you to give a certain number of sheep the ability to jump over longer gaps. Another will turn them into the familiar Super Sheep, giving them a red cape and the ability to fly up vertical walls. Yet another gives you the ability to blow up a single sheep after a short period of time. This is exactly what they’re trying to avoid, but you know, the greater good.
It’s not as simple as jumping over gaps and climbing up ledges though - this is the Worms universe, violence is everywhere. Huge walls of spikes, jagged pits and many other deathly traps await your hapless sheep. Saw blades whirr, guillotines slam down and huge weights drop from great heights. So much blood splatters everywhere that you half expect that this is just a really odd mod for Hotline Miami. However the little fellas are so cute compared to all the whirring machinery around them, it’s hard to be horrified.
The meat of it
It’s hard to get all of your sheep to the end of the level without a single one dying, but it is often feasible. If you want the best score, you’ll need to save as many as you can, and in as little time possible. You’ll be given a star rating out of three at the end of the level, and you’ll be shown where you rank on the global leaderboards. All sorts of stats are tracked, leading to unlocks further down the road. How many sheep you’ve saved, how many you’ve crushed, how many you’ve sawn in half, how many crates you’ve collected. At some point, you start unlocking new items that can be used to customise your sheep with new clothes, new outfits, and even new colours of blood. It’s all just cosmetic, but it gives you something to work towards.
There are sixty main story levels to keep you going, and you’re able to download user made community levels when you're done. On top of that, there are twelve “boss” levels that have you trying to survive various massive contraptions with seemingly endless ways of killing your sheep. Some special levels challenge you to keep a single sheep alive from the beginning to the end of the level, or at least until it can wake up some of its sleeping buddies. So there is a bit of variety, but perhaps not enough to keep things interesting for the entire game. The backgrounds change between the different Worms ‘worlds’, but the things trying to kill you stay largely the same.
It’s mostly a case of introducing everything too early. I understand that the developer wants to show off all its mechanics, but just about everything you can do is taught in the tutorial level. From there, it’s just slight variants of those basic ideas. A bit of progression towards new abilities would have been nice and added longevity. As it is, the game almost outstays its welcome. The levels are all different, but they play on the same ideas.
I also would’ve liked a bit more story action. There are a few cutscenes, but they’re just cutesy ways of showing the sheep moving around the factory and outdoors. It is in keeping with the style of the Worms universe that there’s not much interplay between the player and the characters, but it all felt a bit disconnected. Surely someone, or something, is in charge of all this machinery? A bit of a voiceover from them, or even some outside figure would’ve livened things up a bit.
Flockers is a great idea for a puzzle game, but it suffers from a lack of polish and some poor design choices. Having every game mechanic unlocked from the start gives you nothing to work towards. Going for unlocks and trying to work your way up the leaderboards does give the game a degree of replayability, as do the sixty levels. Together with whatever you decide to grab from the community, you'll probably get your money's worth out of it.
Great idea for a puzzle game, satisfying to finish a level and see how well you’ve done on the leaderboards
No great sense of progression, levels become repetitive quickly