“Flockers” HERD MENTALITY - Games Weekly

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Thursday, November 13, 2014


“Meat The Flockers” suggests the promotional material, demonstrating even before you’ve loaded up the game that Team17 is happy to openly take inspiration from wherever it fancies . Here, “Flockers” are the sheep from the Worms series, and “meat” is what they inevitably become when placed in a game so unashamedly like Lemmings. It’s strange that these sheep would bother to try to escape the
Worms’ weapons factory when they have no sense of self preservation. Like Lemmings, they know only to march onwards until thwarted, be that by reaching the end of the level, some kind of obstacle,a specific command from the player, or most likely their gruesome death. Your job is to use commands to get them past obstacles, to the end of the 2D level retaining as much life as possible.

Of course, you have limited control, both in range of commands and the number of times you can use each. Only three are particularly interesting: the ability to jump (represented, comically enough, by giving that sheep a woolly hat), the ability to scale walls (thanks, somehow, to a cape), and the order to self-destruct. Aside from those, you’re limited to using some of the sheep to create different kinds of shapes to help/hinder the others to move onwards, with a “release” command that then frees
those that are frozen.

Each level is a sprawling puzzle with death at every wrong turn. Often you have to contend with time as well as space, rationing your commands while also keeping an eye on swinging blades and chomping blocks. You might find it funny when your first sheep dies with a screamed bleat and a red squelch, your DualShock 4 controller flashing red to match, but it soon becomes a particularly visceral representation of your frustration.

The problem more often than not is that it’s hard to sit back and puzzle things through properly. You can pause and look around, zooming in and out, but it feels clunky with a gamepad. Even without that, it’s hard to see the steps ahead as the levels often consist of multiple teleporters with unknown pathways and buttons with unknown consequences.

When the answer to this dilemma is usually trial and error, and those errors generally can't be fixed without restarting the level, this is not a game for anyone lacking in patience.

Aside from a few more inventive examples, most of the game's levels end up feeling like never ending drudgery. Those with a particular fondness for difficult puzzles and plenty of time to spare may enjoy playing each level again and again in order to rescue as many sheep and get as high a score as possible. But for everyone else, there’s just not enough variety or personality here to provide that amount of motivation.

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