Flockers is the latest game from Team17, the creators of the hugely popular Worms series. Though it’s a new title, its side-scrolling puzzles will no doubt remind you of Lemmings, as there are a lot of similarities to that classic game series.
The aim of Flockers is to guide a flock of sheep through a perilous obstacle course full of meat cleavers, saws and spikes. Of course, not all of the flock in peril will make it through the Worm’s factory, resulting in more than a few gruesome deaths. The premise of the game is quite dark that’s for sure, especially as a Welshman, but once the challenge starts picking up that’ll be the last thing on your mind.
Dotted throughout each level are pick-up abilities for your sheep. There’s a purple hat which gives sheep the ability to jump, a red Super Sheep cape which allows them to fly up walls, and an explosive device which sacrifices a single sheep to blow through weaker materials. You can also place various objects that can act as steps to help the flock climb up to higher ledges or as barriers to stop them casually walking into danger.
Usage of these abilities aren’t unlimited though, which adds a tactical element to the game as one mistake can have dire consequences. The slight misplacement of a series of steps could leave you out of hand when it comes to the last hurdle, ultimately leading to the need to restart the level.
As well as the abilities being limited, timing is also key to success. Many of the saws and blades move back and forth so you’ll have to time to perfection when you want your flock to make the dash between them. Time it all wrong and you could see the entire flock get a disastrous, blood splattered shaving. It gets even trickier once you have more than one flock to manage and once gravity panels are introduced, further ramming the difficulty up.
You’ll soon find Flockers to be an immensely challenging game. Expect dozens, if not hundreds of restarts as you play, so you’re naturally going to be left feeling frustrated in some levels, but you can also enjoy a huge sense of relief when you manage to get even a lone sheep to safety.
Unfortunately for Flockers the challenging difficulty is also a direct result of its fiddly nature on console. Trying to equip all the sheep in the flock with specific abilities is very awkward, and the game’s cursor is sluggish and inaccurate. Even the opening level is without a basic tutorial to get you used to the controls.
Flockers doesn’t really do much to show off the power of the PlayStation 4, but then again it’s not a game which you would expect to. Visually it is obviously very similar to Worms, with the flock consisting of cartoonish sheep and, when they do come to meet the shepherd in the sky, you can expect it to be quite a bloody demise. The soundtrack is one of those that sounds incredibly annoying on its own but perfect in a puzzle context.
Overall there are around 60 levels to complete, including more than a few boss levels, across 3 different themes. The boss levels are just that little bit harder from the regular offerings. One boss level, for example, requires your flock to outrun a huge trolley armed with saws and spikes, bringing together all the gameplay elements into one.
Each level is graded by a standard 3 star system, with your score also being uploaded to an online leaderboard. If your quite the perfectionist you could find yourself spending a lot of time with the game and playing around with the in-game customisation rewards, but if you’re planning to play through it only once the £20 price tag will feel steep. The PC version of the game, however, has access to a level editor and Steam Workshop for sharing community content, which could expand the game a great deal.
Flockers is by no means a baaad game, but it’s nothing all that special either. If you go into the game expecting a satisfying side-scrolling puzzler you’re going to get exactly that. The level design is wonderfully challenging, but in parts is let down by the fiddly and sluggish cursor. I can’t help but feel though that Flockers isn’t the type of game you bought your PS4 for.
Version tested: PS4