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Have You ‘Herd’? – Flock! Reviewed

Flock! for the 360/PS3/PC. Developer: Proper Games, Publisher: Capcom Entertainment

Gamers have a myriad of vocational simulations to occupy their recreation hours outside of work. Options range from the exotic- piloting a jet fighter or a futuristic mechanized robot, to the mundane, which expends from the kitchen antics of Cooking Mama to the virtual animal husbandry of Viva Pinata. Typically, even the more pedestrian experiences are rewarding, fulfilling an inner need for precision or achievement.

Capcom’s latest downloadable offering, Flock!, blends these two contradictory perspectives. Players control a small UFO, which is used in a very earthy pursuit- corralling wayward barnyard animals. The goal of the title is surprisingly simple: round up a specified number of sheep, chickens, pigs and cows into a tractor beam in a specified time frame. Players that accomplish this feat quickly enough are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal, while merely completing the level unlocks pieces for the game’s level editor.

Players use the left thumbstick to guide their alien vessel across the playfield. Within a few levels a boost feature is enabled that allows the craft to receive a temporary boost via use of the left trigger. Each of the game’s animals are frightened by a green beam emitted by the UFO, thus repelling the animals away from the craft. By carefully maneuvering the ship the animals can be herded over inclines, and around corners; sheep can be soaked with water to allow them access to otherwise impenetrable areas.

Sadly, shepherding the animals isn’t as enjoyable as it should be. While there are basic puzzle elements- a heard of cows can trample fences, while chicken fly for short distances, the game rarely taxes the gamer’s intellect.  The focuses on hand-eye coordination  which offers an occasionally frustrating experience. While herding the virtual animals through the game’s playfields, the creatures have the tendency to wander off from the UFO’s green beam, or worse yet- get stuck in corners. Although your craft receives periodic upgrades to assist you on your quest, they never elevate the level of control to a threshold above ‘mildly irksome’. Thus lies Flock!’s greatest quandary; players never feel like they are in influencing the barnyard beings, never completely controlling them.

Local co-op spreads the provocation between two players, subtly changing the nature of the game. When working cooperatively, a constant exchange of communication is required, making level completion a rewarding diversion. Flock!’s level editor is sufficiently versatile, and contributes greatly to the longevity of the game. While no substitute for Little Big Planet, being able to create, share, and rate user levels is a delightful supplement.

Flock’s graphical aesthetic is wonderfully charming, yet subtly organic. Each levels features a patchwork-quilt style that is emphasized by bright colors across green grasslands, frigid snowfields or rustic soils. Even on a low-end HDTV, the game’s textures look astonishingly tactile, and add to the title’s visual allure. Each mammal is cuddly cute, and exhibit a variety of moods from fear, to contentment. Sonically, the title’s tunes are sufficiently bouncy, but slightly overused across levels; play for too long and you’ll likely reach for the volume control.

At $15, Flock! might not offer enough diversity for the frugal gamer; each of the game’s 50+ levels are variations on a simple, and occasional frustrating game mechanic. We suggest gamers play through the Xbox Live or PSN demo before committing. For players that enjoy the herding gameplay, the full game’s creation, sharing and rating system as well as its enchanting visual presentation will likely justify the title’s price.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

46 comments

  1. Is the “!” really necessary? Not in the review, in the title.

    I read the Eurogamer review, they seemed to hate it. Too bad.

  2. My friend bought this and played for about 10 levels, then got really pissed. Maybe I’ll help him get through it.

    Yep, the animals are a pain in the ass. Just like real life, I guess.

  3. Wasn’t there a game called Sheep, that if I remember wasn’t very fun at all.

  4. Yep, those graphics look great. Remind me of a Zelda game made of fabric for some reason.

  5. I remember “Herdy Gerdy” and it’s 45 second load times. Ah, the old PS1. I wasted so much time waiting for it to load.

    Now I wish I had that time back 😉

  6. I was so close to pulling the trigger on this one.

  7. Very good review. Out of all the review site, yours are almost always worth the read. Good work.

  8. Do the fields actually move in realtime (in the 2nd pic)?

    Very cool effect if so.

  9. Yep, I ‘herd’ on a number of sites it wasn’t very good.

  10. Sad to hear this game was no Flocking good. LOL.

  11. Is the demo really out on PSN? I don’t see it?

  12. I expected way more bad “Flock” puns.

    Isn’t the mothership called the “motherflocker” in the game??

  13. I liked the Steam demo. Don’t know if I’d pay $15, but when it drops to $10, I’ll grab it.

  14. I tried the demo, and yep, the sheep were just a pain in the ass. I don’t know who the devs thought this would was fun.

    Still the level editor would be useful for making some enjoyable levels.

  15. Nice review, downloading the demo when I get home.

  16. I bought the game and was slightly disappointed. I’ll give the co-op a chance with the GF.

  17. WTF is “Animal husbandry’?

    isn’t the illegal??

  18. Flocking great review.

  19. You know what would kick ass? if this engine was used for a Destroy All Humans Arcade game.

    You could destroy stuff instead of herding it.

  20. D/ling demo next time I turn my PS3 on.

  21. Good review. Seems ok.

  22. DE, you completely missed the opportunity to talk about $15 DLC games. Why could this game have been priced at $10? if offers nothing more that most games priced at that level?

    To me the tipping point was that $20 Penny Arcade game. I was a fan of PA, but charging fans $20 was robbery.

  23. Came out the 9th. It’s there.

  24. Prices of DLC games are on the rise. cant really boycott, otherwise you lose, if the game is good.

  25. It looks beautiful. I would check it out but I’m afraid that I would like it…I don’t want to have to put up the 15 bucks for it though.

  26. Oh boy, another downloadable game that isn’t worth the money or the hard drive space. Of course in my opinion any DLC that is locked to the console/account should be considered a rental for the lifespan of the DRM servers, and sold at a rental price. I know I’m in the minority, but I just don’t want to pay full price for something that gives me less than a physical copy.

  27. I am curious as to how this game is selling.

  28. Interesting. I take it you haven’t bought Warhawk, Burnout Paradise or, Socom.

    I agree somewhat, you’re renting it for the life of your console, but $15 isn’t too bad.

  29. Demo left me thinking, “is that all there is”. I thought I was missing something.

  30. I really like the way the game looks.

  31. While I like this, I can see why other people might now. The review pretty much nailed its good and bad points.

  32. Thanks for the review, good stuff.

  33. Nice review. I was looking forward to this game since the premise and graphics were nice and interesting, but I the lack of a real challenge aside from the controls is a turn off. Doesn’t look to be worth the $15.

  34. Downloaded the demo, and have to skip this one. Thank for the advice.

  35. Good review, about to download the demo looks interesting.

  36. ANYTHING with a level editor is at least worth an extended glance, IMHO>

  37. You’re not missing much. Demo came out last week

  38. Try the demo out, and remember that PSN will put it on sale eventually and Amazon sells XBLA game codes and those can go on sale too.

  39. Amazon sells codes now? Whoah!

  40. Demo to be downloaded.

  41. Cooking Mama in a flock review? Who would have thought?!?

  42. Excellent review. I’ve been on the fence (no pun intended) on this game. The demo, while enjoyable, also felt a little underwhelming at times, especially for it’s asking price.

    The level editor is a nice touch, but I don’t think it will really end up helping, when the games community dies within a few weeks.

    I think I’ll end up passing on this, and hoping for a possible XBL Deal of the Month, marking it down to 800 or so, which I’d say would be a great price for a game like this.

  43. I’ve played the demo myself, and while it’s quirky, it will not hold my attention enough to take my $15 (although maybe it will, considering that the game ends too quick from what I’ve heard from other sites).

  44. Looks interesting, but I can’t see myself spending that much.

  45. It’s funny how people are debating over $15 – even if you only get five hours’ play out of it, that’s only $3 an hour… lasts longer than a night out on the town! I’ve played the demo, it was great fun – yes, annoying that the game mechanics means the animals can ‘get stuck’. But if any of you have played games like Soldner-X or PixelJunk Monsters, you’ll know what frustration really is (and those two are great games too).

  46. William Wallace

    Weren’t PixelJunk and Soldner-X only $10 though?!?!

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