Review: Flockers Xbox One
New from the creators of Worms, Flockers is a modern day take on the classic A to B puzzle genre with a generous helping of dark humour for good measure.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Flockers isn’t Lemmings.
Team 17 has tried to recreate the same gameplay style as DMA Design’s iconic game, but falls short in too many ways.
The sheep, from which the Flockers title is derived, are shot from their starter cannons and into a dim, grim world of rusty metal saws, bloody spikes and other assorted items of murder. Colour only really comes into play via teleporters and switches, many of which lead to the inevitable doom of your little fluffy friends.
The tutorial does very little to aid you in discovering how to play the game, or even how its systems and mechanics work. Tiny, almost unreadable signs depict vague diagrams of what each level’s new addition brings to the table, but ultimately it’s left to the player to work things out via the “trial and error” method.
This isn’t exactly a criticism, as that’s how games of old did it all the time (yes, Lemmings included) but in today’s market of tutorials and hand-holding, it will put many people off at the start.
This is negated somewhat by the game’s early levels being fairly forgiving. Killing sheep is almost encouraged early on, perhaps to evoke laughter as the little fellows are minced in myriads ways, showering blood everywhere.
Sometimes, however, their comic death squeals are the only indication you have that your current run isn’t doing so well. This can be frustrating, especially as the level’s danger isn’t always so apparent. Again, this isn’t necessarily a criticism, but frustration is definitely a big no-no in gaming, especially in the early hours of gameplay.
The game does have a pause function though, allowing you to stop time and look around the level. You can’t make any choices until you resume movement, but you can get yourself ready for what’s coming.
This usually entails finding the right option for the moment. Choices come in the form of jumpers (putting purple woolly hats on the sheep, allowing them to jump gaps), flyers (putting red capes on them, allowing them to fly up straight obstacles), and various stacking options in which your sheep can be used as steps to higher platforms, or to block the way entirely.
Everything comes back to Lemmings, though.
Every option in Lemmings had a simple purpose and effortless charm. Everyone remembers the little guy with his arms out wide, shaking his head as he turns his buddies away from danger. Nobody will remember a couple of sheep stacked on top of each other, doing the same job.
The sheep themselves have no personality, leaving the player unmoved as they dangle lifelessly from spikes, or are left smeared on the floor beneath a crusher. Every Lemming had character, which makes it all the more impressive as they were made up of a few blue and white pixels. Remember how you felt when they were ground into the floor after a long drop, a few pixels spraying from the earth? There’s none of that panic here.
This is partly due to the dull, monotonous music that plays throughout the game.
And the relentlessly grim setting of each level.
Even when the game throws up multi-directional levels – giving you two separate groups of sheep, flung in opposite directions – Flockers still doesn’t instil that same sense of panic. Often it just leaves you a bit flustered as you try to work out how to manage each bunch and eventually get them to the safety of the end of the level.
Of course, this is a different kind of panic that some players will enjoy, as it will push them to think more tactically and solve the puzzle that each level brings to the table. It does also offer a bit of variety to the game, but should really have been introduced a little further in, once the player has a better grasp of the game’s mechanics.
There are a huge number of levels on offer in Flockers, which means that players get plenty of game for their money. Hidden levels also appear and there are collectible, golden sheep dotted around that net you extra points upon completion.
This is where the competitive nature of the game comes into play. Each level has a scoring system based on number of survivors, collectibles grabbed, etc. and offers up a star rating for your efforts, as well as an actual score that is added to an online leaderboard. Players that are so inclined can replay levels again and again, trying to improve their score and online ranking.
However, none of this really turns Flockers into a must-buy game. The Xbox One version looks decent enough and the controls are relatively simple, but there just isn’t enough fun or personality for most gamers to latch on to.
And considering Team 17 is famous for bringing us the wonderful Worms series, it makes Flockers’ averageness all the more disappointing.