Flock!

Review

posted 4/14/2009 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
There's an argument for using games to escape the everyday grind or work and the drama of real life. Video games offer you fantastic worlds to explore and over the top action to take part in. You can relive all of your favorite sports moments and slay a dragon all before you go to bed. Video games can take you to the deepest part of space or tell you about Earth's alternate reality. That's what video games are good at. For those few minutes while you shoot at Nazis and run from the fuzz, you are able to escape the horrible truth that your girlfriend hates you, you just lost your job and you're woefully overweight.

If you're one of those people who needs the sweet, sweet escape of video games, then let me be the first to tell you: Don't even think about buying Flock, Capcom's newest herding simulator.

It's not that Flock (officially FLOCK!) is a bad game, because it's an amazingly addictive puzzler that manages to feel fresh in an otherwise crowded arena. Instead Flock ends up feeling more like a real job than an escape from the real world. Outside of the UFO angle, this game has the makings of a repetitive 9-to-5 minimum wage job.


You see, your job is simple: Herd as many animals as you possibly can. To do this you take control of a small flying saucer, the type you might have seen connected to a piece of string in some cheesy 1950s midnight movie. Your very presence is enough to make the livestock scatter, so what you need to do is scare them in the direction of your much, much larger mother ship (the motherflocker).

Of course, this is going to be easier said than done. Each level puts up a lot of obstacles to overcome. In some stages you will have to catapult the animals from one side to another, in another stage you will have to shrink the sheep with water, and in yet another stage you will employ the cattle to knock over walls. As the game progresses, you will need to use all of these tactics (and many more) in order to finish all 50 levels.

It starts out simple enough, showing you the ropes and getting you used to steering your hovering UFO. But after a few levels they are throwing more and more complicated puzzles in your way, including mazes that are straight out of your nightmares. I'm not sure who would leave these poor animals out in the middle of nowhere, but they should be ashamed of themselves. Many levels are nothing more than islands, which doesn't seem like the most practical place to keep a bunch of sheep. What's more, the idea of making the animals jump through hoops doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you think about it.


The chickens are a perfect example of the absurdity of the level designs. Since chickens have wings, these are the only animals that can glide over large gaps. While this is useful from a gameplay point of view, I fail to understand who would keep these chickens in locations that would requires them to fly long distances just to be herded someplace useful. Why not just keep them close to the barn?

Of course, while none of this makes real world sense, it all works out as a game. The game's mazes are absolutely crazy, and just when you think you've seen the craziest level, the next one raises the bar even higher. Herding these animals requires some real strategy, especially when you have to move them over large gaps and land obstacles. And to make matters even worse, the game keeps throwing new obstacles in your way. But don't fret, just as long as you're paying attention to the rules you should be able to get through your day on the job.
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