Flock! In which you herd a variety of animals into the Motherflocker. Yes indeed. Being a bit of a farmer boy, I've always felt that animal herding is an often overlooked genre - one with a rich potential for high level strategy, quick witted tactics, and dynamic, fast paced action. So I must admit to a slight initial disappointment with Flock! as it clearly doesn't take its subject matter seriously. I mean, catapults in the fields? Pinball with rolling pigs? Sheep-shrinking geysers? I can't recall ever seeing any of these on a farm near me. Still, this is a computer game and sometimes, just sometimes, it's better to make them slightly ridiculous in the name of entertainment, isn't it? So I'll put aside my agricultural outrage for a while and review this for what it really is: a casual, throw-away, puzzle game.
And casual it most certainly is - a long level will take you about 5 minutes at the most, and majority of that will be spent getting your sodding UFO to where you want it to be. Anyhow, you take control of a small UFO sent out by the larger Motherflocker to rustle some animals. You do this by buzzing around the level and scaring the little blighters into herds to drive into the waiting tractor beams of the Motherflocker. The quicker you complete the levels, the more points you get and the larger your penis will be when viewing the online leaderboards. That last statement is metaphorical - this game in no way enhances glands.
You also get bonuses for completing the levels, such as a tractor beam of your own, a speed boost, or the ability to flatten corn fields - all of which help in your quest to clean the farms out. As well as gameplay aids, you also unlock extra items that you can use in the bundled level editor. Yes, you too can design your very own field and then upload them to share with the rest of the Flockers out there. I haven't tinkered too much with the editor, but it looks fairly clumsy to use. Mind you, considering the disposable nature of this game that's to be expected - after all, you're only going to be designing levels that last a few minutes. It's not really necessary to be Farm Tycoon Deluxe, is it? Still, I suppose it's a welcome addition. Especially as you can download user made levels to play and rate. Most of these appear to be rather ridiculous at the moment, but the potential is there for some dastardly challenges.
And it needs them, because the main problem with the game is its lack of variety. Yes, you get extra toys to play with and there are different types of animal that exhibit various types of behaviour (cows stampede, pigs love muck, etc.), but you do the same thing over and over again and it's really not that interesting or exciting in the first place. By the time you get half way through the 50-odd levels, you're beginning to get rather bored. The landscapes, although very pretty, are all the same - slight variations in colour can't mask that the tile set is identical on every level. It all leads to a feeling of grinding repetition and the rewards, although flowing thick and fast, don't offer enough of an incentive to keep playing.
Combine this with a hideously sluggish control system and things begin to really drag. I must emphasise just how crap the control system is: it's truly horrible and feels, well, very woolly (ta-da!). There it is! Sorry, but I'd have felt a bit sheepish (ta-da!) if I'd gone through the entire review without one bad, sheep-related joke - it's over now, so stop bleating (ta-da!). Anyway, I had real trouble getting the animals to herd where I wanted them to, and the heavy feeling of your UFO is akin to strolling uphill through treacle whilst on Valium. Into a headwind. Even with the speed boost, it's still slow and unresponsive. Switching to mouse or keyboard didn't help much either. If this is what UFO’s are going to drive like, then sod the future – I’ll stick with my Citroën Saxo.
I also have to talk about the music. Sweet God, turn it off now! Imagine a VERY LOUD quiz show theme tune that seems to repeat after about 45 seconds. Absolute hell. The music to this game will create sociopaths and mass murderers, and will be discussed in TV shows on Discovery Crime and Leisure in years to come. Mark my words.
Hmm, I'm not giving it the best press up to now, am I? It's not completely rubbish. It looks quite cute - the developer, Proper Games, have clearly imbued the game with a certain type of love. Everything has a nice patchwork feel to it, including the metallic UFO's. The sheep bleat and look fluffy, the pigs are rotund little rollers, even your UFO has a certain charm with its antenna pointing the way to the nearest animal. The monsters that hide in the bushes at night, ready to pounce on your flock, are particularly adorable. I always like to sacrifice one of my lambs to them.
Special mention must go to the 2 player co-op, mode. Flock! comes with an entire co-op campaign - not just the single player campaign playable with two players, but a whole new set of levels with different challenges. These co-op maps emphasise teamwork - certain things require the power of two animal-rustling UFOs. This is always welcome and in Flock! it works pretty well. It adds to the longevity and value, and I actually prefer the co-op challenges to the single player ones. It also means that you have someone sat next to you to share your pain as you trundle through the levels, as the co-op mode can only be played with 2 joypads on one PC. No online play here.
All-in-all, it's not that good really. It will kill your time but not much of it, and most of that time will be spent shouting at the monitor, screaming at your UFO to GET A COCKING MOVE ON. It's possibly worth a tenner, but certainly not a penny more. Pay any more than that and you'll have been fleeced (ta-da!).