Flock! Review

Flock! is an interesting and novel puzzle game from Capcom and Proper Games, in which players must use a small flying saucer to herd a variety of farm animals across vibrant, elaborate, and hazard-ridden landscapes toward the Mother Flocker mothership to be abducted for who knows what otherworldly reasons… and points.

These hapless creatures flee from the Flocker’s ever-shining cone of light, no matter what pits, predators, or other obstacles may be waiting in the opposite direction. The key to meeting the abductee quota in each of Flock!‘s 50+ levels is to carefully avoid these things. This won’t be easy, however, as the animals aren’t exactly organized, and often end up either scattering wildly or getting stuck on whatever it is that the player is trying to avoid. At times, the critters’ degree of responsiveness feels almost equivalent to the marbles in those old, tilt-controlled wooden labyrinths.

In addition to simply chasing the animals around, the Flocker can make use of tractor and depressor beams to alter terrain and manipulate environmental objects. For example, a player may need to pick up a gate and use it to bridge a small gap, send a boulder rolling down a hill to break through a fence, or stuff a bale of hay into a pit to create a path for the animals.

Each of the four species behaves in different ways and have different abilities. Cows stampede through fences, chickens fly across gaps, pigs absorb mud, and sheep shrink when wet (wool, get it?). These traits are all useful in their own ways, and must eventually be used together to successfully complete certain levels. Sometimes the power of love needs to be called upon, as well, making male animal follow females single-file, or bringing a couple together in order to… increase the population. Unfortunately, after extended Flock! sessions, the game begins to feel just a bit empty and slow; despite the differences between the animals and the suite of environmental hazards, a sizable portion of the game feels repetitive and borderline chore-like, and the introduction of new gameplay elements occurs at intervals that are too wide. Perhaps as an PSN title, this issue is a lesser concern than in a full retail game (although the caliber of many downloadble titles is fast approaching and even exceeding that of their retail counterparts), but the sort of bite-sized gameplay that players will inevitably partake in with Flock! seems to lend itself far better to a handheld gaming system than to a home console at all.

The monotonous nature of Flock!‘s levels is theoretically curtailed by the inclusion of a level editor and the ability to share creations with other players via XBLA. Thus far, the pool is fairly shallow there, so the creativity of the Flocking masses has yet to shine through, but the editor itself is very user-friendly and makes it easy to put together nice creations. Players only have access to the items that they’ve unlocked in the single-player campaign, though, so any budding designers will have to play through that first.

An alternative to the single-player mode is a cooperative multiplayer romp that makes the game more interesting and fun, thanks to that extra human touch. Players can split duties, get in each others’ way, or simply go mess around with helpless [animated, PETA-don’t-sue-me] creatures and boulder physics.

Much of the fun of Flock! comes from the obviously humorous and playful nature of the game’s overall concept and its animal stars… not to mention the animations that accompany their untimely demise at the hands of killer moles, fish, shadow-lurking monsters, and the player’s own Flocker beams. The audio/visual presentation as a whole is very appealing; the patchwork landscape, plush toy modeling, and hand-drawn GUI art are all just as quirky as the sci-fi/bluegrass soundtrack, and silly animal sound effects. The only complaint in this department is that players will be listening to the same tunes over and over again, as there are very few songs to accompany the action.

This Lemmings-inspired puzzler is unique and charming, and can be very fun for a short while. As an XBLA title, it is solid, but its lack of depth and gameplay variety prevents it from becoming a heavy hitter. The game needs more, just not more of the same old stuff.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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