|System: X360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Proper Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
to Reckon With
by Nathan Meunier
If and when the aliens do indeed land, you'd think they'd have something more constructive to do with their time - like unleashing a killer virus or enslaving the human race, perhaps - than probing backsides, forming crop circles, and abducting farm animals. A few of these purportedly tried and true extraterrestrial pastimes are humorously woven into the wooly foundation of Capcom's new XBLA offering, Flock!, making for a whole lot of lighthearted and highly entertaining UFO-driven barnyard antics.
Flock! puts you at the helm of a flying saucer tasked with herding all manner of adorable farm animals to a giant mother ship (cleverly dubbed the "Mother Flock!er"). While it's not entirely clear why the alien invaders require such a large volume of sheep, cows, pigs, and chickens (or what becomes of the critters once they're collected), it's a silly premise that translates quite well into fodder for the game's concise, puzzle-heavy levels. Playing space wrangler is certainly a whimsical experience, but its one that takes some getting used-to.
Being sheepish in nature, the animals in Flock! don't take kindly to your UFO's presence. As your craft approaches them, they'll run away in terror from the tractor beam-like light emanating from beneath your ship. Using their innate flight-reflex to your advantage serves as the crux of how you'll herd the cute beasts around, over, and through numerous dangers towards the Mother Flock!er for bagging and tagging. Your mission is more complicated than that, however. Making matters more urgent, each level is timed, so there's little room for dilly dallying. Completing levels within a set time earns you gold, silver, and bronze ratings and stops the clock to give you a chance to gain bonus points or strive for a "perfect abduction." Herding groups of creatures at once and wreaking havoc to the terrain also boosts your score multiplier. Most levels typically take a minute or less to complete.
Early stages have you herding a few sheep through small, confined spaces, but the types of animals you'll work with, the obstacles you encounter, and the terrain challenge you'll face increases steadily both in variety and complexity as you progress deeper into the game's 50+ levels. Later levels grow more maze-like, requiring you to move different groups of animals with erratic behaviors through valleys and bridges, around deadly pits, up and down ramps, and past other perilous obstacles. Completing a level typically requires a certain quota of various animals to make it to the mother ship in one piece. This gets a lot harder as tougher obstacles and distractions are thrown into their path.
Each of the farm animals you'll encounter possess different personalities and unique properties. Sheep tend to scatter easily and shrink when you get them wet; cows are sluggish but can be prompted to charge (destroying fences and other things they ram into); chickens stick together better and can fly short distances when herded off cliffs; and pigs roll around like pin-balls but are easily distracted by piles of poop (which they proceed to gleefully and roll around in on contact). Additionally, there are female variants of each creature that cause all males in their presence to follow them.
New tools and upgrades to your ship also let you tackle puzzles in different ways. At first, your beam only scares away critters, but eventual upgrades let you use it to pick up and move objects and flatten stuff (making crop circles in the hay is fun), among other things. These are all very useful for clearing an unobstructed path for the animals to follow, knocking down fences, removing gates, triggering catapults to send the creatures flying to other areas of the map, and more.