So, I played the demo version of Flock! on XBLA a few days ago. Can I just say how freakin’ cute this game is? Fluffy cotton wool sheep squeaking as you herd them, tall grass that isn’t really grass at all but long pieces of yarn and a landscape that’s created from quilted fabric. I don’t think there are words to describe how cute it all is. It’s enough to make you want to cuddle up and suck your thumb. Well, until you attempt to play the game, then it’s all evilness and dark days.
The idea is that you’ve been dispatched from an alien Motherflocker ship (you can’t make this stuff up) to abduct various and sundry farm animals for reasons unknown. Similar to Lemmings and other games of its ilk, your herding ability is challenged by all sorts of obstacles such as pits, water, cliffs, bridges, mud puddles, gates… you get the idea. Some gates can be opened by either your tractor beam or getting the cows to stampede; wet sheep shrink to wee size and can then get coerced into running under closed gates all the while making the most adorable little squeaking sounds.
It’s the convincing the animals to go the way you want where the real evil begins. Since the animals are afraid of your little flying saucer, they run hither and yon to get away from you, which leads to them running the opposite direction and getting stuck in fence corners, running full tilt for a cliff where they fall, drown and drift up into the heavens as angels or fall down a pit only to be disgorged from said pit as various cuts of meat. I admit that last bit made me laugh so hard I choked. The “herding cats” dynamic of the game is coupled with timed levels and animal quotas. In all honesty, the timed levels are only an issue if you want the “thrill” of receiving a gold, silver or bronze medal bonus. And being competitive by nature… well, we know where this is going. The quotas are another animal (pun intended) all together. The annoyance factor went to eleven when I’d finally convinced all those adorablely stupid, squeaking bundles of fluff to do my bidding only to discover I’m one short and have to repeat the level. That’s when I wondered if my controller could fly and chose instead to delete the demo.
If your frustration tolerance is higher than mine then definitely try the demo, which is avaiable on XBLA, PSNetwork and PC.