At some point in their lives, every gamer has had Worms. Developed by Team 17, the artillery strategy title continues to be a firm favourite almost 20 years after it was first released. Can Flockers, Team 17’s first new IP in over a decade, achieve similar success or is this a title that you (or should that be ‘ewe’) should avoid?
Despite being a new title, Flockers is still based within the Worms world. Sick of being turned into arsenal for the worms, the sheep are making a dash for freedom. However, they are destined to die in the most horrific ways as they follow each other into diabolical traps, giant meat cleavers, spikes and other deadly obstacles. It’s the player’s job to prevent this from happening by safely guiding them through.
This is done by activating special tools, obtained from crates scattered throughout the levels. Such tools include being able to stack sheep to form barriers and stairs, using the sheep as bombs to destroy wooden blocks, as well as enabling them to jump and fly up to pesky heights using the iconic red cape. These tools must be fully utilised in order to progress through the levels.
The levels, which get gradually more difficult, are successfully completed when one sheep gets to safety. Additional points are awarded for rescuing multiple sheep, completing the level quickly, using fewer special abilities and collecting the Golden Fleece – a sheep that requires additional ingenuity to rescue.
Sounds familiar? The formula contains a lot of similarities to Lemmings – the 1991 puzzle-platformer. This comes as no surprise considering Team 17 worked on a PlayStation Network port of the game back in 2007. Nevertheless, despite adopting this formula, Flockers fails to adapt on it in any way, as the game’s flaws make it more frustrating than challenging.
One such flaw is the navigation, which doesn’t particularly work in Flockers’ favour. In a game where timing is crucial, spending a vital few seconds attempting to work out where the cursor is on the screen can result in the death of multiple sheep and, in worse case scenarios, failed levels. Whereas the option to pause and fast forward the action has been well implemented, on the whole, the control system feels best suited to the keyboard and mouse, even throughout the early stages of the game.
Another contributing factor to the game’s downfall is the basic gameplay elements proving particularly annoying at times. Such examples include it being unclear where the sheep have been transported to once they’ve gone through teleporters (once again, wasting valuable time) and the unpredictable timing of some of the obstacles often makes Flockers a game of luck, rather than skill.
This is particularly disappointing, as the overall design and structure of the game’s levels is fantastic, offering multiple paths to finish the level. Navigating the sheep through the trickier routes rewards players with bonus collectibles, such as additional levels and skins for the sheep. Nonetheless, aside from unlocking the odd achievement, these rewards aren’t particularly great or useful, providing nothing for players to strive for.
During the game’s opening cutscene, in a similar fashion to the Lemmings and Worms, the sheep are full of personality and charm. However, that likeability fails to transfer over to the main game. The sheep lack character and, as a result, there’s no feeling of guilt when they get impaled on a spike or fall to their death.
Upon completing the title’s 60 levels, which can be achieved within a few hours, Flockers fails to provide much in terms of replayability. Aside from improving your scores in the online leaderboards, there isn’t a lot to do. The absence of additional game modes and a lack of multiplayer come as quite the disappointment, especially when you take the £19.99 price tag into account.