We have some fond memories of the Worms series here at The Digital Fix, from the original on the PC back in 1995, to just about five years ago when one of us was huddled around an iPod Touch playing Worms 2: Armageddon in the school playground with his friends. But back here in the present Team 17 are trying something new, and this comes in the form of Flockers, a 2D strategy game with a gory and humorous twist on the A to B puzzle genre. Despite Flockers being a brand new IP for Team 17, the game does contain one big throwback to Worms, which as the title may suggest, is Sheep. In Worms, sheep were used to deal large amounts of damage to your enemy through an explosion, but in Flockers they’re plotting an escape of their own!
Understandably, the sheep within Flockers have had enough of the slaughterhouse and it is your job to guide them to safety. As the player you must help them navigate sheer drops that guarantee death, sharp buzzsaws that could shear a sheep in seconds and pitch forks that could do some serious damage. There isn’t much of a plot to Flockers, but then there never really is in Team 17 games, the majority of the enjoyment we got out of the game was found in other places. There are a few cutscenes in between levels that help to break up the gameplay, but they mainly serve as a little breather from the tense and time constrained levels.
We had a very rough start with Flockers as the game lacks any type of comprehensive tutorial, nor does it give much of an explanation of its mechanics or what you should be doing. This really soured our first thoughts of Flockers as we aimlessly tried to get a grip of the game and what it wanted us to do. But thankfully, first impressions aren’t everything. After five or so levels we started to get a better grasp of Flockers, and as we progressed through the game, it grew on us and became more enjoyable.
The main objective of each level is to guide the sheep from the chute they come out of to a suction cup which can be placed anywhere in the level, and you can do this in a multitude of ways. You do not directly control your flock of sheep on any level, but you can manipulate the path they take in three main ways, much like Lemmings. The first way gives a sheep the ability to jump, and this helps them cross small gaps within each level. Another power-up allows the sheep to scale walls, meaning they can reach high places to activate switches which can affect the level in a variety of ways. A second ability will make a sheep explode, and this can be helpful in two ways. Firstly, an explosion will destroy any wooden blocks that are within the vicinity of the blast, and this will help the sheep progress further in the level. Secondly, if two sheep are stacked on top of each other, the sheep at the bottom can be blown up which will send the sheep on top flying through the air and possibly reach a new area of the level. This becomes more important half way through the game when levels become more complex and require multiple sheep in different parts of the map. A third ability allows the sheep to stack on top of each other or form stairs, in sets of two or three. This ability can be very useful in keeping the sheep alive, as stacking two on top of each other will create a barrier and could prevent death from the likes of a buzzsaw nearby. You will start each level with different abilities, depending on what is needed, although these are sometimes stored in crates and spread throughout a level for the player to pick up and use. While all these abilities are fun to use and experiment with, no others are introduced as you progress through the game. Some new and exciting ones should have been included further along to keep gameplay fresh and exciting.
While the player’s skills aren’t built upon throughout the game, Flockers’ levels are. There are sixty levels in the game and these become more and more complex as you progress, to which point levels will require a lot of trial and error before you figure out the right path. This can become tedious and frustrating as you search for a solution. Flockers changes up its levels by introducing teleporters and machines that directly impact the gameplay. Teleporters are pretty self-explanatory: they will teleport any sheep within their vicinity to a different part of the level, which can either benefit or hinder the player depending on their placement. As well as the pick-ups you can find in a level within boxes, some levels contain machines that will automatically give all your sheep a certain power-up, handy for when you’re running low. We welcomed the addition of the teleporters and machines mid-way through the game because without them, almost every level would feel the same.
As well as the sixty main levels in Flockers, there are also six bonus levels that take on an entirely different tone. There is no deadly machinery within the bonus levels, but the time limit is dramatically reduced to combat this. On the standard sixty levels the player gets ten minutes to reach the finish, but here the time limit is reduced to under two minutes. Despite the short cutoff, the player is given the freedom to experiment here as you have ninety-nine uses of all the abilities in the game within these six levels. As well as this, the player can pause or even fast forward time, this helps a lot as you can survey the level and plan out your route without wasting a second. These levels are fun, frantic, and are a nice break from the main game where death could come from almost any direction.
Depending on how well you do in a level, you can earn up to three stars for completing a mission. This factors in how many sheep you’ve saved and the time that you did it in, so of course the more sheep you save, the higher your score will be. Each level has its own online leaderboard where players can see how well they did compared to the rest of the world, and this promotes replayability when a group of friends want to out-do each other. Furthermore, completing tasks within Flockers will net you some rewards, namely in the form of new sheep that can join your flock. These tasks include killing five hundred sheep, completing levels and getting three stars from each level. These are a fun little alternative for anyone that has finished the game and wants a few extra things to do.
Flockers won’t win any awards for its graphics; it looks very average for a 2D game, nonetheless the game does have a healthy dose of humour. It’s clear that Team 17 was having fun when they were coming up with the names of levels, favourites include “Breaking Baa-d”, “A-Lamb Clock” and “Bridge Too Bar”. And while you may fail a level, it is quite a lot of fun just to see how many ways the sheep can be killed within Flockers. We were glad that Flockers doesn’t take itself too seriously as its humour makes the game more enjoyable and those punny level names had us chuckling to ourselves.
Flockers is a decent game and although it doesn’t do anything new its gameplay is mostly enjoyable, with a few frustrating parts here and there. The game’s humour and replayability are evident from the outset. The chance to compete against friends and the Angry Birds-style star scoring marry well with the zany premise, but the gameplay is lacking in variety. A dearth of innovation as you progress through Flockers only serves to hurt it, and by the time you reach the closing levels the game has already far outstayed its welcome.