Sheep Download (2000 Puzzle Game)

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Lately, there has been a tendency to judge upon a game's quality only according to its technical characteristics, i.e. complexity, eye candy, and catchy sound. And, as time went by, the core notions of games became less and less important. Fortunately, games, which prove that creative ideas do count, appear once in a while. The first Minds Eye's game Sheep is one of these games.

This new puzzle Lemmings-style game will give you frustrating experiences while trying to save the little helpless sheep. Many years ago, the ancestors of today's modern sheep were sent out across the galaxy from the sheep home star system of Ovis Aries. A few of these explorers landed on Earth. Their mission was to pose as stupid peace loving creatures, and study the habitat. However, the sheep on Earth soon forgot about their mission, wallowing in grass and sunshine, and they slowly became domesticated by Man. Now the sheep ancestors have returned to Earth from Ovis, to reclaim their lost flock. To achieve this, without bringing the unwanted attentions of Man, they abducted several Earth inhabitants and supplanted them with the urge to herd, rounding up all the sheep to the fabled Mount Mouflon for the journey home. However, also visiting Earth is the dreaded Mr. Pear, he wishes to acquire the alien sheep technologies in order to rule the universe. He has recruited several characters including an assortment of hench-cows, who cause many problems for the sheep and their Shepherds along the way.

Each Sheppard has a characteristic appearance, but their ingame behavior is the same. When starting a new game you can choose one of the four shepherds: BoBeep, Adam Halfpint, Motley and Shep.

BoBeep is a cute young shepherdess. Shepherdess by day, and lead singer of a rock band by night. She wakes up after her abduction with a feeling that there is a huge sheep rock concert she and the sheep must attend. She has "a way" with sheep, coaxing even the most stubborn ovine out of danger through her charming manner. Think Bjork crossed with Courtney Love.

Adam Halfpint is a street fighter and private eye, dealing with rescuing endangered species. Adam shrugged off his responsible life as a bank manager to pursue a more laid back, downbeat and easygoing lifestyle as a private eye. One late evening driving home, he is abducted by the sheep, and wakes up convinced of some huge conspiracy involving the sheep. Think Mulder crossed with Bruce Willis. His attitude to the sheep is one of kind brutality.

Motley is one silly puppy with her tongue sticking out. Motley is a simple pet dog, who bounds with energy and enthusiasm. She has long dreamed of being a sheepdog. She is the only character that really understands what the message of her abduction is all about. Haunted by an incident in her past makes her intimidated by some of the harder sheep breeds. Think 'The Littlest Hobo' meets Mr. Blobby.

Shep is an experienced Alsatian who lost one eye protecting his herd. Shep is a highly intelligent and obsessive sheepdog. He now trawls the underground sheep trial world, as a "hired gun" sheepdog. His age has affected his sight, and he is a little slower than he used to be, but he has refused to retire. The abduction, however, changes his mind, believing this to be the grand finale of his herding life. Think Lassie crossed with Rambo.

All characters are well balanced within the game, apart from the dogs being somewhat faster. Gameplay is very simple. The player assumes the role of a shepherd, which has to guide his flock from one side of the level to another, while keeping them safe from enemies and traps. This is achieved by going behind them and making them go the right way, as the merry sheep like to jump all around. To make things more interesting, each level is crowded with traps that will destroy or just knock-out your sheep. There are also various bonuses, which will grant them armor, jumping-bags or space suits.

Each level consists out of four sub-levels. On each of those you will have to rescue one type of sheep, and, eventually rescue them all at the end of the level. The player can choose which type of sheep to rescue from which level. There are four types of sheep: pastoral, factoral, longwool and neogenetic).

Pastoral are classical sheep that spent their youth on a farm somewhere. They are easy to guide and not too quick. Sometimes referred to, as "Clouds". Normal, boring sheep that live in the fields and are scared of just about everything. These are your basic, middle-of-the-road, everyday sheep -- the ideal beginner's breed.

Factoral have been bread in industrial centers for wool production, and their heavy wool makes them somewhat slower than the rest of the breeds. Referred to as "Woolheads," they are bred solely for wool in varying textures and shades. Live in barns. Very stupid, fashion conscious and vacant, they like pretty things, such as flowers. Will follow anyone and anything as long as it's fashionable. Are not really afraid of things as such, not having the intelligence to distinguish between danger and safety.

Longwool are wild sheep that will often wander off weather you like it or not. They look like they're constantly slamming to music. Referred to as "Dags". Sub culture sheep that live on the fringes of society, bikers, rockers and crusties alike. Like rock music! Not as cowardly as most sheep but still stupid, nonetheless. Their favorite haunt is Septic Dive.

And finally, the genetically designed sheep that work closely with man and technology. They give off a cool hard exterior, but in reality are still stupid and cowardly. They are good with computers and traffic. Referred to as "Penheads". The sheep types may seem similar, but you'll soon learn to distinguish them and apply proper tactics for each breed.

The game features seven relatively short levels, all with their own atmosphere, enemies, and traps. Each sub-level has two parts. First you have to make all sheep go in front of you, and then you have to find the exit and save your sheep. When you gather sufficient sheep, the Sheppard may jump into the next level. If your time runs out and you have not activated the end of the level, you will fail regardless of how many sheep you saved. Levels include: Polygon farm, Village Fete, Mr. Whoppys, Jurassic Playground, Club Nation, Mount Mouflon, Lost in Space. As you can easily conclude, each of the levels has a specific theme; for instance, Lost in Space is taking place in a spaceship resembling an enormous PC, Polygon farm is located on a farm, Village Fette is an ancient castle full of mean knights, Mr. Whoppys is a candy factory, and so on. The levels look great, and they are mostly meant for younger players, but some of the harder levels could present a challenge to experienced players. The only flaw of the level concept is the time limit. Considering the game dynamics and sheep's Artificial Stupidity, the time limits had to be higher. This will make even some of the easier levels quite difficult because you'll have to go against the clock. When you successfully complete a level, you're in for a bonus level, which serves only for you to gather more points and rank higher on the high score list.

The controls have been reduced to the necessary minimum - using the cursor keys for movement and additional keys for shouting/leaving candies, and action/rustling. The controls can be set to keyboard, joypad, joystick or mouse. If you decide to play this game using the mouse, a dot will appear, pointing the direction of your sheep's movement and making thing a lot easier for you. The shepherds can also pick up a sheep and carry it to the desired position, yet however handy this may seem, you won't be able to carry each sheep to the goal because of the time limit. This option will be most useful when you have to place a sheep on a pad that opens certain doors, or activates a teleport. You will make your sheep go in front of you as you walk, and if the start spreading, you can shout and bring them back in line. Then again, you can also buy candies somewhere on the level, and leave them behind you (the same key as "shout") which will lure the sheep to follow your track and avoid traps. Your shepherd can also run, which will make him a lot faster and capable of running around the flock, and possibly recovering any of the sheep that was left behind..

Traps and enemies are as adorable as the overall level design. Villains move on scripted routes so it is easy to avoid them and plan your herd's way.

Sheep is a becoming and fun game. It can irritate you when trying to solve the same level 20-30 times in a row, but the funny little sheep are always there to give you a good laugh and make you think harder about saving that flock.


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