You know Team17 right? They make Worms and…Well that’s it really. They have had a change of direction of late, moving into publishing, but also bringing their first new IP in over 10 years.
With Flockers, older gamers may be forgiven for thinking they have seen it all before, as the game bares a striking resemblance to Lemmings and feels more like a direct sequel to the classic puzzler than just a game inspired by it.
However, that is no bad thing, the Lemmings mechanics are perfect for the sort of game it is and has never been bettered by any of the sequels or many clones there have been. Even the recent Vita release failed to live up to the original. However, Flockers seems to basically take the core concept and run with it, not hiding the fact it is essentially Lemmings with a new skin.
So for those maybe new to this sort of game, the basic concept is simple. You have to guide your sheep from the start of a level to the goal at the end, using a variety of tools to navigate the sprawling levels and avoid traps. The more sheep you get to the end, the better your score.
The tools at your disposal are level specific and often finite, so you won’t have something that helps you fall great distances if the level doesn’t require it. But this is also where things differ slightly from Lemmings, as some of the tools are only available once you pick them up in the level, rather than the original Lemmings structure of having everything you need at the start of every level.
Initially this feels odd, especially for a Lemmings veteran, but after a while it does start to make sense and fits with the level structure. If likened to anything, it shares more in common with Curve’s Mousecraft. What also differs from Lemmings is that there seems to be a few more physics based puzzles, which require precise inputs and timing to get through.
That’s the thing with Flockers, unlike Lemmings which presented a level, some tools and basically told you to work it out yourself, which could mean bodging your way through at times, but still succeeding, sometimes through luck rather than judgement, Flockers feels like it is a lot more punishing in later levels if you don’t take the route that has been designed for that level.
It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it does feel like sometimes the experimentation aspect is missing and rather you are literally looking for the chosen solution. Which also leads to another problem, there is an overall timer for each level but the pure scope and size of some levels, minus a lack of visual cues mean that at times, it can become an exercise in frustration trying to manage your sheep.
Some traps are seemingly activated out of nowhere, sheep can be teleported to other areas of the level, without the visual clue to tell you where and you can often find a level ending without any idea as to why, because of something happening off screen. This though seems to be because the developers have tried to advance the genre to a modern age, but have fallen short in some critical areas.
The trial and error aspect of a game like this is fine, Lemmings had it, but the level design allowed for it, Flockers however is pretty much a 50/50 in terms of levels that get the balance right and ones that get it wrong. The ones that do get it right bring some great memories flooding back, but the others become a lesson in frustration.
That being said, for fans of the genre, it is a game well worth getting stuck in to. The positives just about outweigh the issues that the game suffers and it does offer a fun challenge overall. Hopefully we see a sequel that irons out the frustrating aspects.