Herdy Gerdy is an interesting game, with a potentially absorbing albeit childish storyline conveyed through the use of cinematic cut-scenes, and platform and action segments similar to those found in games like Banjo Tooie. That's perhaps fitting, since Herdy Gerdy started life as an N64 game, before Core tried it on with the Dreamcast and eventually settled on the PlayStation 2 as their delivery mechanism. Herdy Gerdy is a big game for Core, and they want it to be remembered. In order for Gerdy to save the island's inhabitants from another five years of Sadorf's rule he has to explore the land, gathering tools and experience in herding before heading to the Colosseum to win the tournament. The game is made up of 35 unique environments with their own distinct graphical styles, and during his preparation Gerdy will hone his skills in each of them with 12 different creature sets to master. Every creature on the island has its own intelligence, thoughts and feelings, so Gerdy's task is less about fencing them in than protecting them from the environment and one another. In essence, Herdy Gerdy has a certain amount in common with Black & White - the idea is to influence the creatures of the island rather than to beat them into submission. If he resorts to violence, he would be no better than Sadorf. In terms of gameplay, Herdy Gerdy is a strange hybrid of other genres and games. It's non-linear puzzle-solving more than anything, with animal behaviours and environmental obstacles between you and your goal. Often several different paths can be taken to the objective, and they can involve playing certain animals off against one another, making use of streams and hills and other factors.
The world of Herdy Gerdy is immense, dwarfing the lands of Black & White and other adventures. In Herdy Gerdy though, the artistic style is distinctly childish, created by veterans of Disney and Warner animation teams. It's a 3D cartoon, which takes on all the colloquialisms of your Saturday morning shows and moulds them into a familiar cartoon image, which masks a living, breathing world full of variety. Texturing is some of the most fluid we have seen in any PS2 title, and everything is animated delicately too. Take Gerdy himself. At first you might consider him a fairly standardized cartoon bumpkin, nothing particularly original. But when he moves it's like watching a cartoon in motion. His animation is overstated, like a cartoon, and every part of him seems to blend in effortlessly. You have to wonder about the framerate at times, because if Herdy Gerdy looks this complicated with one character on the screen, how's it going to look with ten? The creatures themselves share Gerdy's amazing detail, and take on unique personalities in spite of their chokingly irrelevant titles and peculiar looks. There are Dupes, Bleeps, Gromps and Grimps amongst others, and they all have their own patterns of movement, and distinctive behaviour which are almost as recognizable as their stunted bodies and facial expressions. Herding relies on their distinctive qualities, and it's nice to see that Core are taking that beyond the length of their stride and radius of movement.
Herdy Gerdy is an original, great-looking adventure title which dares to innovate, and for that it will perhaps be applauded. That said, I'm finding it hard to muster all that much excitement over a herding game. Can Core Design really pull one out of the hat? Or will Herdy Gerdy be doomed to live forever in bargain bins whimpering about sequels and blinkered PlayStation owners? We'll see, when the game is finally released in the spring.