If you have a certain soft spot for veteran studio Team17 but have come to believe that 23 Worms games represents perhaps one or two Worms games too many, then the announcement of Flockers can only be considered very good news indeed.
It's a refreshingly different type of game for the developers, but it's also one that draws inevitable comparisons with Lemmings. From a starting position on each level, a steady but finite stream of familiar-looking sheep bumble endlessly forwards, turning only for obstacles or in the face of your own divine interventions as you attempt to steer them safely home.
Each stage is a sprawling, steampunk affair, and they've been stuffed to the brim with all manner of meat-pressing machinery: spiky floors that make instant kebabs of your flock when they fall onto them, for instance, or mighty rising anvils that present a race against time if you're to safely herd your sheep beyond its grasp. Zooming back from the challenge at hand reveals a delightful Rube Goldberg machine, albeit a Rube Goldberg machine designed to inefficiently render life into meat.
The tools you receive to prevent catastrophe are a mixed bag of the familiar and the not-so-familiar. One tool allows you to nominate a small number of sheep to form a bridge for their friends. Another grants the herd the ability to fly when each member reaches a tall obstacle. Then there are some very familiar tools of the trade - timed-explosion sheep, ones that block the progress of the rest of the herd, and the like.
In fairness, there's one very welcome innovation that you can't help but wish had been a feature of Lemmings nearly a quarter of a century ago. With one right-click of your mouse, it's possible to expand your god-hand's area of effect and cast your current special ability across an entire pack of sheep. It removes fiddliness for fiddliness' sake, and lets the bigger picture of each level share a little of the spotlight.
This method of rapid and focused execution is going to prove vital for what might be considered the endgame of Flockers' otherwise rather linear jaunt through a selection of levels. The game won't just launch with the tools needed to create your own nightmarish stages; you'll also be able to share them with the community, and then compete through the leaderboards.
Fastest finishes, most sheep to freedom, and a handful of other factors determine the points you score on each level. A little trial-and-error is all that's needed to force your way through to a baseline victory, but you'll need to rapidly juggle a series of escalating threats across the entire stage if you're to complete it with high-scoring efficiency. It's not quite enough to differentiate the game from its obvious inspiration, but it's a worthy nod to modern-day competitive gaming nevertheless, and will no doubt add a little meat to the game.
There's only a handful of early-doors levels playable so far, and there may well be more to Flockers than a charming Lemmings with a social twist, but it's hard not to consider this disarmingly safe ground for a studio taking a long-deserved walk away from its flagship franchise. In that sense, it's easy to feel a little disappointed. On the other hand, we're not exactly drowning in Lemmings games in the 21st century, and that's a problem that's been overdue a solution for a while.
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