Overall Score 72%
I'd like to say that this game brought to mind wistful memories of old TV programme "One Man And His Dog", that I felt the urge to call "come by" and "away to me" as I played. I'd like to say I could feel the mud beneath my wellies and smell the sheep dip. However, since I've never watched "One Man And His Dog", I'd be lying about all of this. All I know about sheep trials is either third hand knowledge or from Dick King-Smith's "The Sheep Pig".
Your task is straightforward enough. You want to get to the sheep trials in Woolyville with your flock and show off your prowess. In order to do this you first need to find out where Woolyville is! Grandpa Ovis knows, but he's a grumpy old fellow and you need to impress him first. Then there's the journey through the forest, crawling with bandits and wolves. Get through that and the final challenge awaits!
Sheeplings is such a simple idea that I'm surprised it hasn't been done before. You control a sheep dog - occasionally more than one - by directing it with the mouse and telling it to bark. Doing so will "encourage" the sheep to move. By skilful direction of your cheerful looking sheepdog you are asked to perform a range of sheep arrangements, such as getting them into the pen or guiding them across to another enclosure.
As well as a variety of sheep, you will also encounter wolves (bark at them to scare them off), eagles (!) and bandits, all out to grab your wooly friends. Bonus points are available for rescuing sheep so in some levels you perversely need to let them be endangered to score the maximum! Every level you complete nets you between one and five stars, and you can replay any level to try to improve on your last result. You can then use these stars to unlock more levels.
To add a little variety to the game there are bonuses available. Some levels hide 500 or 1000 point bonuses (but don't go barking up the wrong tree...) and a few levels hide power-ups that boost your dog's speed or bark range. Sheep too are varied - fluffy pink lambs are mischevious little bleaters and black sheep are more stubborn than their white cousins. Couple this with the different missions and there's a lot of variety in there.
Yet, despite this, the game does start to feel rather samey. One aspect of this (which I believe has since been adjusted) is the sound - the sheep bleat when scared, and never at any other time. The sound for this game thus boils down to background music and "Bark!" "Baa!" "Bark!" "Baa!" "Bark!" "Baa!" - thankfully there's a mute button when it all gets too much. Graphically everything is cute - isn't this the kind of dog every child wants? - and the simple, colourful graphics are a break from the 3D-rendered, shadow casting models of modern games.
Sheeplings is all about fun, quick entertainment, not intensive play. With that in mind it's a great game for a brief bit of relaxation after a long day. An unusual game with a friendly, non-violent idea.
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