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Video Game Reviews

Ratings are based on a five-point scale, in homage to the the late, great Next Generation Magazine.

Empire Interactive
Gameboy Advance

Rating: * * *
Sheep - video game reviews
Sheep screen shots - click for closeup

February 15, 2005

Sheep is a clear example of the early generations of Gameboy Advance titles. Many developers dusted off classic titles from yesteryear, spruced them up with an extra coat of paint, and sent them out the door to a new audience. For those of us who grew up during the age of the NES, the Commodore 64, and the Amiga, these is a godsend. We recognize greatness when we see it.

The younger kids, on the other hand, either looked the other way or didn't notice even notice these games at all. Consumers, for the most part, flocked to the handful of brand-name titles and Super Nintendo reissues. Sorry, kids, but you were royally screwed.

Now you can make up for that. A lot of these titles can be had for a song if you're willing to search them out: Archer Maclean's Dropzone and International Karate Advance; the Cinemaware games like Wings, The Three Stooges, Defender of the Crown (what genius passed on a 4-player mode?!); Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars; Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (and, yet, still no Sensible Soccer). Some are great, some merely have great moments.

Sheep is a classic title from Europe from that fertile era when Europe put their own stamp on gaming. It's inventive, a little quirky, and probably only fun for short burst here and there. In other words, the perfect thing for a portable games unit.

The premise involves using a sheep dog to herd groups of sheep through various obstacle courses. You chase the animals through hedges, over poles, around menacing machines that only seem to exist to kill sheep, and straight into the waiting truck. It's a simple task to grasp, but of course proves more and more challenging.

The trick is that these sheep don't like to listen too well; they want to wander off and go running in every direction. You'll quickly discover that the real thrill lies in the new Arrange Mode. This mode introduces different types of sheep, all with their own traits, ranging from playful to docile to rebellious. By keeping the herds together, you'll increase their skill levels, which make them more loyal to your dog and easier to conrtol.

This adds a good amount of personality to Sheep, similar to all the life-breeding games that popped up ever since the Tomogatchi craze. Your choice of dogs also can be bred and grown, based on their relationship with the sheep. Keep losing the little spuds (which happens a lot later on), and you'll never progress properly, and everything just get harder. Likewise, you can pick up a stray sheep and carry them all the way to the truck, but that won't count toward precious experience points.

There are a lot of jumping over poles and being rocketed over water in every which way. It's an example of a puzzler that takes a basic premise and stretches it in as many directions as possible. I'll also admit to a certain satisfaction in herding a pack of sheep from the start to finish without losing any of them. The graphics probably won't leave an impression on anyone too young to remember the 16-bit era, and the game can become repetitious during long stretches, but for what it is, it works.

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