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CES 2009: Flock! hands-on impressions

10:20 AM on 01.12.2009 // Conrad Zimmerman
  @ConradZimmerman

You see that video right up there? That's a trailer for the coolest thing I saw at CES. Oh, sure, Resident Evil 5 was being played on the side of Planet Hollywood and there was a porn convention going on in Vegas at the same time, but Flock! speaks to my interests in a way that half-naked starlets and zombies never could.

Okay, maybe that's going a little bit too far. Let's just say that Flock! is one of the downloadable games I'm most excited for right now. After having the chance to play the game, I am ready to spread my intense love of sheep all over Destructoid. I'm totally Scottish over them. Seriously.

Hit the jump and I'll try not to get too much in your eyes.

Flock!

If you could not tell from the trailer, the goal of Flock! is to use a flying saucer to herd the animals of each level into your mothership (or "Mother Flocker"). There are several different types of animals to deal with in addition to the aforementioned sheep. While they share one trait in that they're terrified of your saucer, they react to you and the environment in different ways. Pigs, for example, roll about and collect mud on their bodies, while chickens will dart quickly away from you through short-range flight.

Each level has a certain number of animals that you must herd to progress. Sometimes it is as simple as getting a few of one type of critter home, while other levels require a combination of multiple animals. You score points for engaging animals and for each that you successfully herd. If you can get them to the ship quickly enough, bonus points are awarded.

Flock!

The environments offer a myriad of ways to keep you from getting your hands on those sweet sheepies. Every level is an island, often with gaps at the edges that make it easy for errant animals to fall to their doom if you are not careful. Some animals refuse to pass over certain terrain hazards while others are drawn to them. Scarecrows instill terror in the same way your saucer does and will send animals scattering if they get too close.

Your saucer is equipped with only one real tool: a beam that can either lift items or press them down. If there's a fence preventing your herd from moving toward the Mother Flocker, the saucer can lift a boulder and crash it into the fence to clear the way. Should your sheep get lost in a cornfield, the beam can be employed to cut crop circles that the luscious, wooly beasts can be guided through. Then again, you could always use the beam to crush them instead, surrounded by a cacophony of bleating.

Flock!

The level I played was fairly simplistic. All I had to do was roll a boulder down a hill to break two fences, then guide a group of sheep and another group of chickens to the Mother Flocker. Other levels shown included a maze of pinball-like bumpers and pigs, where the swine bounced wildly out of control if the player failed to thread them through some tight passages. The potential is there for some truly mind-bending puzzles as you work to get the animals to pass through, using their traits to afford passage to other types while paying attention to the entire level to keep from losing control of your assorted herds.

On the whole, I'm pretty psyched for Flock!. The visual style is highly adorable and the concepts seem simple enough for just about anyone to grasp while offering enough challenge to keep fans of a good action-puzzler happy. And since a level can be played in just a few minutes (seconds even, for the simpler ones) and lots of replay value for folks interested in scoring as many points as possible or achieving a better time bonus, this is looking to be a very strong downloadable title.

There’s no release date yet; all we know is that it's expected some time this year. What I played felt very polished, so I can't imagine we have too long to wait for an announcement on when we can all be loving sheep in the privacy of our own homes. On a 360, PC or PS3, that is. Not in a very real, intimate, physical sense. That would be wrong.

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Conrad Zimmerman, Moustache
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An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. He can be heard on the comedy podcast () and str... more   |   staff directory

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