Flock!

 

Flock! never explains why aliens need to abduct so much livestock. But after playing through a few levels, it’s easy to suspect that they do it just because it’s hilarious. Players control a small UFO tasked with herding sheep, cows, and pigs onto the Motherflocker. Buzzing terrified farm animals, you form them into groups and guide them around a multitude of boards littered with obstacles.
 
Early levels can take a while as you figure out how to use fear to guide your flock without sending them running in the wrong directions. Later tasks involve more interactive puzzles, such as shrinking your cottony sheep by dousing them in water, then coaxing them through tiny openings before they return to full size. Fences need to be knocked over, and you can use stampeding bulls to ram into boulders, creating catapults to launch other critters across chasms.
 
One of Flock!’s most novel features is the interactivity of the environment. The designers could have just let you knock over objects that need to be cleared to complete a level. Instead, you’re welcome to wander around literally bulldozing paths, sending bits flying into the water. Cute touches punctuate the terrain, which appears to have been stitched together like a quilt. It gets easy to accidentally kill livestock in later levels, but you don’t have to feel too bad when you see little spectral angel-sheep rising up out of the water.
 
Each level features a timer for high-score medals, though you can finish at any pace you want and return later to round up everything on the board. After you’ve figured out the tricks, it’s easy to get enticed into repeating levels for the speed bonus. Once you have a solid grasp of the concepts of solo play, a co-op mode requires synchronized teamwork to beat levels.
 
Beyond the game: Playing through the campaign unlocks elements for a level editor for creating your own boards.
 
Worth playing for: The mix of retro science-fiction-style music and animal noises that sound like irate squeaky toys.
 
Frustration sets in when: A lack of controller finesse sends animals flying off cliffs.
 
Final judgment: Worth flocking to.

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