Team 17 have done it again. And again. And again. I’m pretty sure Team 17, creator of Worms and developer of the latest Lemmings ports, have more or less been making the same game for the last two decades.
We’ve seen close to infinite iterations of the Worms series, with some highs (Armaggedon 1 & 2) and a number of lows (Ultimate Mayhem in particular).
The Lemmings series too, has had a similar trajectory. Off to a blistering start, the original Lemmings sold over 15 million copies, spawning port upon port and sequel upon sequel.
However, the A-to-B style puzzle genre never really progressed much. Until now?
Well no, not really. Flockers is still very much in the vein of Lemmings, although with a few new trimmings and stylings. Gone are the floppy green-haired clones, now we have cute bouncing sheep.
The titular ‘flock’ of sheep come streaming out of a funnel on one side of the 2D map and you want to get them to the other side. Of course it’s not quite that simple.
There are an abundance of traps, pits, and moving platforms to avoid, escape, and travel on.
One neat change from Lemmings is the bloody explosions each time your sheep are caught on the wrong end of a giant saw. A spurting of red mist and the shrill bleat of a dying sheep make for some sickly dark laughs.
Much the same way that Worms revels in the humour of worm-death, Flockers is more than happy to let a few sheep kick the bucket in the name of fun.
As you progress through each of Flockers’ 60 levels you’ll gain access to the full suite of tools for your disposal. They include jumping sheep, super sheep, exploding sheep, and blocker sheep. These are used to herd your flock through each obstacle.
Blockers are especially useful to stem the tide and give you some time to think, while super sheep are able to fly up the side of high walls. It is admittedly a small toolset, especially considering Lemmings had a little more variety over 20 years ago.
However, Flockers’ puzzles are pretty well designed around what transformations are available. Early on it’s possible to stumble through, keeping most of your sheep, but later areas pose much more of a challenge.
A three-star system is used, as well as a leaderboard to compare scores with your friends. The more sheep arrive at the exit (and the faster you do it), the higher your score. I had no trouble getting 1 or 2 stars on most levels, but hauling in that last one was always a hefty burden.
Deviating from the more creative offerings of Lemmings, each level here is a more linear affair. Usually there are only a couple ways to finish a stage. There’s no digging through walls here either, only adding to the feelings of constraint.
The steampunk visuals are enjoyably gory and twisted. I can’t help feeling that they would be better suited on the PC though.
Using the analog stick to scroll around the screen can be disorienting, especially when your sheep teleport from one corner of the map to another.
Precious seconds can be wasted flicking around the map as no real indication is given as to where your sheep have disappeared off to.
It’s difficult not to use Lemmings as a touchpoint when considering Flockers’ qualities.
Obviously the two are different games, but there’s a reason why the comparison keeps coming up. This really is just Lemmings with a new lick of paint and a slightly different toolset.
The sense of humour, and one or two interface changes are fine and dandy but they don’t really pull the game out of mediocrity.
Team 17’s Flockers is fine, but it is so similar to the Lemmings we played in 1991 that I’m not sure why it exists. It functions as promised but there’s nothing spectacular. It’s difficult to say what could be done to make the game better – this genre just doesn’t entertain like it used to.
Developer: Team 17
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC