Video Game Rentals Delivered

Flock (XBLA)

David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-25 16:42:14

Flock (XBLA) - Rank D

Developer: Proper Games
Publisher: Capcom
Date: 4/08/09

Also available for PlayStation 3 and PC

Flock puts you in control of a flying saucer looking to herd various farmyard livestock into a mother ship for unspecified alien purposes. Your enemies are the various obstacles that need to be puzzled around, and the animals themselves which are -ARRRGGGGHGRR!- incensingly uncooperative.

Flock's concept sounds appealing on paper. Most of us enjoy puzzle solving games. Deriving elegant solutions to initially intractable problems gives us a satisfying sense of accomplishment, and if the game is really well designed, makes us feel smarter than we actually are. Flock would seem to have that quality. The different animals have interesting characteristics, like sheep that shrink when wet, or cows that can be goaded into knocking objects over. Your UFO gains various tools, like a tractor beam that can uproot and manipulate obstacles in the paths of the animals. With proper level design, these are elements that should combine into an entertaining puzzle game.

Should... The first insult to the gamer is the horrifically frustrating controls. The animals simply do not like being prodded along, and will squirt away in any number of random trajectories even if it means plummeting off a cliff to their deaths. Herding them is LESS fun than sweeping the sidewalk. It is that tedious. The difficult part of a puzzler ought to be the cerebral process of figuring out a solution, not the actual execution of your idea.

Flock goes downhill from there. As more complex obstacles are introduced, the game abuses you harder. Take swinging gates, for example. It's obvious how they work. You open them, and push animals through. It doesn't take a rocket scientist. Only, by the time you wrangle the beasts, the gate closes! You're then forced to clear them out, open the thing again, and hope that THIS is finally the time you can get the flocking pigs through the gate before it closes on you for the umpteenth time. Or the flocking bridges! You drop them on gaps so animals can cross. But they'd rather take crazy angles and fall off the side, or shove each other off the sides. Or just knock the bridge over to more efficiently fall to their doom.

Even the elements that don't incite you to justifiable manslaughter aren't adequately satisfying. The numerous levels are riddled with tidbits like pads that cause amorous sheep to multiply, or opportunities to draw crop circles. These don't feel like fleshed out ideas. They're more gimmick mechanics tacked on to levels, as opposed to revelatory gameplay.

Flock is a highly polished game for a small downloadable title. From the slick visuals, to the online co-op, and over fifty stages filled with chickens and cows and quilt-like terrain, it sports high production values throughout. Unfortunately, it's udderly sterile of charm. Yeah, that pun is terrible, right? But it's downright lovable compared to the fallow experience of playing Flock.

Oh, plus you get to pay more than usual for it. It sells for $15. Those motherflockers.

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