By Eric Pankoke on Wed, 12/30/2009
There’s no question that Apple’s App Store has been flooded with puzzle games, so what can you do to make one stand out? How about having it center around aliens and sheep? Why not toss in some action elements? Oh, and while you’re at it, try explaining how the mythical “crop circle” phenomenon actually occurs. If this sounds like a winning combination of elements to you, then look no further. Sheep Abduction has it all. Plus it has excellent audio and visuals and it’s actually fun to boot.
In Sheep Abduction you play an alien that has to gather up sheep to create crop circles. Fortunately you’re piloting a UFO that has a gun which can transport most anything – provided you have the right attachment. Your job on each level is to retrieve the attachments, gather the sheep, and deal with any obstacles in the way. There are no difficulties there, right? Well, let’s briefly discuss all the obstacles you’ll face along the way.
The biggest problem is time itself - or more appropriately, the fact that you are timed. There are rare occasions where you’ll find a time booster, but those only appear on levels where it’s really deemed necessary. Then there are the inanimate objects. Silos are harmless, but hitting them causes you to bounce around like a pinball. Windmills, on the other hand, are quite deadly to your ship. Fences can help keep enemies at bay, but are also sometimes needed to help corral the sheep. There are other things you’ll find along the way as well, but revealing them all takes the fun out of the discovery.
On the other side are the evil critters. So far I’ve experienced vultures and wolves. Both creatures are harmless, per se, but they certainly don’t help your cause. If you hit a vulture you will drop any sheep that you are carrying. Wolves are a lot more interesting. They roam back and forth in whatever area they are contained, and the sheep are afraid of them. As a consequence, if a wolf gets too close to a sheep, the sheep will retreat to the back of the screen. This “dual layered” approach to level design is actually a unique twist that comes into play in several of the levels. Sometimes there are lasers on a level that will let you get rid of vultures and wolves, though you have to be careful because lasers can also harm sheep. There are also universal attachments and wolf-specific attachments for your UFO that will let you pick up the mangy wolves. If there happens to be a pool of water on the level, you can drop the wolves in it to dispose of them.
Game play is simply comprised of tilting the device around to pilot your ship and pressing the screen to fire your UFO gun (or the laser if you happen to have it). If you’re transporting something then you keep your finger pressed until you’re in the right position, at which time letting going of the screen will cause you to drop your cargo. The controls actually worked really well, and the only difficulties I experienced were my own ineptitudes towards the actual arcade-like elements of the game. Some of the levels have some really tight spots to navigate through. I really liked the level design – although I didn’t appreciate some of them until after the fact – and the levels that used both the front and back layers were especially cool.
The visuals are quite stunning. The world is bright and colorful, with multi-layered backgrounds that are nice looking without being overly detailed. The critters are well animated and have a cartoon quality to their appearance. Nice little touches like smoke rings coming from the UFO’s engine round out the package. The audio is a great compliment to the environment. The sheep’s bleating lets you know they’re still around, while the subtle “sploosh” of water tells you they’ve wandered in the wrong direction. Other noises like the gentle hum of the laser or the pinball-like bounce when you hit a silo help augment the cartoon feeling of the visuals. The music has a nice little country twang to it, and is very relaxing despite the intense nature of some of the timed levels.
It’s been quite some time since this game has been released, but it still strikes me as one of the more original puzzle offerings in the App Store. The unique blend of mind power required to figure out what order to do things in and dexterity needed to pull it off without bouncing around wildly or crashing into deadly windmills makes the game stand out among its peers. The visual and audio elements just make it that much more of a pleasure to get immersed in the environment. The main down side would probably be that there are only 20 levels (I believe), which might not keep the hardened puzzle gamer busy for long. Still, for the current asking price of 99 cents you can’t go wrong.
Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link