Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17
Sheep have long been familiar companions to any Worms player. Whether an honourable lightsider or dastardly darksider, we're used to deploying armies of explosive livestock who merrily leap into harm's way before sacrificing themselves on the altar of victory. But have you ever stopped to wonder where these flocks of adorable ordinance actually come from?
Now we're set to find out -- and feel incredibly guilty in the process -- courtesy of Flockers.
Team 17's newly-announced puzzler is set within the Worms' weapon factory: a nightmarish realm of grinding machinery, industrial mills, saws, blades and conveyor belts, all forming a giant and intricately designed mechanised hell. Entire herds of sheep are bound for the depths of the facility, destined to be stuffed full of high explosives and shipped off to the front lines... and it's up to us to save as many as possible from their grisly fate. What follows is a blood-soaked and thoroughly sadistic take on classic Lemmings gameplay, liberally flavoured with lashings of anarchic British humour and classic Worms references.
DMA's legendary puzzle series clearly inspires Flockers on a fundamental level. At the start of each stage, a cuddly army of sheep begin to blithely march across the screen from left to right, straight into the bowels of the processing plant. A horrifying gauntlet stands between them and salvation; stuffed with traps, buzz saws, crushers and other manufacturing equipment set to reduce your flock into chunky wooly kibbles. Left to their own devices, the entire army will become mutton stew in short order.
Thankfully we're able to imbue our sheep with a limited number of useful abilities, many of which will be familiar to Worms fans. 'Jumpers' will automatically leap over small ledges and gaps they encounter, allowing them to reach new platforms, switches or avoid nasty spiked pitfalls. Super Sheep make a welcome return, sending ruminants skyward to secure lofty perches or bypass traps before opening the way for their fellows. And naturally you can order your sheep to explode to destroy weakened platforms or barriers in time-honoured fashion.
Doing so successfully requires expert timing and a little trial & error, as trapping sheep behind barriers is a perfect way to keep them safe from harm, requiring you to pick the perfect moment to release your adorable army as blade traps or moving platforms reset. Lemmings veterans will be in their element.
Formations add another strategic layer to the stressful and hectic experience. Sheep can be ordered to assume some useful (and utterly hilarious) positions with varying effects. Stacking them up can create temporary walls to keep your flock penned in, or makeshift pyramid staircases to climb. Combined with action abilities, there's plenty of scope for tactical play, and for perfecting a strategy to ensure maximum returns.
The three-level preview build escalated quickly, demonstrating that you'll need both expert timing, planning and nerves of steel to rescue more than a bare minimum of sheep. Sacrifice also plays a key role in the proceedings, since you'll often need to send one brave ruminant into impossible situations to press a switch or prematurely trigger a trap so that the majority of the flock can escape. Whether dealing with runaway mine cars, gouts of flame, guillotines or other more gruesome contrivances, you're always sorely pressed for time and resources, but saving even a singular sheep feels utterly fantastic as a result.
Though the Worms themselves won't star in the game as enemies or hazards, you'll often see them behind the scenes or in the background, alongside numerous knowing references for longtime series fans to enjoy. We'll apparently see how other legendary worms armaments are assembled, and I doubt we'll ever look at the humble sheep in quite the same way again.
Flockers will release on Steam Early Access this summer, at which point Team 17 will open up their pet project to input and feedback from the masses. The idea for Flockers has reportedly been bouncing around the firm's offices for years and they can't wait to loose it onto the unsuspecting masses.
Here's hoping for a Sally Army DLC pack in due time. Anyone?
Stay tuned for a full Flockers gameplay video with narration from Team 17 staffers! You'll soon discover how badly I suck at it.