Ahh the wonderful bliss of the countryside, as a man whistles to his faithful friend offering instructions to carefully and strategically herd sheep into an enclosure. Many of us will have admired this activity on the BBC programme ‘One Man and his Dog’ and now what’s this you say, there is a game where you can enjoy the same sort of exploits all from the comfort of your mobile phone?
Sheep Dog! does indeed mimic this challenging pursuit with a selection of gradually increasing puzzles and best of all even if you lack the art of whistling, fear not as this is not needed to achieve results – all you need is your trusty thumb.
With 75 puzzles in total split up into easy, medium and hard difficulties – Sheep Dog! is a free title on the Android Market (now Google Play of course).
Using a virtual joystick placed either at the bottom right or left of the screen (can be adjusted in the options for left handed players), you are required to manouvre Shaun the Sheep and his friends. I kid thee not, they were brave enough to call him Shaun in the games description! Possible trademark issues aside, Sheep Dog! is actually a delightful title – that has you controlling a single sheep dog or should I say Border Collie. You need to expertly run around at various speeds and direction to encourage the sheep and their direction through all kinds of obstacles including gates and even roads with busy traffic as you hope to get them all to the very end enclosure. Even ‘Fenton’, a dog that has become famous thanks to a YouTube video – will dart across certain levels with the audible shouts of his master ignored as this disrupts your steady progress. Comical though!
The sheep of course have ideas of their own and can sometimes miss the odd gate or two if you are progressing too quickly. The game mechanics work pretty well, with the only disappointment being that the sheep movements are a little predictable. By moving around the sheep with your dog, you will soon notice a distinct pattern of behaviour. The faster you go the further they spread out, but possibly far too evenly. Regardless, your skills at moving along the woollen animals along the screen is a rewarding one and the balance of speed, precision and direction that is forever foremost in your mind. Arrows reveal the correct movements around the screen, which can include looping around an object, heading through an object and over landscape elements including roads and bridges.
You will need to constantly shift your dog from one side to another just behind the sheep to have any chance of progressing correctly and trust me when I say you will need to be patient to achieve the right outcome. For example, moving towards the sheep from the left will make the sheep head right and vice-versa. It is this precise coaxing that is crucial.
Graphically, the top down perspective works well and the details although fairly basic – do offer enough character to keep you interested. All of the levels, even within the easy difficulty section offer enough challenge and reward for you to want to continue onwards and indeed surpass your previous scores and a maximum of 3 stars rating.
For a free title, Sheep Dog! manages to tick most of the right boxes by presenting you with an interesting puzzle game based around the herding of sheep with your canine friend. It is easy to recommend this title and will no doubt remind you of television’s most golden moments of a man and his dog with a selection of creatures that find it difficult to follow simple instructions.
Rating: 4 / 5
Google Play Link: Sheep Dog!