“…one to be highly anticipated!”
After Team17 released their most recent Worms title, they announced that they would be taking a break from the franchise and working on something new and exciting. But clearly not content with the brutal annihilation of one species, we have now been presented with Flockers. Flockers follows the story of the sheep who for a long time have been weaponised by the worms in their seemingly purposeless warfare efforts. The sheep have had enough of their predicament, and now seek to escape their imprisonment by navigating through the deadly factories in which they have been trapped by the worms we all once thought were cute little destructive menaces. It turns out however that beneath their sweet little destructive exteriors, the worms have a much darker and more menacing side to them; one that we never could have imagined…
Flockers sees Team17 try their hand at dark humour; really dark humour. No more of the pretty colours, gimmicky weapons and comedy voices that the Worms franchise has always offered. Oh no, we have fallen far, far below that here. Flockers sees brutal traps and mechanisms crushing, grinding and exploding sheep left right and centre in the dark and dingy factories of the worms. Is it funny? Kind of yes. In fact it is pretty hilarious. But not in a Worms kind of way. No, there is blood now, lots of it, and genuinely sad last words (or noises at least) from every sheep you see fall victim to an utterly brutal death at the hands of the mechanical death-machine defences which stand between them and their freedom.
So that really sets the scene with you, and the scene is indeed one of the more important and well-worked features of the game. Team17 want you to not only think but truly see and know that they have turned in their happy-fun-time attitudes in place of a darker and more sinister kind of funny, and boy do they make it clear! Flockers however is also a whole different type of game compared to what we are used to these indie devs putting on the table. In short, if you remember Lemmings, it is like that. If you don’t, then this is simply an A to B puzzler; a slightly rarer type of game in recent times but one which is based on a simple premise. You are given the overarching aim of getting a flurry of the fluffy would-be time-bombs from the start point of each level to the end point. The more sheep who make it and the faster they get there, the better score you will achieve; simple! The intricacies between these two however are what makes it interesting…
Aside from the unbelievably brutal traps along the way (and wow Team17 I really didn’t know you guys had that sort of sick and twisted side to you), you must use your sheep in different ways to help them progress and support each other in reaching their goal. This can involve making them pile up as a staircase for others to access certain areas, giving them capes and turning them into our old favourites, the super sheep, or utilising some of the flock as the very weapons they had hoped to escape the fate of becoming. The real challenge is that you will not have time to think about this. You have to be constantly on the ball, because this is a real-time situation, and as is traditional these buggers will not stop moving forwards for you or anyone! It is a race of your wits against their steady, one-directional blunder towards their perceived freedom, and if you are not ready then you are going to end up seeing one naaaaasty show!
At present, the game is in an early access stage, and there are issues which could be addressed. One specific one which I had trouble with was trying to navigate the camera around the levels. It is not always easy to keep up with where all of your sheep actually are, especially if the flock gets split up. It is even more of a challenge to find them if they walk through a teleporter, and more than once I am sure I almost hit panic attack levels trying to find them and worrying about their off-screen wellbeing. If it was just a little easier to keep up with my-cloud like friends, it might have been possible for me to say that no sheep were harmed to bring you this preview. As it is, I sit here covered in wool and blood, rocking backwards and forwards, hitting one key at a time and asking myself why… Otherwise though, a lot of the games features appear to work relatively well!
So there you have it. This is what Team17 have been up to. It is not what most Worms fans will likely have been expecting, and it is certainly far more brutal than what any of us might have imagined… It is, however, very good fun, and it is great to see a fantastic development team shooting to bring back the old Lemmings-style A to B puzzler genre; one which it feels like we have been missing for quite some time. With very few issues, most of which are minor, the game has very good prospects at this early access stage, and the final release is certainly one to be highly anticipated!