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Flockers Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Flockers takes its inspiration from Lemmings, the 1991 Amiga game that changed puzzlers forever. Team 17's newest game won't be nearly as influential, as it's marred by poor controls and frustrating trial and error gameplay. Some may get a kick out of seeing the sheep die in all kinds of gruesome ways, but the gore can't make up for the game's many shortcomings. Rating: 57%
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  • C+
Lemmings was an incredibly deep puzzle game where the adorable rodents burrowed through floors, created stairs to climb and even knocked over walls. It was also the game that allowed you to explode these furry friends into a million tiny pieces. Flockers on PlayStation 4 (as well as Xbox One and PC) seems to have taken its inspiration from Lemmings' darker moments, creating a similar puzzle game with an emphasis on violent and bloody deaths.

This comes to us from Team 17, who not only created the long-running Worms franchise but also adapted Lemmings to the PlayStation 3, PSP and PS2. Instead of lemmings slowly filing their way to an untimely end, this game gives us next-generation sheep to guide to safety. Although there are a few differences that help set this game apart, it's nearly impossible to review Flockers without first mentioning the striking similarities to the 1991 Amiga game.

Flockers (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Much like Lemmings, Team 17's new PlayStation 4 game has players assigning jobs to simplistic animals. For example, players will need to turn sheep into jumpers in order to leap to safety. We can also turn the flock into super sheep, which gives them the ability to climb walls and survive large falls. Two sheep can get together to block traffic and a group of three can create proper stairs for climbing. It's all very familiar.

At the same time, the game's dark atmosphere and graphic violence help to set it apart from Lemmings. Instead of worrying about bottomless pits, each stage is riddled with a startling collection of deadly obstacles. If the spikes don't impale the flock, the devices specifically created to smash, slice and squash certainly will. In Flockers, the levels fight back.

On paper, these abusive stages sound like a great idea. They're full of complicated puzzles that will actually change the level design, something that is used in clever ways. The dimwitted sheep will need to navigate moving platforms and elevators, as well as use teleporters and anti-gravity areas. Unfortunately, there are a few gameplay decisions that make Flockers much more frustrating than it should have been.

The lengthy stages are both a blessing and a curse. While I was intrigued by the complexity of each stage, I quickly found myself disappointed by the lack of checkpoints. With multiple puzzles to solve in each level, it could take players a few tries to figure out what the game is looking for. Killing the flock or running out of assignable jobs will result in starting the level over from the start.

Flockers (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It doesn't help that I found myself fighting the controls the entire time. Because the levels are so large, players are forced to zoom in and out just to see what's going on and assign jobs. One analog stick is used exclusively to move the camera, while the other used the cursor. For whatever reason, this never felt adequate to me. I also found myself stumbling with the button layout and accuracy. Far too often I had to completely stop time just to get my bearings.

The PS4's DualShock 4 controller isn't the right fit for this kind of game, and I continued to struggle with the layout even after several hours with the game. This is the kind of game that would be ideal on a mobile device, such as Sony's own PS Vita. I can only imagine that zipping around the stage and assigning jobs would be infinitely easier using the Vita's touchscreen.

It wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't demand exact precision in order to solve puzzles and get past tough obstacles. I found the boss stages to be especially frustrating, since there's almost no margin for error. This kind of thing is bad even when the gameplay is tight and polished, so it's even more troublesome in a game like Flockers.

While I can certainly blame some of the chaos on the large levels and inadequate controls, there are other elements that hurt the game. Flockers never gives players enough information, especially when it comes to the teleport machine. It's never clear where the sheep end up, so there's always a moment where players are quickly scanning the area looking for their missing flock. It's just one more thing that feeds into the trial and error gameplay.

Flockers (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Flockers attempts to make up for these problems by flashing moments of extreme and gruesome violence. I'll admit that some of the deaths are humorous, but I stopped paying attention as the difficulty ramped up. I'm sure the 14 year old me would giggle endlessly at the sight of sheep getting impaled, just as I did watching those poor lemmings explode. Now in my thirties, the gore just feels gratuitous.

With 60 stages to solve and hidden characters to unlock, there's a lot of content in Flockers. Unfortunately, too much of this content is marred by inadequate controls and gameplay decisions that only help to make things more confusing. Hidden behind the blood and guts are a few good ideas, but even then these sheep are no lemmings.
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