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Shaun the Sheep

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: D3
Developer: Art Co
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

I was surprised by how well Shaun the Sheep looks on the DS. Given the handheld's graphical capabilities, it was still able to show the claymation style that is iconic for all of Aardman's work. While there are a few times when the lack of detail hides some of the specifics of the character models, it still feels like an Aardman product because the models have that specific dull shine to them and the studio's unique eyes also come through. Being a fan of pretty much anything Aardman, I tend to get worried when I hear one of his projects is coming out as a game, mostly because of the unique look of it all, but Shaun the Sheep seems to hit the nail on the head.

Audio isn't all that bad either. The background music has the same Shaun the Sheep sound to it, and the game's various sound effects are used in all the right places. For instance, the little tune when you find one of the missing sheep and get them into the corral is a little flourish that plays and you know the job is done. Other sound effects like the naughty pigs grunting or Bitzer's whistle also come through loud and clear.


Gameplay:

Shaun the Sheep follows the farm characters established in the animated series of the same name. Here, Shaun (the protagonist), seems to be your average sheep, even though he seems to be pretty good friends with the farm's dog, Bitzer, and he walks on his hind legs, of course.

The game's story follows Shaun as he tries to find all the sheep that have gotten out of the corral and hidden themselves about the farm (depicted in the map on the top screen). Shaun the Sheep's gameplay becomes pretty formulaic and repetitive really quickly, so there is a chance that the game's younger audience could lose interest early on. What it does have is quite a lot of backtracking, since you will be going between the dozen or so different areas of the map looking for the various sheep who seem to appear out of nowhere at times (if not them, then the item you will need to get the sheep who are currently hiding).

The basic pattern has a red star appearing on the map, when you go there Shaun will notice a sheep, and then think of the items the player needs to gather in order to get to the sheep. Each of these item's locations appear as a star on the map and then you go there to find the object that was either not selectable before, or simply didn't exist.

Most of the time, you will also have to take part in some sort of mini-game to get the sheep out of hiding and into the corral. These mini-games end up being a form of whack-a-mole, or wail on a guitar (actually you just flick off the broken notes, and let the good ones through). There are eight such mini-games and they are unlocked to be played outside of the normal game by coming across them in normal gameplay, or by finding a little chick and returning it to its mother.

Finding chicks also unlock images that are also picture-slide puzzles. You know, those annoying puzzles where the picture is all shuffled around and one space is left blank so you can slide the squares all over the place. I've always gotten pretty annoyed at those things.


Difficulty:

Shaun the Sheep does a lot of hand-holding, especially for a point-and-click adventure title. But when you consider the show's target audience (and thus the game's) is pretty young, giving the player lots and lots of clues isn't wholly a bad thing, in fact, this game might act as a good way to train younger players into the logic skills that will be necessary with less help in more standard adventure titles.

A good example of how much this game guides players is any time Shaun needs to collect a few things in order to get to a sheep. For instance, one of the sheep is found in a tree. When Shaun sees this, he turns to the camera and you see a thought bubble that has a surf board and a barrel in it. The map on the top screen then has two new stars on it (the location of each object). Once in that area, the game's camera focuses in on the object of interest, and a simple click later, you have it in your inventory.

The only times the player might have issues is the couple of times it doesn't guide you exactly where you need to go. Yes, it's possible to become so complacent that the one or two times Shaun the Sheep doesn't tell you exactly what to do, you might have trouble figuring it out, even if it is a really simple solution. This didn't happen too often, but the first time it did (the first time you need to get past Bitzer to get into the house), it actually took some time to figure out what to do.


Game Mechanics:

Shaun the Sheep uses the DS' stylus to move Shaun around the screen, and while you can also use the D-pad to move him about, it's best to keep the stylus out since you will use it to tap on objects around the world to interact with them. Part of the game's eloquence in controls comes from the fact that, for the most part, that's all you will be doing. Move the little sheep around the world, and tap on an object to pick it up (if you can), or dig in it looking for some goodie (like a chick).

Outside of that, the mini-games also tend to have tight controls. While some will require you to blow into the mic in order to dry off sheep, or others simply have you moving a pair back and forth while Shaun jumps on the trampoline the two are holding, I rarely found the game doing something unexpected, or doing what I wanted too slowly to do what I needed.

While not a grand compelling game for the masses, if you are looking for a cute title for a younger child who really enjoys the TV show, then you probably won't go wrong with the Shaun the Sheep game. But this game is most definitely not for your typical gamer. Anyone with any kind of experience in adventure titles will find the game repetitive, insultingly easy and containing too much backtracking.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Microsoft Xbox 360 NHL 09 Windows Multiwinia

 
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