A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a downloadable puzzle game available through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, as well as online for Windows. It has a fun and whimsical premise that sees players taking on the role of aliens looking to abduct earthly livestock. However, some of the humor will be better appreciated by a slightly older audience. For example, the main alien ship is called the "Motherflocker," and the farm animals you herd often roll or trudge through mounds of excrement. What's more, puzzles become extremely challenging midway through the single-player portion of the game.
What's it about?
FLOCK!, a $15 downloadable puzzle game available for Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the PC, puts players in control of alien abductors who use flying saucers to herd sheep, cows, chickens, and pigs back to an alien mother ship. Along the way you must overcome obstacles cleverly placed in the animals' path. Players need to use their wits as well as a small selection of tools, such as a tractor beam, to make their way past locked gates, thick fields of wheat, and even big piles of poop.
Each of the game's fifty-plus puzzles takes just a few minutes or less to complete, which means speedy players can finish the game in just a few hours. It will, however, take considerably longer should players wish to earn gold rankings in each level, or explore local competitive and co-operative play. Plus, a simple-to-use level editor combined with the ability to share your puzzles online creates the potential for almost unlimited play.
Is it any good?
Flock! has a truly innovative aesthetic. Its environments, composed largely of what look to be pieces of fabric stitched together, draw inspiration from recent titles like LittleBigPlanet and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Meanwhile, the terrific soundtrack manages the tricky feat of melding Men in Black-style otherworldly ditties with folksy acoustic guitar. And if Flock!'s look and feel doesn't grab you, its cleverly accessible puzzles probably will. The first few require players to do little more than move a thumbstick to maneuver their flying saucers over flat fields, but before you know it you'll be contending with springboards, mud, tractor beams, locked gates, and bails of hay. Indeed, things become challenging enough that gold rankings will be few and far between in the game's later puzzles.
The only thing keeping Flock! from achieving truly great puzzle game status is that you can never turn off the beam of light that herds the animals. If you've accidentally herded your flock too far in one direction you'll need to detour around the animals and give them a wide berth, or the beam will cause the livestock to run off in all directions. Other than this one, unfortunately vexing problem, Flock! is fantastic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Flock!'s humor. Do you laugh when you watch the game's tiny pink pigs become brown as they roll through piles of poop? Do you find the game's clever word-play—such as one level called "Pits of Peril"—to be funny? Do you think this sort of humor enhances the gaming experience? Do you think the game would have been duller without such jokes?
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