Flock! (XBLA) Review
Posted by Trace Aber on 04.22.2009
Will Capcom's latest puzzle game live up to the hype or will the unique concept be too much?
Flock! has all of the makings of a terrific downloadable game, including new gameplay mechanics, beautiful graphics, fresh ideas, and was made by Capcom. Yet, somewhere in the midst of all of this optimism, only a mediocre game was created – but why?
Flock! (which from this point on I will avoid using the exclamation point), is an puzzle game where you control a flying saucer and lead groups of various animals to the mothership, which the game dubs the “Motherflocker.” You lead the animals by striking fear in them with your saucer’s beam of light and do your best to guide them onto the Motherflocker. Each animal has various quirks and abilities that require the player to come up with a slew of different strategies (which you will need to do to complete). For example, the sheep cannot fit through fences, so you must lead them through a small geyser to shrink them to where they can continue on their path. Cows, on the other hand, must be chased so they can build enough speed to break down fences, while chickens are able to fly for a short distance.
Each level is, technically, untimed so you are free to spend as much time as you like on each level. Most levels include more animals than you actually need to place on the Motherflocker, so this is a good way to get every single animal onboard. The levels do, however, offer medals that you can earn based on how fast you beat the level (ranging from Gold, Silver, and Bronze) and they help you unlock various items. Every level you beat also grants you an item to use in the game’s robust level editor, which is a nice incentive for players to finish all 50 levels of the main campaign.
Speaking of the level editor, Flock features one of the best level editors I’ve seen on a console. You have the ability to play virtually everything you will find throughout the game’s campaign and you are given a slew of options to make it work within the context of whatever level you are attempting to create. The editor also boasts the ability to change the season the map takes place in, as well as how many and what types of animals you need to complete the level, which is a nice feature. From what I understand, it is essentially the exact same level editor the creators of the game used, and I completely believe that. Players can also download user-created and Capcom-created levels to further increase the playability of the game.
Graphically, Flock is one of the most beautiful XBLA games I have played. Everything looks as though it were made of plush toys, which fits with the overall theme and atmosphere of the game. Each season has a different look to it, and with all four seasons represented, you get a nice range of graphics. The audio in the game is also well-suiting, and for some reason often reminds me of the theme song from the short-lived Dilbert cartoon that aired on TV.
With all of these great features, however, comes a major problem. While causing animals to flee in fear of a giant saucer seems like a great time, it is sometimes far more problematic than it should be. Too often animals get caught around corners or fall off ledges and there never appears to be any real rhyme or reason to it. The larger the group of animals you are chasing the more random their actions seem to be, which I expected to so degree but at times I found myself more frustrated than entertained. I don’t blame any of this on the developers, however, because that was there goal. They wanted to make a unique and challenging puzzler, and they did, but the game unfortunately is not fun.
The 411 - Flock! is not a bad game, and honestly does everything it promised. It is extremely unique, looks excellent, and can be quite challenging when going for the medals. I had a good time playing the game, but I also had a very frustrating time with it, mostly due to the way the game was made. I know a lot of people who enjoy this game, and the community seems fairly active, but it is certainly not for everyone. If you can get passed some of the gameplay mechanisms, or if they simply don’t bother you, Flock is a must-own title that really has unlimited replay value. Either way, I still highly recommend downloading the trial game first, just so you know what you are getting into.
Unique and beautiful, there's nothing negative to say about the graphics.
The game can be fun but can be as equally frustrating. Only the most patient gamers can fully appreciate it.
Catchy but standard.
The lasting appeal is based upon whether or not you can get past the frustration. If so, then the lasting appeal is endless.
I think most people were expecting greatness, but the clunky controls make what should be a masterpiece simply a mediocre game.