In playing Flockers, I found myself wondering if Team 17, the game’s developers and creators of Worms, had ever made a Lemmings game. It turns out they did, in 2006, but I was actually thinking of DMA Design, who created both Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto. It was an easy mistake to make: both Team 17 and DMA Design (now Rockstar North) were British PC developers in the ‘90s, each with a successful series featuring small creatures with a habit of exploding. The only difference is that one studio is now wowing (and offending) the world with one of the most expansive and technically impressive games on the market, and the other is making mobile clones of twenty year-old DMA Design games.
Flockers is Lemmings. On one end of a level, a flock of sheep begin their procession toward the goal, while the player places obstacles and grants the sheep abilities to keep them from falling off the stage or being torn apart by giant saw blades. Every level awards stars for completion, number of surviving sheep, and speed. Abilities are denoted by articles of clothing, like beanie hats that cause the sheep to jump rather than fall when they reach ledges, or superhero capes that allow the sheep to survive long falls and even climb up sheer (or should I say “shear”) walls.
Players activate these abilities by tapping the power icon on the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, then tapping each individual sheep or dragging a selection box over a group of sheep. This caused a bit of trouble for me, since creating a selection box requires the same gesture as panning the camera. Moving the camera is last thing I want to do when frantically handing out sheep hats. Even in selecting the sheep individually, I often felt like the sheep were too small to tap reliably, no matter how zoomed-in I was.
Obstacle placement fares a bit better, but could use a little tweaking. Players can drag green box outlines onto the level, and the first sheep to approach those boxes will fill them in, stopping to block the other sheep’s progress. Time freezes when you’re placing the obstacles, so you at least won’t lose any sheep in the process, but unlike the abilities, which stay selected after each use, obstacles have to be reselected after each placement. This was a minor inconvenience, but one that I ran into regularly.
If the gameplay is familiar, the visual style at least feels fresh. Sheep have figured heavily into the Worms series, but Flockers gives them a whole new look, with expressive faces and angular tufts of wool. The use of capes, a reference to Worms’ Super Sheep weapon, is a nice touch, and the Worms themselves even show up in boss levels, piloting giant mobile death machines for the sheep to outsmart. The sound is mostly forgettable, but if you don’t have a podcast to listen to instead, the dark-yet-whimsical music is a perfect fit for the pensive gameplay.
So, while Flockers might not have anything new to say with its gameplay, it works well as a spinoff of the Worms franchise, and I think it sells its cutesy, hyper-violent charm better than any recent Worms game. $2 is an easy price to justify for fifty challenging levels, each with multiple objectives to complete. If you’re a fan of Worms or Lemmings, you’ll be happy to take the plunge.
If you want Lemmings with a Wormy flavor, A) gross, and B) you’re in luck. The controls, though fidgety, work well for mobile.