What We Think
A lovely classical melody sets the tone for the pastoral landscape that will serve as the backdrop to a spine-tingling, brain-mangling…casual game? Color Sheep offers an intriguing twist on the old-side scrolling shooter and one that might drive a synesthesiate mad, or to bliss, it is hard to guess which. With nicely drawn critters and a (necessarily) rich color palette, the game is alluring from the outset, however, gameplay proves very challenging and will filter out the more laid-back consumer wishing for an idle distraction from those who persist because they hate being bested in a challenge.
The core mechanic is this: Turn your black sheep into a bright or dark RGB color corresponding to incoming colored wolves. Tap your sheep to blast that color and clear out the color-matched baddies.
But just when you think you have that handled, color combinations emerge in the CMYK – yellow cyan and magenta – which are created by dragging across the correct combination of two primary colors (for example red and green to form yellow) while maintaining the very real mental exercise of dark versus light versions. OK, so now you have (3xRGBx2(light/dark))x(CMYKx2(light/dark) to think about in the little time between the wolves’ onscreen appearance and their descent upon you, when, lo and behold – by stage four you get even more combinations: white (dragging across all three primary colors + Bright) or gray (all three primaries + Dark). There is also black, which is easily accomplished as that is your default color.
Incidentally, if you happen to color your sheep the wrong hue, you can quickly tap the large reset button on the top left of the screen, though even that small distance for your finger to travel seems too great in the rush to defend yourself.
In the midst of all these shenanigans, there is a chance that a special item will drop that you can store until you are ready/in dire need to drop a special attack. These vary from a rainbow blast that knocks out any color wolf approaching, to a lightning storm (which presumably does the same thing), and still others that slow time, etc. These add some extra variety, and much needed aid in this crazy romp, so long as you remember to deploy them before it is too late (which is often the case).
The game is staunchly unforgiving when it comes to failure states – you blow it one time, and it is game over, no erasies. So you had better be on point. This is also why I would hesitate to call this a casual game. Heck, even Bioshock Infinite gives you a break if you get overwhelmed.
The animation is crisp and clean and the spartan UI is intuitive and friendly. The only minor gripe is that the screen (at least on an iPod on which this was tested) feels a little small and crowded between your hero sheep and the incoming oversized wolfies. Given some of the ridiculously high scores on the global leaderboards however, this may just be a case of fat fingers on my part. Maybe speed texters will fare far better than I, or those with serious color-parsing gray matter, no pun intended.
Per the developer: “Note: Color Sheep requires players to perceive a wide range of colors and is not recommended for those with color blindness.” It also requires someone with a mind that can multi-task in a serious way. And for this I award it an extra half-star.
Color Sheep provides a novel-enough challenge among a sea of similar but often more derivative competitors, to be played while standing in lines and at airport terminals, but is also a title that requires your complete, undivided attention.
We Dream of Electric Sheep
If you are up for a new take on the side-scroller in the style of Plants vs. Zombies or even Temple Run, then Color Sheep will definitely give your mind a jolt.
At only $.99 I give it an easy recommend.