Sheepo Review – Strange Sheep in a Strange Land

Sheepo Review – Strange Sheep in a Strange Land
3.5

Platforms:

Windows PC, Steam

Game Name:

Sheepo

Publisher(s):

Kyle Thompson

Developer(s):

Kyle Thompson

Genre(s):

Action, Adventure

Release Date:

August 26th, 2020

Sheepo by Kyle Thompson

In Sheepo by Kyle Thompson, you play as a creature on a mission to collect eggs from six animals that are in danger of becoming extinct. You must explore a mostly-deserted alien land filled with dangerous traps and platforming puzzles. Along the way, you’ll even encounter some odd NPCs within a seemingly dying world.

Lost Sheepo in a Strange Land

The narrative setup is simple, but that’s all the game really needs. Although the narrative is sparse, I do feel that the aforementioned NPCs do a good job of mixing up the familiar gameplay loop.

I met a bird who was hosting an art gallery. I met another NPC who gave me a tour of a boneyard of dead creatures. The world-building is very subtle, but I wish there were more things like this to add to the game’s lore.

The main gameplay loop involves exploring, platforming to avoid traps, then fighting a boss.

After each boss is defeated, I’d collect an egg. Whenever I found an egg, I was able to basically possess the creature associated with that egg. The possession only lasts a limited amount of time to make things more restrictive. This is how the game blocks certain paths, making for a nonlinear journey to find eggs so you can possess the creatures needed to progress.

It’s a neat mechanic, but don’t expect a lot of room for experimentation. There are only a specific number of creatures to posses in specific spots in order to venture forth into new areas.

They are also useful for finding hidden or hard-to-reach feathers, which count as this game’s currency. One example of this is the ground-burrowing snake. When I first was able to possess it, I was bummed to find out that I couldn’t burrow through every piece of terrain, only small specific areas of it.

Bouncing to Boss Battles

I have to say that the bosses in this game are easily the most enjoyable part of the gameplay loop. Not only are they well-designed, but they are also visually more interesting than the areas with platforms and hazards.

The best bits of platforming where when the game would require that I chain multiple abilities together. For one platforming puzzle I had to possess a bird to fly up high, then a burrowing snake creature, all while keeping momentum going.

The platforming in this game feels fantastic thanks to its responsive controls. I had no issues with how it felt to control Sheepo. It felt smooth and made even the tougher platforming sections a joy to play. It’s a mix of precise movement and the ability to move in midair that makes platforming in Sheepo a lot of fun.

Less Alien That One Might Hope

Unfortunately, throughout my time with this game, I just felt like I was craving more. This craving became more evident the more I played.

Sheepo plays like a Metroidvania. Places are blocked off until you gain the ability to progress.

For an alien planet, there are plenty of familiar traps like spinning saws and piston-style hazards. Spike pits aplenty need to be avoided with proper timing-based platforming.

It’s all very familiar if you’ve dabbled in this genre before. I normally wouldn’t have an issue with the game’s familiar feel, but the lack of an engaging narrative or a more interesting world to explore made the experience more unsatisfying.

The game’s repetition isn’t helped when many areas have the same visual feel. Different areas just feel like palette swaps. Its sparsity of detail is intentional to create a more barren place, but I feel it comes at the expense of creating a more engaging world to explore.

But what’s there isn’t bad as some background colors contrast nicely with the blackened terrain. It still manages to convey mood very well and even has some nice attention to detail, like fireflies flying about and leaves swaying to a breeze.

A Little Desperation, a Lot of Whimsy

The music in this game was good at creating a certain atmosphere. With its more dire story set-up, I expected tracks to evoke desperation or sadness. Instead, most of the music is lively and leans heavily more on atmospheric whimsy. The music creates a chill but very inviting vibe that fits well with some of the game’s quirkier NPCs. An overall solid soundtrack that I felt worked well with the game’s isolated but hopeful tone.

Sheepo is a Metroidvania that I feel plays it a little too safe. It has some interesting ideas involving its core gameplay mechanics and premise, but I feel like it’s squandered.

Ultimately, it means that this game doesn’t necessarily stand out when held up to others in the genre. It’s still a fun game with fantastic controls, but expect plenty of familiarity.

Sheepo is available via Steam.

Check out the official trailer for Sheepo below: