Aah, the sheepherders' life is a good one.
Making sure all of my stock are well fed, putting them in their lots, delivering them to my cult for our ritualistic sacrifice… it’s a simple life, but one I take pride in.
Yep, the life of a sheepherder is a good one….
Dark Sheep is your standard block-pushing puzzle affair, commonplace amongst the Steam store page. Like many “Sokoban” like titles, your objective is to push a block into wherever the game deems is the right place; in this case, that’s herding sheep into their cages.
The main draw of Dark Sheep is in both the Commodore 64/Atari aesthetics and the premise of a satanic cult that has you kidnapping sheep. However, if you aren’t keen on sacrificing lambs as to progress through the game - you’d best go count a few sheep and sleep on this one.
Right off the gate, we’re summoned by our cult’s elder to complete a quest only we are capable of doing… a quest of mowing the lawn and collecting all the sheep! In order to complete a level, all grass tiles must be eaten, and all sheep pushed into their own separate pens. The early game quickly turns into a game of improvement, being encouraged throughout to retry a completed stage to solve the board in as few moves as possible.
Later on, more elements are added to ramp up the difficulty. We’re introduced to black sheep that only eat red grass, and water tiles that transform all our sheep pink, which will lock them to consume water tiles only.
Even though 40 levels may not sound like a lot, it is at least worth the price of admission (going for £2.09 as of this review). All of the puzzles (no matter how temperamental the difficulty level can be during the later chapters) always felt possible. Once you get into the meat and potatoes of the advanced stages, it becomes a matter of trial and error that’s satisfying once solved.
The rudimental gameplay paired with the early 80s computer aesthetics works naturally in tandem. Although visually appealing and faithful to its influences, the score is perhaps too loyal. Two things that do not mix are puzzle games that require cognitive concentration and grating, fluctuating, disorientating, repetitive bleeting and booping. At least the bit-crushed sound effects feel in place and aren’t intrusively annoying as the music.
There’s a bunch of quality of life omissions and bug fixes that would make the game a lot more enjoyable in the long run. But what really gets my goat is not being able to use both the WASD and arrow keys at the same time. It might not sound like a big issue, but having the reconfigure button prompts every time I switch hands gets old fast.
Dark Sheep (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
If you already enjoy the Soko-baa-n puzzle genre, Dark Sheep will probably whet your appetite. With a novel premise and visual homage to the commodore 64, it’s short and sweet but nothing more than a little treat… just put the music volume on 0 for your own sanity.