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Game Info:

Sheepo
Developed by: Kyle Thompson
Published by: Kyle Thompson
Released: August 27, 2020
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action-Adventure, Platformer, Metroidvania
ESRB Rating: None available
Number of Players: 1 offline
Price: $8.99

Thanks to Kyle Thompson for sending us a review code!

Metroidvanias are one of my favourite genres of games. The drip feed of new abilities to gain access to new areas creates an organic excitement for exploring new areas, and the best titles have open ended maps that rapidly open up as new abilities are unlocked. Sheepo teases at being a different sort of game by ditching the combat that is traditional for this genre.

It’s your first day on the job as a conservationist, and you’ve been tasked with collecting the eggs of six endangered species on the planet of Cebron. These eggs are guarded by mother animals, and their boss fights simply involve surviving a barrage of attacks or reaching the end of a platforming course. As you collect these eggs, you will gain the ability to transform into their respective animals for a short time. Eventually you’ll be flying around as a Bird, digging through the earth as a Deathworm, teleporting between Froggo statues, climbing surfaces as a Slime, and grapple-hooking as a Slingo. As there is no combat, much of the game’s difficulty comes in the form of platforming challenges, or navigation puzzles through a simple maze. I only wish that the Froggo statues were more convenient, as they are all awkward locations far from any places of importance. It would be nice not to have to repeat the tedium of traversing the same rooms over and over again. I also encountered a bug with the Deathworm on a few occasions when catapulting into a digging area just as my transformatin expired, but save points are frequent enough that this wasn't a big deal.

Sheepo
Highlights:

Strong Points: Non-violent take on the Metroidvania genre; calm and relaxing atmosphere
Weak Points: Minimal challenge to veterans of the genre
Moral Warnings: Spikes tipped with blood; bosses fire at Sheepo; bones floating in toxic sludge; skeleton worm boss; fortune teller

There is no mystery about when and where to use each form. Changing into an animal is not done at will, but requires having that wild animal nearby. If you see a wild bird flapping around, you’ll know for certain that you need to use it nearby, and likewise for the other animals. Rapidly changing forms as you advance through these gauntlets is fairly thrilling though, in many cases trying to get to the next form change before the timer expires. Sheepo is a lot more straightforward here than a classic Metroidvania. There are no secrets in the conventional sense, and thus no need to attack every bit of wall or floor to see if it cracks open to reveal a secret room. Most rooms will branch off into an optional gauntlet that rewards a Feather - the local currency of Cebron, and used to purchase two key items to finish the game.

In a very practical sense, the main path acts like a level select, and the various feather-rewarding gauntlets act like levels. By the end of the game, I felt like I was really just playing an easier Super Meat Boy, but I suppose this is an unavoidable side effect of removing all combat from the game and focusing on the platforming. Sheepo’s abilities add to the gameplay in much the same way that mechanical twists spice up traditional platformers in new batches of levels.

As the store page copy indicates, the map very much opens up after the first boss, although your first playthrough might not feel that way. I also appreciated being able to use the various player catapults to boost my speed across long stretches of map. I did get stuck in the wall a few times though, mainly because the deathworm timer would expire just as I catapulted into the ground. I had to revert to the last checkpoint whenever that happened, but fortunately checkpoints are fairly common. Expect your first run to last about 4 hours, although much of this will be backtracking of a tedious nature. Obtaining all the collectables in this time is also a very reasonable challenge.

Sheepo
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay – 16/20
Graphics – 7/10
Sound – 7/10
Stability – 4/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 90%
Violence – 6/10
Language – 10/10
Sexual Content – 10/10
Occult/Supernatural – 9/10
Culural/Moral/Ethical – 10/10

The absurdist aesthetics are mostly in line with the ostensibly non-violent scenario. The dark pastel shapes that comprise the creature sprites are easy on the eyes, like an episode of Peppa Pig, even when you’re facing off against the bosses (except for the final boss). It’s an extremely comfy game that just invites you to sit back and relax as it puts on a chill and serene soundtrack. That said, it's all quite average in the sense that nothing particularly stands out memorably in the graphics or soundtrack.

There are a few mild moral issues. Bosses launch bullets and bombs at the titular Sheepo, and Sheepo likewise has no qualms sending these munitions back at the bosses. Deadly spikes are tipped with the red of previous victims, and circular saws abound in gauntlets; the screen only flashes red when you’re hurt though, with zero blood spurts. The Wasteland area has pools of toxic sludge with bones floating around, and the Deathworm boss is very much skeletal in appearance. There’s also a fortune teller who will predict your future if you can find all the collectables, although it’s certainly a clever way to advertise a potential sequel in-universe.

Sheepo is a mildly challenging but very relaxing experience. The exchange of combat for platforming gauntlets does push it towards being more of a straight platformer, but the genre mainstay of exploration still comes through clearly. It’s a great way to introduce your kids to the Metroidvania genre, or to explore a new world lazily at a very reasonable price.

About the Author

Elvin Ong

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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