Do you need more tone in those tilt-control muscles in your wrist and forearm? Maybe it’s time to Sheep Up! (Out Now, $0.99). Rolling every platformer vet’s greatest fears into a serious wrist-flicking workout, Bad Seed Entertainment’s iOS debut has you guiding an auto-bouncing sheep up the floors of a cardboard box tower.
With an overhead view of each floor, the player tilts to give the sheep just the right momentum to bound over chasms, squash monsters, and avoid traps while solving simple logistical puzzles. Exit platforms that take you to the next floor regularly have to be unlocked or revealed with keys and switches, so every square inch of these levels gets used. Multiple floors compose a single level, with at least one checkpoint assigned to the most harrowing ascents.
It may look unassuming, but what really impresses me about Sheep is that it’s not afraid to pull you out of your comfort zone at every turn — i.e., this is a freaking tough game. A few levels in and tiles regularly give way after a few bounces, though they mercifully regenerate if you lose a life and start the current floor over. If you bounce around aimlessly for just a few seconds you’ll be left with few footholds — maybe just the dispersed musical tiles you’re supposed to hit in a specific order, the exit tile, and a bottomless pit looming in between. Throw in a moving platform with an enemy guarding it, and now you’re in for a real interesting time! Progress requires that you master the art of accelerating and braking the sheep’s momentum as needed for death defying leaps, tracking tiles in motion and staying over one square until an opportunity arises. Switching among those states on the spur of the moment takes real finesse, and fortunately Sheep has all the tilt calibration options needed to make this formula work.
Sheep is advertised as having 20 levels; while that might sound weak in terms of content, Sheep gets more than enough longevity out of its challenge to justify the price tag. It’s too bad the game doesn’t explicitly state how the normal mode differs from its expert mode aside from eliminating tutorial messages, and it passes up a chance to tie its score system to player rewards in a meaningful way. The game uses an internal achievement tracking system instead of Game Center.
I daresay Sheep has the best-rendered cardboard on iOS and there’s a healthy assortment of backdrops so you’re never staring at a single diorama too long. Now if there were just more music tracks to go with them! Sheep’s floor transitions are seamless, but it’s worth noting that if you’re running an iPod Touch, you’ll be paying up front for the visual zest with noticeable load times.
iFanzine Verdict: A tough-as-nails overhead platformer that should satisfy any genre fan who can get past the idea of a bouncing hero covered in fleece.