Review / Shaun the Sheep (DS)

Let’s go ahead and get the sheep-related jibes out of the way:

This is a baaaaaaaad game.
Play it too long, and it’ll put you to sleep.
Keep sailing, Argonauts. No golden fleece here.

I would’ve worked these gems into the review, but Shaun the Sheep, an adventure title developed by Art Co. and based on the popular British children’s show of the same name, isn’t that bad. A simple and underwhelming game, yes, as most children’s titles are, but there is some entertainment to be had.

The show is produced by Aardman Animations, the studio responsible for the lovable, Plasticine adventures of Wallace & Gromit. It focuses on the intelligent, creative, human-like sheep Shaun and his slapstick escapades in a barnyard. The whistle-blowing sheepdog Bitzer, the plain, unassuming Farmer and the clumsy, daft sheep that make up the rest of the Flock provide plenty of comic situations, while the Naughty Pigs’ mockery, cruelty and scheming make for a good foil. The episodes are very reminiscent of the silent films of the early twentieth century, as there is no spoken dialogue whatsoever (there are sheep bleets, human grumbles and other sound effects, of course) and the comedy is often physical in nature.

The game does a great job in terms of atmosphere. The characters and environments look a lot like their television counterparts, and the animations retain some of that distinctive stop-motion charm, while the music and effects are cutesy in an appropriate way and recognizable to any series fans.

Plotwise, the game isn’t nearly as intriguing as the show. In fact, it can be fairly called “barebones.” The television episodes, one featuring a round of football with a head of cabbage and another a barnyard rave, are mindblowing adventures compared to the game’s rather boring task of finding fifteen sheep before the Farmer returns. Also, sadly, the humor and personality of the show are mostly lost. There are bits here and there, especially in the last, sheep-launching minigame, but not enough to keep the average person playing.

The controls are sharp enough, a non-issue. Moving Shaun around is merely a matter of steering with the stylus, and interacting with the world’s objects is just a tap or two away. The whole game runs smoothly on all fronts, with no technical distractions whatsoever. But, as with the Wii, the unique features of the DS aren’t often capitalized on, and Shaun the Sheep is a firm example of this. The top screen is typically either a static map of Shaun’s location or an image of Shaun and the like mugging to the player, and the microphone and stylus interactions are particularly shallow.

The gameplay, following this shallowness, is patently uninspired. The story mode is essentially a stringing together of gather and fetch quests: finding a certain number of sheep, using Item A on slot B, et cetera. The occasional minigames break up the monotony with plenty of WarioWare-esque microphone-blowing, rapid-tapping and so on, but they’re quite unsophisticated and far too easy to pass. Again, this is primarily a children’s game, but there’s still far too much handholding and dumbing down going on. Or perhaps I give today’s youth too much credit… As for the minigame and collection modes, they are exactly what you think they are: simply components of the story mode set off for quick access and playability.

There isn’t a lot here for older gamers, even older viewers of the television program, as the game isn’t particularly compelling or addictive. I can certainly imagine that the kids who enjoy Shaun the Sheep on the CBBC or Disney Channel will enjoy this for a short while, but the rest of us will find more fun and excitement out of watching the program or – better yet – seeing a few Wallace & Gromit shorts.

And, to answer your burning question, no, the game will not sync up with a similarly titled Pink Floyd song, although that certainly would’ve been an excellent selling point!

+

  • Good atmosphere (graphics, animation, music and sound effects)
  • Tight, responsive controls
  • Appealing to children and family-friendly

  • Unremarkable implementation of DS features (touchscreen, top screen, microphone, et cetera)
  • Uninspired gameplay (fetch quests, been-there-done-that minigames, et cetera)
  • Humor and personality of the show are mostly lost
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