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Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Wooly folly

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Coining a phrase such as “artificial stupidity” will surely garner attention for any product — but it’s difficult to avoid negative connotations. Unfortunately, the mind-boggling interactivity of “Sheep” doesn’t prevail over such a dim-witted blemish.

Think Chicken Run, minus intelligence, because these wooly mammals are more like lemmings overdosed on sleeping pills, inconsistent and completely ambivalent in nature. Intoxicating at start, bewildering a few hours through and just plain annoying by closure — indeed, that is “Sheep.”

Rudimentary in concept, you portray one of four ultrahip herders: Bo Peep, Adam Halfpint, Motley and the pirate-clad dog, Shep. But considering the flocks of fluff are stubborn, rounding them up proves extremely frustrating. They squeal incessantly, wander aimlessly and oftentimes walk straight into whirling cutlery.

To add more pain to this seemingly simple game are four diverse breeds of livestock. Pastoral are pleasant yet paranoid; Factoral are fearless, but tend to confuse foes for friends; Long Wool are punk rockers with brains the size of a pea; and Neo Genetics are sunglasses-cool — luckily, they flock together. For each quartet of theme-based levels, only one type of sheep may be utilized. Redundancy is not allowed — thus, you must chose wisely.

At least the story line is charming, highlighted by periodic short cinemas. Just open your mind for a moment and pretend that sheep are highly intelligent beings from another universe — yet, after millions of years on Earth, they have de-evolved into idiotic, farmland novelties.

Maneuvering through 28 stages of medieval obstacles and disco-club treachery — sure, it’s entertaining at first glance — soon enough, the fun morphs into inane folly.

So when a cute, cuddly creature of wool poses the question, “Can you guide me home?” don’t be afraid to dodge an answer entirely. “Sheep” is a bargain-bin disc, brief and unredeeming — just as most puzzlers are.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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