iPad Game Review: Saving Private Sheep HD
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Saving Private Sheep HD is a personality-packed gravity-physics puzzler from Bulkypix. In this type of game, you are entrusted with the care of a central object, in this case, a sheep in the shape of a pentagon (don't worry, I'll explain later) perched precariously over a precipice (did you see what I did there?). Your goal is to ensure that this object lands in a certain place, and a certain way. You do this by systematically eliminating parts of the structure that are supporting it and letting gravity do the rest. Believe it or not, there are enough of these types of games to justify their own genre.
Though there are many physics/gravity based games out there, what sets Saving Private Sheep HD apart is its fun personality, great graphics, and most importantly, gameplay. There is, of course, a charming backstory for those who are interested; something about an age-old war between wolves and sheep, etc. Unfortunately, this really didn?t help me suspend my disbelief that I was actually saving sheep that had somehow compressed themselves into pentagons and placed themselves in harm?s way. No matter, though. Thankfully, the folks at Bulkypix put a lot of effort into level design and I found myself engrossed in the gameplay and forgot all about the plot.
There are well over 100 levels to keep you busy for a long time. Additionally, replayability is significantly enhanced by the awarding of medals for speed. The temptation to replay previously solved levels in order to get that highly-coveted gold medal is substantial, and keeps the game from progressing too quickly. The difficulty ramps up very slowly, which keeps the frustration factor to a minimum. If you find that you are stuck, don?t be afraid to experiment. There is no penalty for resetting the level multiple times, something that keeps the game firmly grounded in the ?puzzle? category and out of the ?arcade? category. Trust me, you?ll appreciate this each time a new mechanic is introduced. One last little design feature that keeps the player on his/her toes, is the occasional appearance of a wolf masquerading as a sheep (also in the shape of a pentagon, of course). When you see this sharp-toothed critter on the screen, the gameplay changes; your goal is now to ensure that it does NOT land safely. Suddenly, you find that the thing that used to be so hard to avoid (a sheep falling to his doom) is now equally difficult to facilitate.
One of the great things about this game is the superior design tools. They are highly versatile, and the cleverness with which they are assembled to create everything from trapeze to vehicles, keeps this game fresh and fun from start to finish. Saving Private Sheep has that great ?just one more level? feel to it, and I found it difficult to stop playing.
The graphics in Saving Private Sheep HD are what you would expect from an A-list iPad offering; bright, sharp, and smooth. This game goes that extra mile, however, by adding clever little animated sequences that play randomly as you work through a level. Sometimes a mangy wolf sticks his head up from the bottom of the screen and looks around, sometimes a flying saucer makes a visit and every now and then, a "supersheep" flies by, cape, muscles, noble expression and all.
Everything has been nicely re-rendered for the iPad, and the developers did a great job of finding that sweet spot between extra screen real estate and larger graphics.
The sound effects are a combination of high quality samples and great cartoon noises (think: stoink!). While solving a level, you are treated to an occasional bleat from the sheep and some pleasant ambient sounds (birds chirping, etc). I found myself leaving the volume a bit higher than I usually do when I play; a great testimony to their judicious use in this game. There is no in-game soundtrack, however a lively military tune plays while navigating the menu.
Saving Private Sheep HD is an excellent gravity-physics puzzler. Its clever and varied levels, sharp graphics, and good use of sound make it a top contender in this genre. Medals are awarded for speed, making the temptation to replay levels again and again to get the gold difficult to resist. The tight integration with OpeinFeint and the obligatory achievements that go with it, take this even further.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Not groundbreaking, but crisp and nicely re-rendered for the iPad.
Sound: - 3 - Subtle use of sound effects keep it from getting annoying. However, the lack of in-game music might be a negative for some players.
Controls: - 4 - The touch-to-remove style of gameplay is well implemented here.
Gameplay: - 5 - One of my favorite gravity-physics puzzlers. Great and innovative level-design makes the difference here.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Remember that you can remove more than one object at a time.
-Don't be afraid to experiment. There is no penalty for repeatedly restarting a level.
-Don't forget to watch for the "wolf in sheep's clothing."
Release Date: May 27, 2010
Buy App: Saving Private Sheep HD
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