Let’s face it, there are already several physics-based puzzle games on the App Store where you attempt to safely land an object on a platform by carefully removing the other blocks (or objects) below it. Tumbledrop, Tiki Totems and the “egg” levels of Finger Physics are just a few of the titles that come to mind. So why should you buy another one? Bulkypix has come up with that reason with their latest app, Saving Private Sheep. They have taken this familiar game concept and expanded it, adding some cool new gameplay elements which really freshen up the genre.
Your mission (operation “Iron Wool”) is to help the sheep soldiers conquer enemy territory by safely landing on solid ground and staying out of the clutches of the ravenous wolves below. At the start of each level, one or more sheep are on the screen huddled down in the shape of a pentagon (a humorous and subtle little military reference). If you look closely, you will see that some of these “sheep” may in fact be wolves in sheep’s clothing (just look for the ears). Spread throughout the level are a series of obstacles including wooden platforms and blocks, metal blocks, wooden barrels, ice blocks, bombs, ropes and more. It is up to you to figure out how to get the sheep to the secure zones and eliminate any wolves in woolly camouflage. Tapping on the wooden objects will cause them to disappear, with the ice blocks require two taps. The bombs will explode on impact (tapping or via another object colliding with them) and cause a blast wave that will push adjacent objects. The physics engine in Saving Private Sheep is quite good, with all objects behaving and reacting very realistically.
Saving Private Sheep is filled with humor, from the General’s quips, to the animations of the hungry wolves accidentally attacking one of their own as a wool-wearing wolf who just went hurtling toward the open waiting mouths of his brethren. The cartoony graphics and animations and sound effects are charming and help to pull you into the game and make for some nice entertainment.
However, don’t let the cute graphics pull the wool over your eyes, Saving Private Sheep is a very challenging game. In order to unlock subsequent levels, you must complete the one before it. Unfortunately, this means if you are really struggling with a particular level, you’ll be stuck there until you solve it as there is no way to skip over a level. This is the one aspect of the game that I wish Bulkypix would fix. On the other hand, at any time during a level, you can click the “reset” button and start that level over. There are a total of over 80 levels split across different territories, with roughly 16 levels per territory. Bulkypix has done a nice job, progressively building up the difficulty, but once you hit the harder levels, be prepared to keep retrying the same level over and over and over again. Once you complete a level you are given a gold, silver or bronze medal *each of which is worth a set number of game points) depending on how quickly you completed the level and how many objects you need to tap to do it.
OpenFeint integration adds global leaderboards (based on game points) and 17 achievements worth 900 OpenFeint points and offer a nice variety of tasks to complete, with more than five of them being Secret achievements that can only be unlocked by completing some mystery tasks. These, along with the ability to retry any completed level to earn a better medal (and thus more points) add a fair amount of replayability to the game. Bulkypix has also announced that they will be releasing additional level packs via DLC, and that an iPad release is currently in the works.
Saving Private Sheep is a challenging, humorous and addictive physics-based puzzle game, which never takes itself too seriously. The added twist of trying to save the sheep while at the same time forcing the wolves off the platforms adds a unique and challenging twist, leading me to recommend the game (even if you already own a similar title). Sure, playing Saving Private Sheep is not going to help you cure a disease or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, but it is definitely worth its $2.99 price tag.