Developer: Kyle Thompson
Publisher: Top Hat Studios
Genre(s): Adventure, Platformer, Action, Role-Playing
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PlayStation, Xbox and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 20/10/21
A code was provided for review purposes
After getting encapsulated in the wonderful yet horrific world of DUSK, I decided to play something different. Sheepo is a very calming, therapeutic experience. Instead of blasting through hordes of enemies, I learned to carefully manoeuvre the world around me and manipulate the enemies to act under my command. Did the passive gameplay leave me counting sheep? Or did I enjoy this mission? Find out in this Rapid Review.
To begin my adventure in Sheepo I watched the main character waking up just before his first mission. I was dispatched onto a foreign planet to learn about the animals that inhabit it. It was a simple premise that set up my adventure nicely. I knew my entire quest from the moment I landed on the foreign planet. There is little reason to play the game for the story content, but it was a nice supplement to the title.
In addition to the traditional story, there were a couple of memorable characters that I encountered on my quest. The ensuing dialogue was always funny, and I enjoyed meeting such a loveable cast of characters. They would give me guidance, discuss the important abilities, or even just talk about random things. Encountering each new character made the game feel unique. I had a great time doing so. Even still, the character dialogue was not a fundamental element of the title. It certainly improved my experience, but the primary focus of the game is the gameplay.
Which Came First?
Luckily, I enjoyed many aspects of the gameplay. Sheepo is one of the most unique Metroidvanias that I have played. The only enemies are those featured in boss fights. The rest of the creatures you encounter on the journey are there to help. This innovative concept kept the gameplay engaging and differentiated it from titles I had played in the past.
Transforming into different creatures may seem daunting at first. However, in typical Metroidvania fashion, the game slowly eases you into complexity. In the beginning, I could not alter my appearance whatsoever. I could only jump around the world. After some exploring, I came across an egg. This egg introduced me to my first transformation. I transformed into a bird, which allowed me to fly. The first creature was super basic. It was easy to understand exactly how to use my transformation abilities and showed practical applications. As I travelled deeper into the world of Sheepo, I encountered more complex abilities to master. These new abilities revitalized the gameplay. Considering there is no combat, the constant influx of new abilities kept me engaged throughout the entire game.
Surprisingly, even though there was no combat, there was an excellent display of boss encounters. Each boss either tired itself out or shot a projectile that could be guided back at the boss. The lack of violent abilities was initially shocking, but I quickly began to like the format of these fights. Instead of searching for an entrance to attack, I simply focused on dodging the enemy fire. I enjoyed fighting these ferocious beasts, but I was often disappointed by how simple the attacks were. Because I did not have to focus on closing the distance to damage the boss, I could use all my energy to learn the patterns. Thus, I was able to figure out the patterns of the boss rapidly. It made the bosses seem a bit easy, and I rarely needed more than one attempt to take out these enemies.
Although there are multiple difficulty settings, I was a bit disappointed by how easy the game was. I played the game on medium difficulty. This setting is typical for many of my playthroughs. When I spawned into the world, I learned that I could take damage three times before dying for good. I also learned that reaching a checkpoint refilled my health. This meant that taking damage had little consequence because it could be replenished very easily. Obviously, it is important to tailor the game to all audiences, but it seemed as though taking damage did not matter. There is a more challenging mode that I could have selected, but when making my difficulty decision, there was no indication of what would be altered.
Map it Out
While the game felt too easy in terms of strict challenge, there were a plethora of other ways the game was accessible in a more positive way. Sheepo features a very descriptive map. It showcases the locations of hidden collectables, save points, and showcases the entrances and exits to rooms. This made exploring the deep world much more enjoyable.
With such an advanced world to explore and so much to uncover, it is important to have ways to retrace steps quickly. The developers of Sheepo made exploring their world even simpler by opening shortcuts, including teleporters around the map, and by designing strategic level layouts. These fast travel options made exploring the map very simple, especially when travelling long distances. However, I did want some movement options for the character within one screen. There was one feature that had the sheep move faster after being launched by a certain type of orb, but it stopped any time I stopped holding forward. It seemed more like a glitch than an intended inclusion. It was a very fun thing to experiment with though, and it made travelling much more fun. I would have liked to see something like a run button or some way to travel faster. Even without that, the game included plenty of fast travel options, but the character occasionally felt sluggish.
I had a good time exploring the world of Sheepo and thought the simple task of collecting the eggs was very fun. However, do not come into the experience looking for a challenging Metriodvania. It reminded me of Anodyne 2: Return to Dust in the sense that playing through the levels was therapeutic, and it calmed me down nicely instead of keeping me on the edge of my seat. The game is great for those looking to casually progress through the game.
Calming and Soothing
As I just mentioned, Sheepo is a very calming game. This is reinforced by the calming and atmospheric music. It was soothing in all the right ways. Especially considering the context of the game, it made me feel like I was exploring a distant planet but also like I had no responsibilities whatsoever. The music helped make the world feel real.
The visuals were also lovely. I thought the enemies were very well designed, the backdrops were pleasant, and the text was all readable. There were no issues with the visuals whatsoever. I liked all the enemies I could transform into as well. It was a very well put together atmosphere.
Even though Sheepo did not push me to my limits or inspire my growth, I had a very nice time navigating my way through this foreign planet. It was calming, soothing, and atmospheric. If you are looking for something action-packed, Sheepo will not satiate your needs. However, if you are looking for something simple to calm yourself down after a long day, Sheepo may be just what you need.
4 out of 5
You can purchase Sheepo on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.