3 out of 5. A functional and fun platformer that manages to wear just a little thin with its gimmicks even with its short playtime, but makes up for it with a uniquely bizarre atmosphere.
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How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. You gain the ability to take over creatures that lets you access new areas, but you do not get any permanent upgrades usable anywhere. The map isn't particularly complex and exploration rewards are primarily for collecting or key-based progression.
Primary Challenge: Tricky Platforming
Time to beat: ~4 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Sheepo was provided by the developer

More Info

Developer: Kyle Thompson
Publisher: Kyle Thompson
Sub-genre: Misc Metroidvania
Features: Map System, Multiple Difficulty modes, 2D Platformer, No Combat, Tricky Platforming, Collectathon, Cute, Family Friendly
Difficulty: Low
Linearity/Openness:
Platforms: Windows, Steam
Release Date: 2020/08/26
Available Languages: English

Store Links

    Steam    

Buy Sheepo if you like…

  • Quirky Humor
  • Pacifist Gameplay
  • Tricky Platforming
  • Collecting Optional Items
  • Speed Running

▼ Review continues below ▼

If you were to look at your own life as if you were a being completely foreign to human idiosyncrasies, there are a lot of things about us that could seem completely bizarre. Looking at Sheepo as an “outsider”, we might see a disturbing armless sheep walking on hind legs far too long for its body shape, but in the world of Sheepo it’s all treated as completely normal. Sheepo creates an abstract world that has tinges of familiarity, making it a weirdly relatable place to spend your gaming escapism. Stripping away those theming elements, you have a functional and fun platformer that infuses just enough interest with its mechanics to keep it engaging from start to finish. However, even with its relatively short playtime some of its gimmicks get a little repetitive, so it’s good that it offers some unique flavor with its presentation.

You as Sheepo wake up in a spaceship when your boss calls you up to get you ready for your mission, which is that you need to collect 6 eggs as samples for an intergalactic database. You’re also given a backpack that lets you transform into any creature that you have an egg for. This power isn’t as free as it sounds, since a corresponding creature must to be in your vicinity in order for you to use it, making it more of a mind-control power rather than a permanent upgrade. Any form you take has a limited amount of time that you can spend in it, meaning that you’ll be spending most of your time as Sheepo.

The basic Sheepo form includes double jumping and wall jumping. You also start with the ability to leap inside these white dots for an Ori style bash type jump, and you can go inside these blue squares that automatically carry you a short distance. The level design plays with these elements by having white dots that are attached to spinning terrain, or forcing you to time your jumps while taking into account the distance a blue square forces you to move, as well as few other gimmicks that you will discover. Because the game features a Metroidvania style map, some of the level design includes unlocking doors that act as shortcuts so you don’t have to repeat specific challenges over again when backtracking through areas. The general concepts of Sheepo’s platforming are based on solid design philosophies, but perhaps in an attempt to pad out the content there are some challenges that will seem all too familiar as you progress into the late game. Even on the game’s hardest difficulty, a lack of general level design variety means that the challenge never really has any bite to it. Thankfully the egg powers act as a gimmick that rescue the design from almost certain boredom by infusing time-based tension and new ways to look at level design.

Each egg power only lasts a few seconds, so you either have to take what opportunities you can to survey an area before using them, or think quickly on your feet to make any progress. One of the powers even threatens you with certain death if you don’t escape the movement area it enables before turning you back into a sheep. Like any Metroidvania getting a new ability also infuses a sense of wonder as you try to remember what areas might let you apply that power. While I think that there is still some potential that could have been realized with the egg transformation abilities, there are points in the late game where you have to shift between every power you have, testing all of the skills you developed throughout the game.

The most challenging application of your abilities is finding the various feathers scattered throughout the game world. The feather location difficulty ranges from being right in your way to being at the end of an obstacle course of almost certain death. If you die after collecting a feather before tagging a checkpoint, then you lose any feathers since the last time you “saved.” These feathers don’t do anything by themselves, but a certain number of them are necessary for completing the game. They act as a currency for buying keys from a local shop, and while the leeway between maximum completion and minimum effort is generous, it does mean you can’t ignore the feathers completely. Some of the most fun and difficult challenges come from collecting feathers however, so collecting them can be a reward unto itself.

Even considering the feather challenges though, Sheepo is a relatively easy game as platformers go. From the start of the game you’re given three health points that you can judiciously use to tank your way through challenges that you don’t want to deal with. Checkpoints will restore your health to full, and on the easier difficulties the challenge is tempered even further by including health refills and additional checkpoints. Death in general isn’t particularly devastating unless you’re backtracking to a checkpoint with a feather in hand, or if you’re trying to get the no-death achievement. You can expand this health bubble even further by finding health upgrades hidden in the map. The generosity of the health system makes general platforming somewhat trivial, but because of Sheepo’s “pacifist” design it becomes necessary for making the boss fights bearable.

“Pacifism” is interpreted as “wait until the boss kills themselves somehow”, which isn’t necessarily a bad approach to things. Some bosses are merely bullet hell-esque affairs where you just need to dodge long enough for the event to play out, but others require additional skill where you need to lure the boss’s attacks to backfire on them. Where Sheepo gets a little frustrating is that if you fail, you have to basically start the whole sequence over again from the beginning. Like any good design the boss’s pattern starts out slow and escalates as the fight progresses, which is fine for a first time encounter but it wears thin with each time you have to repeat it. The bigger issue with Sheepo’s bosses though is that some of the patterns have just enough randomness to it that if you’re not absolutely perfect in luring the attacks at just the right time you may find yourself trapped completely. With enough practice you can adapt to it, but the lack of predictability means more trial and error than what it could have been. If the events were more scripted, like a chase section that focuses on testing your precision rather than necessarily your moment to moment reaction ability, then overcoming the challenge would feel less like it’s sometimes a roll of the dice. The charm of Sheepo’s quirkiness does remove some of the sting of the frustration, but in general I can’t say that the boss mechanics themselves were a highlight of the game.

Sheepo is a wonderfully pleasant game to play if you enjoy games with abstract and bizarre atmosphere. Its general premise in tandem with its music gives it a unique flair making it easy to recommend on those factors alone. From a gameplay perspective, if you’re a veteran of platformer games, you’re not likely going to find a challenge here without imposing one on yourself. Some of its gimmicks wear thin by the end of the game, and the slow burn of the boss patterns can grow to be a tiny bit frustrating. But for what it is, it has a reasonable price point, and if you go into it expecting a shorter, more fleeting experience, I don’t think it’s likely that you will find it disappointing.


Final Score

3/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 2

Being a pacifist game there is no proactive combat. The bosses act more as a platforming challenge.

Platforming
– 3.5

Sheepo has some good platforming, but the designs never achieve greatness in terms of meaningful challenge

Exploration
– 3

Most exploration rewards are simple achievement-based collectables, and at a certain point in the game you're simply told where everything is anyway

Puzzle
– 3

While there are a few things that could be considered ''puzzle'' like, it's generally fairly simple

Story
– 3

The characters you meet are entertaining, and this is accomplished without simply relying on referential humor. With that said, the story is rather basic.

Graphics
– 3.5

The visuals are pleasant to look at, making Sheepo's world an easy one to play in.

Music
– 4

The music does a great job creating a ''weird'' atmosphere, making Sheepo an almost abstract game.

Replayability
– 3

It's a short enough game that speedrunning or playing on one of the other difficulties is a fun prospect, and there are achievements that reward that behavior.


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