The sad fact is that most games based off of cartoons are at best presentable and at worst stylish coke glass mats. The problem is that almost all of them end up being utterly bland platformers, usually ripping off something like Mario 64 or Spyro. But every once in a while we get something special. Today's subject is just that: special.
Perhaps you recall the amusing Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf cartoons? The simple tale of a wolf intent on stealing sheep from a flock guarded by a silent, seemingly blind but extremely strong dog allowed for many entertaining scenarios. Countless years later, the fine people at Infogrames constructed a game for the Playstation based on the original programme. A historical moment indeed for both cartoons and video games.
What separates the inconveniently named Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf (also slightly less awkwardly but more embarrassingly known as Sheep Raider in the home of the Yanks) from the majority of cartoon-based games is its originality: it's unlike nearly everything ever, since the core idea of having to steal sheep from the ever-vigilant Sam is intact, meaning that this is primarily a stealth and puzzle game and secondarily a platformer.
The goal is deceptively simple: Ralph must employ sneaking and gadgets to steal a sheep without being spotted, and then place it in the designated white circle on the ground to complete a level. This basic concept is fantastic for a game, and gets highly expanded upon in the later stages. The various gadgets range from an electric fan to a sheep costume, and certain levels have special situations. For example, on a few occasions Sam will attack anything that enters his area indiscriminately if there are too many or too few sheep in there. It all gets very creative.
Part of the game's genius is the presentation. The cartoon visuals suit the theme seamlessly, and the selection of music tracks are all very catchy and memorable, not to mention guaranteed to get stuck in your head. Perhaps best of all is the employment of cartoon logic: explosions leave characters charred black; all injuries no matter how gruesome- cause purely temporary damage and people will fall for even the least convincing of disguises. It plays like an episode of Loony Tunes, and that's definitely a good thing.
The game is quite lengthy, with fifteen main levels and 2 hidden ones. Obviously in anything that involves brain power, different people will take longer than others, so a proper estimate of gameplay time is difficult to make. Even so, there's no denying that the average fellow will have a good bit of bang for his buck, since the normal levels get increasingly hard and complex. The difficulty is never too bad, but you'll probably get stumped at least a few times. Such occasions can be highly annoying, but it's worth it just for the satisfaction of finally finishing that one tricky bit.
Of course, one cannot comment of SD&W's difficulty without mentioning a tragic encounter at the end of level ten. The game's only boss fight takes place here, and it's the most perplexing thing in the game by a good margin. It's not a game-breaker by any means, but it certainly detracts from an otherwise great design.
The controls are responsive and reliable, with the essential "sneak" button and the fun "dash" option. You'll use them a lot, I can tell you. I small problem I found is that while the jumping is pretty fine, it does sometimes go a bit iffy. More intriguingly, this is the only PS1 game I know of which lets you rotate the camera with the right analogue stick, whereas most force you to use the L2 and R2 buttons. Can you think of any others? The cartoon atmosphere is strengthened by a large number of cameos: Daffy Duck is frequently around to offer advice; Elmer Fud appears in one level doing what he always is (hunting); Porky Pig is found tending a garden of lettuce early on, and countless others of all levels of fame turn up as well. The voices are spot-on, and you never once question that it's the character it's meant to be.
Simply moving through the stages is great fun, as you piece together what needs doing bit by bit. While it's not the biggest game, it's decently sized and endlessly pleasurable while it lasts. Of course, since working out problems is the fun part, once completed the game loses its main appeal and thus has little replay value. As such, I suggest that you play it once every year or so, in the hope that you forget what to do in-between attempts.
If you have wee-ones whom you love dearly, avoid buying them the latest film-game adaptation and spend a tenth as much cash getting them Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf instead. It's a wonderful adventure that can be enjoyed by folks of all ages, and doesn't insult your intelligence when you play it.
Having gotten the awful boss fight out of the way, I genuinely have no more problems with the game. It's got charm up the wazzoo, fun for everybody who can hold a controller, and has lost none of the greatness that I first beheld back in 2001. I personally consider this one of my favourite Playstation games ever. It's not fair to compare something like this to Soul Reaver (even if the time-travelling levels in SD&W share the same "alternate universes" idea as Soul Reaver), but since Legacy of Kain is obviously a bit much for younger minds, any family-folk interested in a game must purchase Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf as soon as possible.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?