The trilogy of puzzle games I’ve had on the go recently has been an interesting one. As seen with Hack Grid, it’s surprising how far you can get with a bit of persistence, but unfortunately with Dark Sheep, I’ve struggled.
It’s funny as these titles from Daisy Games are very similar in their approach but are very different games. The mechanics are comparable, and the visuals pay homage to the C64 era (they’re also brutally hard, in my opinion). But while these games share that Sokoban approach, the moves are counted in Dark Sheep, and I found it offputting (but you can turn them off in the settings and add a CRT effect – drool).
Believing myself to be laid back about competition, in these past few years, I’ve found myself to be pretty darn competitive if I foolishly look at the leaderboards. With gaming, I don’t strive to be number one, but I like to be in the top 10 if not 20 – just once. This never happened with games like Escape from Naraka, but I managed to do it with others – even topping some globals for a handful of games. I daren’t look at them now, of course.
With Dark Sheep, it’s a little like golf in there’s a PAR for the level. While there’s no naming and shaming, looking at the leaderboards and seeing the number of moves you took to be deemed ‘diabolical’ (self-titled, not from the game!), it often means going back to the stage and shaving off some time. I’m happy to do this and improve, but as mentioned, I struggled.
The premise is an amusing one. You’re the latest recruit for a dodgy cult and are herding up the sheep for sacrifice. Dressed in an ominous garb that looks straight out of Discworld, you’re free to move around, but to capture the sheep and cage them for ‘export’, you have to push them around defined grass paths, unable to double-back on a route you’ve already taken.
Once again, the developer is a fiend and made some challenging puzzles. Your cultist can move vertically or horizontally, but each time you move, there’s a counter for it. Dark Sheep isn’t impossible, and with some perseverance, each of the puzzles are solvable, but there’s no let-up on the difficulty, with new tiles being introduced and mechanics.
While getting roped up in the complexity and necessity to reduce my moves, I found an NPC blocking my path. Eying an axe at the top of the screen, I chanced it to see if I could pick it up (there are no hints, which is good), and with the genuine intention of bypassing the sheepherder by chopping a tree above them, I instead ‘accidentally’ walked into them and chopped them down. It was here that I remembered my motivation for all this sheep theft, and this dark humour was very much needed and perfectly timed.
However, playing on the keyboard was a bit of a pain as I downsized to a 60% and held FN with the arrow keys. Sure, I could change all the bindings and what-not, but I’m a very busy boy, and I’m not one of those with a big, bold sticker on my wall saying ‘Gamer 4 Life’ – there are other grown-up things to attend to. At least, that’s what I tell the wife. However, busy as one may be, the settings also offer key bindings and swapping to W, A, S, D no longer made Jack a dull boy.
For that reason, I’ve opted to conclude my review of Dark Sheep early. Having a good selection of titles to pick at means that it’s a bit of a challenge to dip into each and everyone, and there’s another puzzle game I prefer over this, but more on that in due course. Still, I bailed on Elden Ring to play this game and a handful of others, and while some may say I’m mad (especially when I haven’t finished this – yes, you read that right), I recommend Dark Sheep to hardcore puzzle fans as the challenge is there and the little quips from the narrative make it rewarding when you get there.
Unfortunately, I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew and need to play some silly games of jumping on the heads of monsters, or shooting pedestrians in the face (not IRL – that’s naughty), just to dumb things down a bit. Fear not, though – I’m not a bona fide moron yet! There’s another Sokoban on the horizon, so more on that when the time is right…