Oh to be a sheep. Long days spend mindlessly grazing in fields, falling over, and generally not having to worry about your personal hygiene. Sheep don't even have to worry about the changing of the seasons since they are naturally insulated in the winter and usually shaved for free in the summer season, saving money on personal grooming that can be better spent on the rent or bills that they also don't have to pay, mainly because animals aren't bound by monetary restrictions, opposable thumbs, or higher thought. You can't help but feel a little sorry for Shaun, Timmy, and Shirley, the central characters of physics puzzle platform masterpiece Home Sheep Home that simply want to get back to their barn with your kind and thoughtful guidance. It's going to be a tricky little journey, but you can bet that there will be considerable fun to be had along the way, as well as multiple puzzles that require thought, reasoning, and the directed use of the variety of objects at hand to take advantage of the simulated physics and guide these lost once-lambs home. Who said ovine life was easy again?
Sheeping Ain't Easy
After being dazzled by the astoundingly gorgeous illustrated style of the game, the gameplay itself took hold of me and had me hooked even at the main menu. I was expecting a fairly standard puzzle game along the lines of Wake The Royalty, but was instead met with three different sheep, all of which must be guided across the pitfalls and obstacles of each level and to the signpost on the other side. You control the sheep with the directional arrows, using up to jump and the left and right arrows to move left and right (respectively, though this should be self-evident). The beauty of the game is that you are able to control each of the sheep individually, switching between them using numbers 1, 2, and 3, or simply using the mouse to click on the if that's the way you choose to live your life.
You will encounter a variety of challenges along the way ranging from simply jumping over manageable gaps to utilising a variety of items such as trampolines and switches, and hopping over a range of objects to get these poor sheep where they need to go. The challenge of the game is compounded by the varying weight of each sheep, with Shirley being cumbersome and heavy and Timmy being light and sprightly; each sheep can be used differently, with Shirley being able to easily move objects and Timmy being more apt at hopping over obstacles and traversing unstable structures due to his negligible weight.
I wouldn't be doing Aardman Animations' sublime game justice if I didn't talk about Home Sheep Home in terms of style, which lifts what would otherwise be a fairly average and unspectacular game into a whole other dimension of visual splendour due to its faux-weathered appearance and the aged, restless feel of the illustrations. As the clouds pass by, you cannot help but feel sucked into the calm and fluffy world of easy-going happiness that the puzzles take place in (and be reminded of Aardman's responsibility for the Wallace and Gromit fame), and I would be very surprised if you didn't feel compelled to play the game through its fifteen levels and to its conclusion.