Home Sheep Home 2
Home Sheep Home was a browser game created by Aardman Digital, the video game development arm of the studio that brings Wallace and Gromit to life. It was a short little game that was BAFTA nominated in the category of Children’s: Interactive and, as of this writing, has been played over a hundred million times. So it’s probably not a surprise that someone out there wondered whether money could be made off of it’s simple premise: guide the sheep home.
Both Home Sheep Home 2 and it’s original are licensed properties, following Shaun, Shirley and Timmy from Shaun the Sheep as they make their way to space and back, all in an attempt to get home. While part one summed up it’s story within a few lines pasted on the first level, part two minimizes even further. There are three episodes, each with their own self contained story. Something occurs that knocks the three sheep out of the loop, and it’s up to you to guide them back home.
To do so you’ll have to utilize the strengths of your sheep to circumvent the levels. Timmy is tiny, capable of fitting through small spaces, but cannot jump. Shaun is medium sized, fast and light, and able to jumping great distances. Shirley is portly and is best utilized to push the heavier objects that the other two sheep cannot. Only by properly combining the talents of all three sheep can you expect to solve the game’s challenges. At the same time you’ll also have to deal with the sheep’s weaknesses. Timmy will need a leg up if you expect to guide him over higher walls. Shirley sinks straight to the bottom when in water. She won’t drown. She just won’t swim.
This time around the sheep are gluttons for punishment, all in the name of going home. Blow them up, dunk them in water, run electrical current through them, they’ll still be standing. Most of this is part of the puzzle. Some properly placed TNT might be all you need to launch a trapped sheep to the exit.
What’s more impressive about this game is how little is reused. Basic puzzle mechanics stay throughout (only by stepping on the button can you open the door) but the flow of the puzzles doesn’t repeat. Like Braid and Portal before it, there’s a desire to always present the player with new challenges, and it works. One moment you might be evading a giant boulder, only to be grabbing parachutes mid-air the next.
Home Sheep Home is good looking to boot. It’s the kind of graphics that are stylized aesthetics, rather than next-gen sheen. Every level is hand painted, giving each new level a unique look. There’s also a minimalistic style that stretches visually as well. Every level is clean, without a single unnecessary item or distraction that would pull attention away from the task at hand. All the contraptions stand out against their backdrops, making it nice and easy to determine the puzzle and it’s components.
If only it was a little longer. At three episodes of fifteen levels each it might seem like it’s lengthy, but appearances here are deceiving. Each level is a single screen, and there’s reason for this. It simplifies the presentation of individual puzzles. However, with the exception of a few challenges, each level takes roughly a minute or so to complete.
On one hand Home Sheep Home 2 is a game without filler material, but on the other hand its content goes by too fast. At the very least you’re not left empty handed once you’re done. There are still items to collect (of which actually unlock tangible items, such as an old school style cheat menu) along with times to beat, along with a surprisingly in depth developer’s commentary. Between its browser-based predecessor and this full release there came a desire to deliver content, not bloated by unnecessary filler, and in that this game succeeds. Just beware the many sheep related puns.