Crashland on an unfamiliar planet, where you control Sheepo, an odd-looking character that looks a lot like a rat without arms. It’s a Metroidvania platformer where you can collect eggs that give you the power to take control of other creatures’ bodies for a short period of time. Like the others in the genre, you will be defeating bosses to gain these eggs. Areas you could not access before become available. You don’t actually have to fight anything. It’s all about the areas and avoiding traps. Along the way, you will have collectible feathers you need to grab in order to complete the game. It’s simple by design and built with the speedrunner in mind. But if you’re not into rushing, take your time and enjoy it at your own pace.
Here’s what I liked:
Body Borrowing — The main featured experience is swapping into another animal for a moment. This allows you to dig into the dirt, fly, and walk on walls. These were the cool ones worth mentioning. I like this idea. Not that it’s new or groundbreaking, but it takes a very simple-looking game and gives it some spice. Yet, it still stayed simple. You swap into these animals for brief moments, making it so you have to time things almost perfectly. You don’t get to use them besides getting to where you need to go. This makes getting around a little more interesting. While I won’t say the animals you are going to control are awesome, they do very much match the look of the world. I got a kick out of using the skeleton worm creature. Flying into the air from the ground into another piece of land was the best time I had during my time in this odd world.
Save Me! — There’s nothing worse than dying and having to do a bunch of stuff all over again. Don’t fret though, there are tons of save points you can refresh your health on and lock down your progress. There are quite a few and yet it’s still not too easy of a game. Even on easy mode. This also locks in all of the feathers you obtained, so you’ll need to remember to get to these points often or face the pain of redoing an area for the feather (which can be tricky sometimes).
Give Me Your Egg — Not fighting anything makes the boss battles extra special. Here, you aren’t “attacking” them, but allowing them to destroy themselves. A lot of it is just platforming, which is such a fresh breath of air from the normal gameplay. I can’t think of a boss I didn’t enjoy tackling. My favorite boss involved only jumping to platforms while the spiked enemies came raining down on me. You had to avoid them while jumping on platforms that slowly got lower because of your weight. When you conquer the boss, you’re awarded a new creature to possess. There’s a real sense of danger without being too difficult. Then again, I did play on easy!
Here’s what I didn’t like:
What a B to Jump — When it comes to a platformer, one of the most important things is how the character controls and feels while doing so. There are times in Sheepo where it shines, getting the right momentum to propel you to the far-to-reach ledge is satisfying. These moments are fairly rare. Using the B button to jump is awkward, especially when you have a double jump. If you touch a wall you start sliding down and need to time things extremely well to get farther up, as the jump is not very high and your double jump does not reset when you come into contact with a wall. This makes for a lot of mistakes that end in getting hurt or killed in the environment. I’m all for challenging platforming, but not when it feels like it’s because of awful controls.
I Don’t Wanna — Backtracking with no enemies is pretty boring. Especially if you go the wrong way. A lot of sections feel like a maze even with the map. So to go get one feather you missed deep in an area just doesn’t seem worth the effort. But you need them to complete the game. Conclusion? I don’t want to complete the game. After getting all eggs except one, I found myself in a forest area where the one fast travel point was really hard to get to. I wanted that feather though, so I went through a wall and realized I could not just go back, I had to do everything all over again to get to that point. The original way I came didn’t click for me, maybe you couldn’t go back that way? I’m not entirely sure, all I know is I felt stuck. It was so much effort just to get out of an area I had already completed. Maybe I’ll go back and attempt it again, but knowing the feathers I missed would be a journey to get, I feel like I’d rather just move on from the experience.
One of my favorite genres, Metroidvanias, have a sense of progression. Beating bosses to get special abilities to allow you to traverse into areas you couldn’t get to before. It gives you a curiosity about what lies down that path. In Sheepo, I always knew what these paths would have. Either a feather or a new area to find a boss and get more feathers. It was too much rinse and repeat for me. Not being able to fight anything made for some boring backtracking. The fast travel is awful, making it almost easier to just walk to your desired designation because some of the travel points were in obscure areas. I just couldn’t find any “wow” moments. It’s a pretty bland experience that had some creative platforming puzzles; but with the controls not being too accurate, it felt too much like a chore.
Score: Limited Appeal
Sheepo was published by Top Hat Studios, Inc. and developed by Kyle Thompson on Xbox One. It was released on October 20, 2021, for $10.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.