Idiot Squad Review—The Most Fun You Can Have with Sheep
When Idiot Squad was announced, I was more than a bit apprehensive. It starred sheep and was from Hydravision, whose previous Minis were uninspired clones of old classic video games, simply frill-free ports from the DS. But mostly it was the sheep, which permeate every aspect of the game.
In actuality, though sheep-filled, Idiot Squad is an ingenious, charming, and novel puzzle game with a lot of polish, and it’s quite a bit of fun to play. It does bear some resemblance to Chu Chu Rocket, but it’s more akin in feel to Lemmings or Commandos.
The premise is somewhat absurd: a farmer had some of his sheep stolen by a gang of other farmers. Rather than getting them back through direct confrontation (being greatly outnumbered), he decided to turn his remaining sheep into a group of trained commandos that will follow his orders exactly, without thinking on their own, and thus they are dubbed the “Idiot Squad.”
Or rather, they follow your commands. You need to move the sheep around a small 2D map by giving them exact orders, which you do by placing tiles on the map. Each tile is a command that tells a sheep that crosses it to do something. Often, simply which direction to move, but also other more specific things, which can depend on the type of sheep.
It’s a little complex, actually, but everything is icon-based, for both the controls and orders, so it’s easy to remember what does what. Arrows simply direct sheep in the direction of the arrow, with the color-coded ones only ordering the correspondingly colored sheep. The blue-backgrounded arrow tells the blue sheep to jump, and the green bull’s-eye tells the green sheep to shoot. Similarly, the Square button is shown on the screen next to the “play” symbol found in electronics, simply meaning that the Square button starts the sheep in motion.
There are three different sheep commando types. One is a jumper—it can be directed to jump over an obstacle. Another type of sheep is armed with a gun. You can direct him to fire; usually you want him to shoot one of the sheep thieves. The last type of sheep can plow his way through things, like fences and farmers (at least if their shotgun isn’t pointed at the sheep).
As fun as mowing down farmers with sheep is, the ultimate goal of each level is to simply collect the stolen sheep, then guide your commando sheep back into the barn with their reclaimed brethren. Some of the obstacles are just terrain—holes in the ground, ponds, fences—but you also have to contend with angry farmers with shotguns.
Early on, levels are solved with only one sheep, but as the game progresses, you use them as a team. Generally, the shooter sheep or the smashing sheep is used to clear out obstacles, and the jumping sheep is then used to collect the captive caprids. But all of the sheep can be used to rescue them, so you really need to do a lot of brain work to solve a level. Or trial and error.
There are ten different worlds, each with five levels. One of the things I hate about puzzle games is the need to have to unlock all the previous stages before being able to play any given stage. At first, I thought that was the case here, but as I found out when giving up on a level, it’s not! This just seems so obvious, but few puzzle games allow you to bypass a level you get stuck on.
A neat thing is that when you’ve beaten a level, you can go back to it, and it remembers that tile layout you beat the level with. So, you can watch the sheep in action again. . . . That’s not a sentence I ever expected to write. But it is amusing watching them go about finishing the level. A well choreographed ballet of sheep.
Graphically, it’s a simple 2D game, but the animations are very nice. You have to look very closely, but the sheep and things are animated even when standing still. Very nice touch that probably wasn’t necessary, as you really do have to look to see it.
There are also a lot of sound effects—mostly when the sheep are in motion, but also some nice ambient ones. It’s almost a bit eerie, since I live in a rural area. Lots of sheep sounds, so you might not want to play it around other people if you are easily embarrassed, at least not without headphones.
I was very skeptical of Idiot Squad, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Both the gameplay and the little details make it a great title. The puzzles are perhaps a little hard (or I’ve gotten dumber in middle age), but they can usually be figured out by a lot of trial and error, and if not, it’s nice that you can skip around to tackle a different level.
About the only thing it’s lacking are in-game achievements, but that’s not too big a deal for me. The price is also a bit high—not that 50 levels don’t provide good value, but for $4.99, you can sometimes get full PSP games on sale.