Shaun the Sheep
Developer: Art Co.
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date: September 23, 2008
Shaun the Sheep, the DS game, is based upon the Aardman cartoon of the same name (which can be viewed on Toon Disney and the Disney channel here in the United States). Shaun is that adorable little sheep who debuted in the award-winning Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave wherein he is accidentally sucked into a “Knit-o-Matic”Â and shorn.
See what they did there? With the accent? Shorn?
The cartoon aims for the 4-7 demographic, so let’s see if the game will provide something worthwhile and accessible for the tykes.
1. Story / Modes
The farmer has left for the day without closing the gate. All the sheep have wandered off and it is up to Shaun to get everything back to normal before the farmer returns. You see, Shaun is a little more human than his cohorts. With this power comes responsibility and also, zany hi-jinks.
While this story isn’t particularly complicated, it provides more than enough impetus for the subsequent adventures of our little Ovis Aries. Besides, a 5 year old might not want to sit through a bunch of cut scenes. The character interactions are charming enough to make up for any perceived lack of plot, and definitely seem true to the Aardman style.
In addition to the main adventure, there are also 8 mini-games to be unlocked. These range from a “whack a mole”Â style game to a Guitar Hero parody. You can play most of these games as part of the main storyline, but a couple are exclusive to the multiplayer section.
Shaun can also collect 8 pictures from the adventure which can be used as “slide puzzles”Â when selected from the main menu.
While the resolution of certain pickup items is quite low, the overall graphics in this game are very nice. The designs are true to the show and to Aardman. The characters look as they should and the sheep are ridiculously cute and fuzzy.
There is some variability in terms of the crispness of the graphics, but even the clunkier animations are still pretty adorable. Even the menu screens contain these wonderful and vibrant images of our characters.
3. Sound/ Music
The songs of Shaun the Sheep are appropriately whimsical and pastoral. Like its cartoon namesake, the game contains no dialogue. We do get our requisite bleats, and barnyard noises. All the sound effects make sense and work as they should. The best part: the noise for selecting something from the main menu is COWBELL!
A lot of games promise more cowbell, but Shaun the Sheep delivers.
4. Control / Gameplay
This is a point-and-click game with a stylus; it’s intuitive and easy to control. If you don’t like the stylus, or have trouble holding both it and the DS simultaneously, the d-pad and A button can be used as a substitute.
The mini-games control fairly well. In terms of DS mini-games, I’d rank their controls just a notch below New Super Mario Bros., putting Shaun the Sheep lightyears ahead of other kiddie DS games. Be warned that a couple of these games make liberal use of “blowing into the microphone.”Â Because of this thing, playing “whack-a-mole”Â left me feeling light-headed.
Maybe I need to exercise more.
If you manage to track down all the sheep and beat the main adventure, the game is pretty much over. The only other thing to do is to go back and rescue all the baby chicks and return them to their mother hen. Doing that thing unlocks all the mini-games and all the photos for the collection.
To unlock everything this game has to offer took me about 100 minutes. Granted, I’d estimate myself slightly more dexterous deft and resourceful than the average 5 year old.
Most of the mini-games are pretty short, but provide enough fun to merit multiple turns. In particular, I could see myself playing long stretches of the Pac-man-like mini-game in which a fat sheep eats corn while avoiding pigs and a dog.
The game keeps track of mini-game high scores, a thing which increases replay-ability in the Kennedy household thirty-fold.
It’s a kiddie game. You can’t really die in the main adventure, and nothing is particularly difficult. The game makes it very clear which sections of the screen can be searched, and how to get from one place to another. Any of the frustrating aspects of point-and-click games are seriously mitigated here.
I think we can agree that this is for the best when the target audience is in kindergarten.
Still a few of the mini-games do offer a bit of a challenge.
And I’ve never been good at slide puzzles.
This game is cute and charming, but I doubt much of it could be called unique.
I liked this game a lot more than I probably should have. I sat down and beat it in one sitting. I got up the next day and rescued all of the chicks to unlock everything else.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the adventure. I still plan on playing a few of the minigames, but I wouldn’t call them “addictive”Â per se.
Shaun the Sheep lacks the depth to have any staying power with its addictiveness.
9. Appeal Factor
People like Aardman and Shaun is a very cute character. In this country, though, Shaun the Sheep is a relatively obscure 7-minute long cartoon that might run once on Sunday on Disney. That is, to say, I haven’t seen any Shaun backpacks at my daughter’s school.
I want to give this game a big hug. It makes me smile. Almost everything about it is sweet or delightful or winsome. Even the meter to adjust the volume in the options menu is comprised of lovable animals.
This game is made out of love.
Story/Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Very Good
Replayability: Below Average
Final Score: Enjoyable
Short Attention Span Summary
Shaun the Sheep is thoroughly charming. Playing this game makes me happy. Unfortunately, it only take about 2 hours for an adult to experience everything Shaun has to offer. In the end, I can’t not recommend it, especially for fans of Aardman. And remember this game has two memory slots. Save one for your kids.