Few words fill me with dread, however, Metroidvania sends shivers down my spine. The constant back and forth and requirement to remember where you have been and what you are doing usually overwhelms me. Yet, I’m a big boy and I don’t let such minor things put me off playing a game. Sheepo is a short 2D Metroidvania title that is a thing of beauty. Its intelligent gameplay and wonderful aesthetics are matched by its touching yet bizarre story.
Developed by Kyle Thompson and published by Top Hat Studios, this is a sparse and striking platform game. Its gameplay is wonderfully fluid with some excellent intricate mechanics. You will experience the classic Metroidvania exploration elements, but this “tag” doesn’t define its gameplay. It evolves past this basic concept and you’ll love the story and many twists and turns.
Sheepo shocked me.
It’s rare that a game takes me by surprise, however, Sheepo caught me out twice! First, I expected it to be much longer and because of its brilliance, I was left disappointed. Second, I didn’t expect it to wow me as much as it did. I thought it would be another basic indie title with a nice striking aesthetic. Yet, I was miles off the mark as its intricate design and cleverly intertwined mechanics set the scene. I don’t normally like to admit I was wrong, however, I was happy to eat humble pie while enjoying this wonderful title.
The game revolves around a white shape-shifting sheep-thing. It is sent to an uncharted planet on a scientific mission. It must grab the DNA of any living species it encounters, but this task is easier said than done. There are only six creatures who inhabit Cebron, and you must obtain an egg from each one. Shockingly, every nest is guarded by a Queen. Aka, a big boss. Unsurprisingly, they are not happy to see you, as they don’t want you to steal their unborn baby. However, once you complete your goal, you can change form and become that creature for a fleeting moment.
Mind over brawn.
Now, it sounds like there will be oodles of battles, and combat is a key component. Yet, that isn’t the case. You needn’t worry about fights or violence, as Sheepo is all about mind over brawn. I adored this logical approach, and it was refreshing that Kyle Thompson steered away from the obvious fighting mechanics. Moreover, it incorporates intelligent stage design and shape-shifting mechanics as part of its exploration layer.
The partially open world can be traversed freely, as long as you have unlocked the required abilities. You must fly through the sky, dig through the soil, teleport, and more. With multiple regions to visit and many unusual encounters to face, there is a surprise around every corner. You may have to defeat a ROBObird who is scaring the locals or visit an art gallery. There is also a creature who is struggling to draw the Moon. These bizarre moments break up the sombre nature of this isolated and sparse environment. Sheepo is beautifully clinical, yet these fleeting moments build empathy and warmth. Subsequently, I adored the juxtaposition between the scientific mission and the humanised elements of the residents of Cebron.
Sheepo keeps things simple.
Part of Sheepo’s brilliance is its lack of complexity. The unusual character models add to the alien experience, as do the strange landscapes within each area. The combination of different colours and the use of vivid white icons gives this title a surreal edge. However, what really stood out for me was the buttery smooth movement. Leaping through the air and changing shape were seamless and never ceased to amaze me. Furthermore, the final product was polished to a much higher standard than I’d expect from an indie title.
The isolation and eeriness were beautifully captured in the haunting audio. The combination of music and futuristic sound effects works brilliantly to enhance this unusual theme. Every action is accompanied by shrill but cute noises that match the punchy or smooth movement of the protagonist. The well thought out audio adds to the already excellent aesthetics and emphasises the surreal nature of the gameplay.
Much of Sheepo’s brilliance is built upon the excellent and responsive controls. The simple layout is easy to understand and can be mastered in no time. Moreover, it’s super responsive, and this makes all the fiddly and finer elements much easier to overcome. You must slingshot, leap, dig, and teleport your way around the map, and none of these things are taxing. I loved changing into a worm, soaring through the air like a bird, or changing into a frog. Each of the creatures offers a new challenge, but the basic control layout keeps you one step ahead.
Sheepo has many reasons to return, even though its first playthough is disappointingly short. You’ll invest around three hours, to begin with, but this only scratches the surface. There are feathers to collect to spend in the local store, secrets to uncover, and the gameplay lends itself to the Speedrun community. Furthermore, many of the achievements will challenge you, and one, in particular, will test your pace and resolve. I enjoyed the difficulty this added to the game, and the longevity benefited exponentially because of it.
Sheepo is a fantastic Metroidvania title.
Anyone that says indie titles aren’t worth the effort hasn’t played Sheepo! This brilliant but short game is addictive, tough, and beautifully charming. It ticks all the boxes and is a hidden gem that needs to be uncovered. I loved every minute and recommend you to buy it here! Can you overcome each of the Queens and save the doomed creatures of Cebron? Steal their form and explore this beautifully sparse world.