Capcom's digital offerings have been largely hit-or-miss. The wide variety of games they've made available on the PlayStation Network shows how aggressively they've been pursuing digital distribution, and their catalog is easily the most prolific and diverse of any publisher out there. Their upcoming Flock, ready for PSN in December, looks to be their best and most accessible game yet.
Flock may not have the biggest buzz around it, and that's a shame. It's a ton of fun, and comes from veteran designers of another quirky video gaming icon: Lemmings. Their upcoming PSN game features the same charm and addictive quality of Lemmings, but adds an incredible amount of current-gen polish. The visuals are surprisingly good, with the character models all lovingly animated, and the texture work incredibly detailed.
The production values go far beyond most of Capcom's other digital offerings. But beyond the impressive tech lies a heartwarming game that aims to please casual and hardcore gamers alike. The premise of the game is rather cute: you play as a UFO trying to sweep various animals into the mothership, Noah's Ark style. Levels feature a number of puzzles and hazards that dare to get in your way. For example, there may be piles of feces lying on the ground -- should one of your pigs roll into it, he'll stay there, dancing in and eating the poo. Disgusting? Yes. Cute? Yes. But, it also slows down your completion time.
What makes Flock so charming is that, in spite of a very clear goal to each level, there's no pressure to beat each level. Children (or like-minded bloggers) will have fun simply playing in the environment. Rolling pigs around like a pinball is always fun. Playing with chickens, or even playing tag with another UFO -- the world is so incredibly lively that it's impossible to see someone playing this without putting a smile on their face.
But, gamers want more than saccarin cuteness -- they want substance, and Flock delivers on that front as well. Completing the levels can be quite challenging, especially as the difficulty ramps up. Completion times to earn medals are devilishly fast, and the obstancles found in the later levels are genuinely terrifying. For example, one night time level featured a monster which disappears in the trees. When direct light isn't shining his way, he'll rush to your critters and steal them away. Oh no!
Your UFO has a number of abilities to help make the game a bit more interesting. You won't just be flocking, but you'll be abducting and destroying things too. Your UFO beam can not only pick things up, but throw things too, which allows for a variety of interesting environmental puzzles. A simple one we saw involved picking up a rock and placing it at the top of a hill. The rock rolls down, crashing into a pen, where your pigs have been trapped.
Co-op adds another UFO to the screen, and players can work together in achieving their goals. We can see children and couples absolutely loving this mode. It's intelligently designed as well. For example, only one UFO has the ability to push objects, and the other has the ability to pull objects. The two players must work in tandem to figure out the puzzles and get to the end.
In addition to the fantastic single and multiplayer options, Flock also features a level editor. Just like LittleBigPlanet, every level in the game was created with the tools that are provided in-game. We didn't get a chance to try it, but we're excited about the potential to see some fantastic user-generated levels.
Honestly, we didn't know what to expect when we put our hands on the controller ... but we walked away incredibly impressed, wanting more. Don't overlook this potential sleeper hit when it hits PSN in December.