Review by falsehead

"Imagine Metal Gear Solid, but with sheep in it..."

Sheep, Dog and Wolf is a brilliant mixture of cartoon sneak 'em up and puzzle game. It is based on the old Warner Bros/Looney Tunes cartoon series of the same name and sees you take the role of one Ralph. E. Wolf, (cousin of Wile. E. Coyote) as he attempts to steal sheep from under the nose of Sam the Sheepdog. At the start of the game, Sam and Ralph have a professional relationship, at the beginning of the day they both clock in to work, punch their cards and then Ralph tries to steal the Sheep and Sam punches Ralph out whenever he spots him. When the whistle blows, they both clock off and Ralph heads home.

Once home Ralph slumps in front of the TV. Outside a limo pulls up and out jumps Daffy Duck. Daffy has a new show, the ''Sheep, Dog and Wolf Show'' he is promoting and he wants Ralph as the star. Ralph will take on a series of levels with a flock of sheep and Sam standing guard. Ralph has to steal one sheep per level and bring them to the TV studio. So far, so good. But actually getting the sheep out from under Sam's nose is another matter. The Metal Gear Solid comparison is not made flippantly. As Ralph approaches the flock Sam's head appears in the top right-hand corner scanning the area. The colour will change from green, which means Ralph is out of eyeshot, to yellow which means he is getting close to Sam's field of vision and finally red which means Ralph has been spotted and must run or face a punch. Ralph (and you) must use skill, thought and stealth rather than direct action to achieve your goal.

To aid you in your quest, Daffy takes you though a training level. Here you can get to grips with the camera, the first person viewpoint, the sneak mode (for tiptoeing around Sam) and all the ACME gadgets that can be used to lure your sheep away from Sam. If Solid Snake had access to a gigantic rubber band, a bottle of sheep scent and a rocket pack, he may have had a lot less trouble defeating Metal Gear Rex.. or maybe not.

Anyway, let's now talk about the most important thing in this game - the sheep. These fluffy little bundles of polygons are quite the most endearing creatures I have seen in any videogame in a long time. Although they are drawn quite simply, just a blocky white body with a black face and tail and no fancy texture mapping, they exude bags of personality. Each sheep has a big comedy tail that corkscrews into the air, which is just a great touch. When you first sneak up on a flock of them, they graze peaceful, unaware of your nefarious intentions. Once you have selected the sheep to steal, its time to get up close and its here your heart will really melt. Say you decide to sneak up disguised as a bush. While sitting in the middle of the flock, one will come skipping up and examine the bush quizzically before taking a nibble. Shuffle off and the sheep will gambol after you, its big soppy eyes full of innocence and trust.

Once you have lured the sheep out from under Sam's watchful eye, you can begin to move it to the level goal. Just lifting it over your head is funny enough as Ralph staggers under the weight of the huge white wool bag on his shoulders. Once you have the sheep it will not run away, it will stay where you put it, its tail boinging up and down and its doe eyes vacantly trying to figure out where it has been moved to. Trails of lettuce, sheep catapults, sheep hormone smells are some of the many things that will motivate the sheep to move. You can also use the sheep to help you get into position. For example, apparently sheep love buttons and will sit on them whenever they are placed near one. This allows you to travel on lifts and platforms that you could not otherwise activate.

Of all the methods of delivering the sheep to the goal, I think catapulting one up in the air is probably the funniest. In one early level, after placing the sheep on the end of a seesaw, Ralph leaps on the other end and twangs the Sheep into the goal. The slightly outraged ''baaaaaaah'' it makes as it sails gracefully across the sky is side-splittingly funny. Of course once the level is complete, el-sheepy is delivered safe and sound to the ''Sheep, Dog and Wolf Show'' pen under Daffy's watchful gaze. You may be a wolf, but these sheep are not for eating!

The game overall is a superbly polished package. It really, looks, sounds and feels like a Warner Brothers cartoon. The graphics are bright, stylised and look very good on the aging PlayStation. Only the occasional fogging and pop=up spoils the overall look. Ralph and Daffy have been animated particularly well and lots of little touches will delight the older Warner Brothers cartoon fan. For example, when Ralph plummets into a ravine, a small cloud will puff up when he hits the bottom. When a bridge drops out from underneath him, he will stay suspended in mid-air, feeling the around with his toe, before waving bye-bye and falling into the ravine. Daffy also appears in his natty little Robin Hood outfit to teach you the gameplay mechanics in the early levels.

The sound is also superb. The voices of Daffy, Porky etc have been recreated very accurately, the sound almost authentic. The music also deserves a mention, as it is very laidback jazzy, funk type music that compliments the slightly surreal graphics in the manner of the greatest Warner Bros cartoons of the fifties and sixties. Items in the games also make the requisite comedy twangs, boings, hoots and crashes.

Longevity is a tricky question. There are only 18 levels and besides the chance to replay them to find the timeclocks that unlock bonuses like concept sketches and animated sequences, there is little to bring you back to a level once it is done. However, the game itself is quite challenging, I made the mistake of looking at the bright graphics and assuming it was aimed at kids. But after the first few levels I was really scratching my head and trying to figure out the puzzles, which were becoming quite labyrinthine in their complexity. Unless you are more of a puzzle genius than I am, you'll probably spend quite a few hours beating this game, it definitely one of the best games recently released on the PlayStation and well worth purchasing.

To sum up then. It's a fabulously, fun slice of cartoon puzzling and contains the best sheep ever seen in a videogame. Buy it now, it's a real baaaah-gain!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/13/01, Updated 11/13/01

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