Sticky Sheep is an intuitive puzzler that attempts to answer the age-old question: what happens when you combine pool, sheep, and canines? Chillingo's physics-based puzzler deftly demonstrates how the combination of animals and a familiar pastime can actually work, and does quite the commendable job.
Baxter the beagle has been tasked with rounding up the errant sheep who have wandered way from their homes. But this mutt works a little harder than your typical sheep dog. He uses his head considerably more than those other sheepdogs. Literally. It's your job to launch Baxter into each fluffy runaway, knocking them into several target areas on the playing field. Thus the reason why cuddly little Baxter is clad in a crash helmet.
Simple touch control allows you to drag Baxter backward to adjust power and trajectory, then launch him hurtling toward a sheep. The more force behind your push, the further Baxter will travel. Likewise, they more force you apply, the harder Baxter will collide with each sheep. Knocking each sheep into a target zone nets you a certain amount of points relative to how close you managed to end up to the target. The sheep move sluggishly, so it can often be a feat to ensure they hit the "bullseye," or the center of each target.
Thankfully, close calls and "almost there" tosses are close enough to count. It's still a good idea to aim as closely to the center of each green area as possible, as dead-center tosses award you several medals as well as a sight more points.
Not only will you contend with the environments (lush farmland, deserts, and more) but you'll be faced with several obstacles that serve to stand in the way of Baxter's sheep-herding progress. Electrified fences, bumpers, and other impedances up the ante, giving you a run for your money. Switches will also be in place that must be flipped to open gates and reveal other pieces of each area.
There are a fixed amount of tries available to pass each level, and plenty of meta-challenges within, such as aiming to collect each coin that appears within. There's plenty of incentive to keep coming back for more, so it's unfortunate that your greatest enemy at times is part of how you play the game effectively: Baxter often rolls at an odd speed, continuing to roll long after normal physics would have ceased his movement. This can turn a perfectly-executed push into a botched turn. It's frustrating, to be sure, and can often sway a great Baxter-launch into a mediocre one. Score hunters and perfectionists will take issue with this, but it's a minor gripe for those looking for a simple good time.
Vivid colors and bright tunes accompany you during what will inevitably be quick bursts of gameplay, and Baxter's design along with the fuzzy sheep he's herding is "aww"-inducing. It's a shame the real-estate on screen isn't always used more wisely -- target areas are often clustered in one place and half the screen is full of bright green pastures and such for you to roll into by accident. For a game that brings to mind the mini-golf courses of yesteryear, there's so much more that could have been done with the extra space.
Still, Sticky Sheep is a cute puzzler that allows for plenty of mistakes -- even the not-so puzzle-savvy players can jump right in and have a blast. Plus, how often do you get to toss adorable canines at sheep? Pick up Chillingo's latest to try it out. You may want to refrain from doing it in real life, though.