This week we review Extreme Sheepdog Trials, Monster Mayhem and Sword & Poker 2
EXTREME Sheepdog Trials
"For fans of Tux Wonder Dogs only"
For all those who remember Tux Wonder Dogs with a nostalgic fondness, this game might be up your alley - certainly shepherding is an under-represented ‘sport’ in videogaming. EXTREME Sheepdog trials puts you in control of a little sheepdog via one of three control schemes: touch, command buttons, or whistle. All three schemes are well implemented – whistling into your iPhone mic is surprisingly accurate – but for those wanting a simple pick-up-and-play experience, touch is the way to go. If you want a go at all, that is.
Developer Green Custard seem to be acutely aware of the inherent dullness of herding sheep into a pen, so they’ve tried to mix it up by including levels set in space, where you have to herd your sheep around lasers and teleports. Not your usual agricultural sim then. It’s an odd decision, but an understandable one – it turns out shepherding is an incredibly frustrating pursuit, and after a few failed attempts I was inclined to stop playing. At least in the space levels, there are bright colours to look at too. EXTREME Sheepdog trials is certainly unique, but I am unsure whether the activity required videogame translation. For enthusiasts (if they exist) only.
"A great spin on a saturated genre"
An addictive spin on a tower defense game, Monster Mayhem tasks you to defend a graveyard against a variety of cartoonish beasties using guns, knives and bombs. Every weapon can be leveled up with game currency, so time investment will pay off with a sharp arsenal that puts you on the offensive as much as the defensive. Blowing the head off a monster with a simple tap is much more satisfying than the mad swiping so many other games in this genre require.
Replayability is ensured with a ‘gotta catch em all’ reward – with each new monster you come across, you’ll receive a ‘collectable’ card displaying their strengths and weaknesses. Every card can then be accessed in your Monster Handbook with your killing stats attached. This little RPG-inspired touch, coupled with great variety in monster behavior, keeps the game as compulsive as a tower defense game gets. No real innovation to speak of, but well worth the purchase price.
Sword and Poker 2
"RPG poker mash up. Enough said."
Having not played the original ‘Sword And Poker’, I was unsure of what to expect from this oddity, so it was a mildly pleasant surprise to discover a mash up of poker and RPG. As you fight your way through a series of dungeons, you're tasked to defeat each beast you come across in a simplified version of poker - the better your hand, the more damage you deal. There are nuances, such as a wild card bar that rewards you with a much-desired joker card once it’s full, and various status effects that affect gameplay.
It’s a clever concept, and the game offers surprising depth once you get past the repetitive ‘weak enemy’ battles of the first half hour. For those looking to learn how to play poker, this is as good an introduction as any, with the added bonus of a swords n sandals RPG; there's even a character development system where you can buy new armour and weaponry for your little sprite. An addictive combo, then.