Herding game is a tad far-fetched
Initially on mobile and tablets, Herding Dog (previously Join the Pack) was released onto the PC via Steam in December. There are a number of problems that tablet and mobile ports face if they attempt to make the shift to PC, and unfortunately for Herding Dog, it was not a graceful transition.
In Herding Dog, you unsurprisingly play as a herding dog that must perform various farmyard duties. The main objective is to protect your livestock from predators and simultaneously herd these different animals into their respective pens. The game is level-based, each one having a number of targets starting simple with ‘chase the birds away’ to ‘make the pigs drink water, scare the wolf AND collect the items’. It’s easy enough to understand, you just run around and bark at animals. However, where there could be beauty in Herding Dog’s simplicity, the game mechanics are overwhelmed with glitchy game play, awkward clipart “cinematics” and over-the-top pop-ups. The game feels like an over excited puppy, rushing ahead of itself, ready to bounce onto PC even though it’s obviously not ready.
The first couple of levels where comically awkward, lack of tutorials meant I had no idea what I was doing. I had to save my animals from being eaten. I was clicking and running around crazily trying to chase down a fox whilst trying to close a bunch of pop-up windows that had sprung up and blocked my view. Then, at one point I was trying to herd some glitchy sheep away from a wolf when suddenly some aliens showed up out of nowhere and started abducting the animals. When I finally got the hang of the game, a single level blessed me with a B+ rating complete with a condescending round of applause, a bunch of confetti and six steam achievements (out of a possible thirteen). With the goofy music that is on constant repeat, it’s completely over the top.
After the first overly enthusiastic levels, Herding Dog then becomes repetitive. After level 9, you’ve basically seen all the predators, animals and scenarios so they become randomly generated creating combinations with no new mechanics, landscapes or animals. The game claims that each animal has their own individual reaction to you trying to herd them. However, when I played I saw no difference in the way they reacted, they all just ran in the opposite direction. Additionally, there are glitches that occur regularly, animals run through trees, rocks, and hills and the game could skip several levels at a time.
Herding Dog has some negative points, but it can also be praised for a number of aspects. The colourful and unique geometric-style landscape was what attracted me to playing Herding Dog in the first place. There are small details like the danger camera and the pointer on the dog to indicate where the animals are in the level, which save time and the frustration of finding them. The developers, xixgames, have been frequently updating the game trying to fix the bugs and glitches. The German Shepherd dog is cute and hopefully different breeds of dogs will be introduced – I would love to see a tiny corgi chase away a wolf. There’s a lot of potentia. Hopefully, with the updates and bug fixes, Herding Dog could size up to be a pretty fun game.
Herding Dog might be an obvious rushed mobile port but it’s a simple idea with nice aesthetics and easy gameplay that leans towards a young audience. As a mobile and tablet game, it has a lot of potential but for £2/$3 on PC it’s worth waiting for the de-bugging updates before deciding.