Kid friendly line-drawing has come to the iPhone
It’s not surprising that developer Flightless put out a game about herding sheep. After all, the company is housed in New Zealand, which (if I recall from a shearing demonstration I saw while visiting the country a decade ago) is the nation with a 30-to-1 ratio of sheep to people.
All you have to do in Top Dog is guide a dog around a farmyard and round up stray animals, putting them back where they’re supposed to go. It doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes the simplest of ideas can prove to be a sure fire hit.
The gameplay is relatively simple: you trace a path out for your dog to follow with your finger, herding wayward farm animals back to their respective dwellings: pigs go to mud pits, ducks go into ponds, sheep go into the fenced-off areas. You can herd these animals individually or gather them into a group, turning them into a well-behaved flock. As you get these animals into their homes, a counter on the screen lets you know how many of these creatures still need to be herded.
Meanwhile, if you complete a level fast enough you can earn ribbons. There are also bones scattered around each map, which you can collect for score bonuses.
As I played Top Dog I was reminded a lot of Flight Control, since it involved tracing out routes in a similar manner and the projected paths are depicted in both games with dashed lines. This is meant as a compliment, since Top Dog is a great game on its own, and while it definitely borrows elements from this other title it’s different enough to not feel derivative or unoriginal.
The only real shortcoming with Top Dog is that it desperately needs more levels for people to play through. The small farm has four easy maps to go through, and the large farm has four harder maps. After you complete these levels, there’s not really a lot to do other than replay the levels and work on improving your scores. Unfortunately there’s no way to brag to your friends about these scores, since the game doesn’t have online scoreboards or achievements via a system like Open Feint.
The game’s graphics are charming, providing a stylized top-down view. Everything is crisp and stylized, though hi-rez details have been sacrificed in lieu of cel-shaded styling; this was a smart decision by Flightless, as it makes the game feel very kid-friendly (yet fun enough for adults), which is in keeping with the gameplay.
The sound is equally charming. Even though there isn’t any background music played outside of the menu, the realistic farm animal sounds are great. The sheep bleating is particularly funny to listen to, but all of the animals sound good; even the birds chirping in the background.
Top Dog: Farmyard Adventures isn’t a difficult game, but it’s well-made and very cute. It seems like something that a kid would have no problem playing for quite some time. It definitely has some adult appeal, too, but the lack of content means that you probably won’t play it very much unless Flightless decides to provide some extra levels via updates in the future.