Join the Pack is a strange little game that I’m still figuring out. After a cursory glance at its varied settings populated by farms and lighthouses, I thought it might be some sort of Homeward Bound / Shelter-style adventure full of four-legged heartbreak. In actuality, it’s a playful, narrative-free romp that pits your herding dog against level-based challenges suited to his special set of skills.
Your goal in Join the Pack is typically to track down and drive some wayward animals to a specific destination. Pigs to pen, sheep to gate, rabbits to bulls-eye. Occasionally other animals, like foxes, will make this job more difficult by scaring the animals away, but for the most part the goals and challenge level are lighthearted and airy. The foxes never, for instance, eat the sheep if left to their own devices.
There are ten pre-designed levels on environments ranging from a farm to a deserted beach, and after completing these a random level generator opens up. This lets you spin a wheel to determine which A) animal (sheep), B) obstacle (foxes), and C) environment (mountain) you’ll play on within a randomized stage. This allows for an almost endless amount of replay value, although you’ll always be doing basically the same thing: running your dog around the stage.
The strangest things about Join the Pack are all the little extras thrown in for no obvious reason. There’s a weather widget you can open up that will tell you the time and weather for your current location. There’s a selfie button that lets you take a selfie shot of your dog (who’s perfected the stoic loner pose). There’s a score widget that tells you useful information like what percentage of animals you’ve collected for a stage, as well as inexplicable details like “Boldness,” “Flexibility,” and “Zen Combo,” all of which I’m still trying to understand.
With these random side features and the extreme simplicity of the game itself, Join the Pack feels like a cheerful tech demo for something we could get really excited for down the road. As it stands, it’s a bit too bare bones to become our next time sink, but it will be our go-to dog-selfie pig-chasing simulator.
Join the Pack is available on the App Store for $2.99.