Leap Sheep! Hands-On Preview

From the co-developers of Left 4 Dead, a multiplayer zombie shooter for PC and Xbox 360, comes Leap Sheep!, a high-score game for the iPhone starring jumping sheep. These games couldn’t be any more different, highlighting the contrast between traditional console and iPhone development.

In Leap Sheep!, the screen is centered on a simple fence in a field. Sheep come running from the left, and if you tap on them, they’ll perform a little hop. Tap again in mid-air, and they’ll perform a flip, helping you rack up extra points, and potentially distracting you from other sheep who are en-route.

If you fail to clear the fence, your sheep will become stuck until a ram batters them through. Rams will appear if you perform enough tricks, but if five sheep get stuck in a row, it’s game over.

Plus+ online integration includes the usual goodies: achievements and online leaderboards for figures like your total score and number of sheep who made it over the fence. Another neat addition is that the scene changes based on what time of day you’re playing.

Developer Phil Robb from Turtle Rock Studios explained to us why his company shifted gears so thoroughly. “Turtle Rock is dedicated to creating high-quality games that put fun first, above all else, regardless of theme,” Robb said. “Making a game about cartoon sheep was a nice little break, after wading hip-deep through zombie guts for the past six years and it was kind of nice working on something I can let my kids play without giving them nightmares. Now that we’re done with Leap Sheep! our next project will take us back into the realm of blowing things up.”

In our time with Leap Sheep! we found that the core mechanic was simple and fun, and we enjoyed the goofy music and visuals. However, sometimes sheep wouldn’t respond 100% of the time to our taps, and despite the online high scores, we have trouble seeing the long-term replay value in the game without any alternate modes.

As a 99-cent game that could be appealing to kids, Leap Sheep! could easily find its niche. However, there are thousands of other 99-cent games on the App Store, many of which offer a more significant amount of depth. In our view, Leap Sheep! might have trouble standing out if it wasn’t made by the same team that helped create Left 4 Dead.

Turtle Rock Studios is looking to invest even more in iPhone development, and they’ve created a special division called Turtle Rock Garage to lead the charge. If Leap Sheep! does well, expect to see more games from them in the future. Leap Sheep! will be out later this week.

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