by Eidos Interactive
This has to be one of the most original games to be released on the PS2. Playing the role of young Gerdy, the boy with the itchy neck, (he almost always scratches his neck when he begins a conversation) the game begins with you finding that you father is in an unnatural sleep. Gerdy begins to panic and tries to find out if there is anyway that he can wake up his father. He soon learns that his father is under some kind of spell and the only way to wake him from the spell is to win the herding championship that is soon to take place. The only problem is that Gerdy is just a young boy and has no experience of herding the strange animals that inhabit his world.
The immediate task for Gerdy is to acquire some herding skills. Initially the game is a little too slow paced but as Gerdy acquires his most basic of skills and heads off for distant lands, the action begins to get far more enjoyable and sets the pace for the remainder of the game. Initially Gerdy will acquire a herding stick that charms the sort of hen like creatures, the Doops. They have to be rounded up in a sort of pen that once they are secure in, they cannot escape. Of course the gameplay would be too straightforward if it were that simple and you will find animals that are out to destroy the animals that you are intending to round up. The Gromps are sort of a pink grizzly bear type animal that loves to eat the Doops. When faced with a situation where you have to round up Doops and Gromps are nearby, you have to trap the Gromps in a trap first. Again Core Design have brought strategy to this simple process, as certain Gromp traps are located near the Doop pens. If you trap a Gromp near to a pen where you are rounding up Doops then don't be surprised to see the Gromp get out a fishing rod and fish the Doops, one by one, out of the pen. There are other animals in the game such as the Phreeps and these require different skills for rounding them up.
Graphically the game is almost as good as an animated film. The soft, hazy-like colour palette that has been used for the game succeeds in giving the game it's unique style. One thing I would mention though is that the framerate does occasionally get a bit sloppy but these instances are not regular occurrences and it never drops too low. If you have a TV that supports the PAL 60Hz option then you be able to switch to that mode if you so wish. For those, like me, who are limited to a 50Hz display you will find those pesky boarders are present and correct.
For the large part the game has been splendidly subtitled but there are some glaring omissions. On electing to start a new game you will find that the initial cutscene is not subtitled and there are a few other places where subtitles are not present which is strange because all other cutscenes and in-game conversations have been splendidly subtitled. The only conclusion I can come to is that it must have been an oversight that a couple of the cutscenes are not subtitled. It should not spoil your enjoyment of the game too much though but it is a shame nevertheless.
Herdy Gerdy is both innovative and entertaining. There are one or two niggles such as the occasionally wandering camera and the rare instance where subtitles don't exist but overall the game is very enjoyable and has a very well paced difficulty setting that ensures you won't become bored quickly. The decision to make different animals require different herding skills is what makes the game special and adds longevity to the title.
Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10 Core design have created an almost animated movie experience with Herdy Gerdy. The slow pace at the beginning belies the fact that what lies ahead is a highly enjoyable but nevertheless very challenging experience. If only every game could be this original and good we would all be happy.
Deaf Gamers comment: As far as subtitling goes Herdy Gerdy is generally very good but it is strange to find one or two instances where the subtitles have been omitted especially as the rest of the game is so good.