OK. First we have to get something straight. You know the name of the game, you know the developer. You’re thinking, “Cool. It’s Eidos. They made Tomb Raider and Deus Ex. The game is going kick ass.” Well, sit down; take a deep breath. Because this game isn’t the hardcore game you think you’re gonna get. OK, breathe. Remember, developers have the right to deviate from their expected range. So when you pick this game up I want you to say to yourself, “I’m willing to try something new and give up my preconceived notions of how this game should look and feel.” Exhale. Now, don’t you feel better? Good. You have my permission to get angry again. Because, yes, you should start this game giving it half a chance even though it’s different. But that still won’t matter, because Herdy Gerdy has some fatal faults that I’m betting will cause you to never play the game more than once.
Herdy Gerdy starts off well enough: it has a good idea. You play Herdy, a small boy with an unfortunate name and even more unfortunate hairstyle. Herdy’s dad is supposed to go into a herding competition against the villain of the story to get back an acorn and save the world. Unfortunately said evil-guy has cast a sleep spell on Herdy’s dad. Now it’s up to Herdy to save the world. Not the best plot but it will do if plot only serves the purpose of giving you a reason to act a certain way. Because really that’s the heart and soul of this game. Herdy herds. Animals. With tools. Sounds dorky? Actually, it’s a lot of fun. There are numerous animals in each level and Herdy will have to use the tools he earns in the game to get all the animals into pens. Each animal has it’s own AI, so they all act differently and at times act so not the way you need them to act if you’re going to pen them. A typical level may involve needing to herd the Doops into their pens, but the path to the pens will take them right by a Gromp.
The large, fuzzy pink Gromps love to eat all of your animals and if they eat too many of them you’ll have to start the level over. So first things first. Find the Gromp pen and then run at the big pink beast, or blow your horn at him. The only way to pen this guy is to make him aware of you. He’ll then storm after you with the intent of giving you a nice one with his left hook. So now you can lead him right over a trap. When he’s safely penned, throw your herding stick on the ground, which plays a merry tune that the little Doops are attracted to. They’ll gather around it. Remove the stick and chase them into their pen. This is a simple scenario. It gets much more complex in later stages and you’ll find you’ll have to trap more than 8 Gromps and move over 5 different kinds of animals to safe zones several times before they get to their pens. The animals will all respond to different things and may be hostile towards each other as well as being in danger of being eaten by the Gromps. And a good amount of the herding challenges are timed.
Fun strategy aside, the game is visually so bad it will make your head hurt. Let’s start with something that should never have to do with a video game – adjust the brightness of your TV. Herdy Gerdy has a very light color to its animation that manages to remove any detail from the screen unless you darken your TV. This is actually a pretty good fix, just remember to lighten your TV screen when you go into dark areas. But you still shouldn’t ever have to do this before playing a game, unless you normally watch TV at the brightest setting. And it doesn’t end there. The camera in Herdy Gerdy is I think the worst I’ve ever seen in a 3D video game. It has three different settings: overhead, behind Herdy and close up. Unfortunately they all suck and the game will force you into an overhead view when you’re herding which will cause the camera to run through trees and stuff right at a critical moment. There’s also something about the frame rate of the game. It runs at such a jittery pulse, now normal, now fast, now slow, and seemingly all at once and jumbled together. I think this is the hardest part to watch and what will ’cause most people to throw down their controllers in disgust. But please don’t, it’s not the controller’s fault. Really. The fault belongs with Eidos. Games shouldn’t be put on the market ’till they fix these kind of problems.
So blame whoever you want and rent this one before you decide to smack down more than 15 bucks for this one. But if you like strategy give Herdy Gerdy a try. It’s really unique and a good challenge. (And for a bit of fun you should see the Gromps actually eat one of the animals, or cage a Gromp too close to another animal’s pen!) Just be sure to have your favorite headache remedy close by.