Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: April 26, 2002
Herdy Gerdy defies classification. It is, without a doubt, most certainly a game, but beyond that you’ll have a hard time collapsing it into categories. Elements of strategy titles, platform jumpers, lite-RPG’s like Zelda and even quirky adventure games like The Curse of Monkey Island all blend together to make a unique title that defies traditional boundaries. That said, we can certainly identify this game’s habitat as the PS2 and its designers as Core Design, but beyond that you’ll pretty much have to fend for yourself. Chances are, though, that once you take the leap into Herdy Gerdy, you’ll find your perceptions of gaming as a whole subtly altered to include the improbable.
Our story begins with the introduction of Gerdy, a young man who possesses the singular honor of being the son of the best herder in the land. As a grand tournament approaches, Gerdy awakes to find that his father seems incapable of the same act, and deduces that some dark power has forced his father into a torpor. Running for help and visiting both the village elders and a mysterious creature known as Yggdrasil, Gerdy learns that his father has fallen under a spell cast by the tyrant Sadorf, and that only the power of a magical acorn used in the very act of creation itself will break that curse.
Unfortunately, this acorn also happens to be in the clutches of Sadorf, who keeps winning the tournament each year, and thus cast the spell on his only real competitor in order to assure his rule. With a path this clear laid out before him, Gerdy has no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a herder skilled enough to rescue the land and overthrow the dark lord. No small task for a shepherd, but this isn’t the first time one of Gerdy’s ilk has bested the seemingly impossible.
Hardened by years of feeding on the souls of their victims, scrounging ammo from the corpses of their foes and generally causing mayhem, most gamers are probably scratching their heads at any release the prominently features herding. Fear not, for this is no Monster Rancher. If anything, Herdy Gerdy is more akin to the simple yet challenging charm of Ico, last year’s sleeper hit from SCEA. Blending platform elements with the “preservation” form of strategy that made the Lemmings series so addictive, Herdy Gerdy tasks you with strategically protecting creatures while you carefully guide them into a pen. Unlike Lemmings, though, you won’t be dealing with specific levels so much as multiple instances within each of the game’s areas.
After a few tutorial levels, Gerdy will be faced with more open-ended gameplay that challenges him to herd creatures quickly, safely and efficiently. The major obstacle to this task will be the Gromps: oversized, pink bear-like creatures with voracious appetites. Whenever a Gromp comes near another creature, Herdy included, it will stalk them in a rage of hunger. In Herdy’s case, the Gromps will simply deliver a massive left hook that sends him flying back to the start of the level. Of course, had Herdy been surrounded by a flock of innocent creatures at the time, the Gromp will proceed to chow down one by one. In order to prevent this occurrence, you’ll usually have to neutralize the carnivore first by leading it into any number of traps conveniently located across the landscape. Things are often not as easy as they seem, though, as Gromps are not without their wily ways and can often reach out and grab your poor critters from a nearby pen. This makes it tantamount that you trap these beasts carefully.