Core's herding adventure is a brilliant, original gaming experience.
Herdy Gerdy is surely one of the most original games that came out for PS2; Eidos Interactive, publisher of the game, must be proud of this result. Developed by Core Interactive, this game is filled with brilliant ideas that create something different from the average 3D adventure/platform game. There are some issues here and there that could have been avoided, as it often happens for innovations, but this game has many aspects that will please all those players who want to try something new.
The story may seem a bit pointless to some gamers: it’s odd indeed, but perfect for the purposes of Core’s developers. In brief: Gerdy is a young boy that lives in a farm near a small town with his beloved father, who is a skilled herder, probably the best among all the herders of the island where the game takes place. One morning, Gerdy’s father is unable to wake up because the evil Sadorf, ruler of the island, casts a spell on him. Sadorf is afraid that Gerdy’s dad can beat him at the great herding tournament and make him lose his power. Gerdy’s adventure begins from here: he has to become a great herder to defeat Sadorf and help his dad to come back to normal life. The stereotype is always the same: a mysterious villain with magic powers and a positive hero who are opponents… but don’t be fooled by the simple plot of the game!
From this point of view, Herdy Gerdy surely requires more patience and attention than the greatest part of adventure or platform games. In this title there are elements typical of 3D adventures and also elements taken from classic platforms - for example you have to collect 100 bells from each level to gain some extras. Well, Herdy Gerdy is very original especially because it brings new fresh elements to these genres. Even if the whole question of herding animals may sound easy for the ones who still haven’t played the game, in reality it’s not as easy as it seems, and most of all not so repetitive. First of all, there are various animals to be herded, and each species has its peculiar way of acting and reacting to Gerdy’s attempt to bring them to pens dislocated around levels. If you want to go on and reach new areas, you need to herd a certain amount of animals. Gaining new tools from bosses and consequently learning new herding abilities will be necessary to improve and be able to herd new species. For example: Doops are the most common animals you’ll meet during your adventure. They’re kinda stupid and they look like pink chickens. You don’t need particular tools to herd them: you just have to run after them and bring them to the right pen. But your work will be a lot easier once you get some tool to help you herding also most common species. Other common species around Herdy Gerdy’s world are Bleeps and Gromps. Bleeps like music, so you need to win certain tools to herd them, or they will ignore your tries to bring them to the pen. Gromps are the most funny among those animals: they look like pink nasty bears, with long arms. Gerdy doesn’t need particular tools with Gromps: they’re so wild that they always try to catch Gerdy when he’s near. To save your life and also other animals (Gromps especially like to eat Doops and this is not good if you want to complete levels…), you have to lead Gromps to traps that can be found around each level. But you also need to find the best strategy, because some traps are too near to pens and when you turn your back to Gromps they’ll eat all your Doops using a fishing rod! A Gromp is probably the most difficult animal to manage, because it loses interest in Gerdy whenever it meets another Gromp (in this case they start fighting) or other animals it finds tasty…
Restarting several times a level, because of the loss of animals to be herded (for example if all Doops are eaten by Gromps or if Bleeps die drowned in the river), can be frustrating sometimes. Also, it’s not easy to find all the animals hidden in each level without wasting some time.
The main problem with Herdy Gerdy gameplay is, as I told you above, patience. In fact to complete the game and reach every part of the world of the game, you’ll have to play some levels again and again. It’s not only because the game is difficult, but also because cameras and maps are not so easy to handle. A positive point is that you can change perspective using R3 button (three different views from a close one to far view) or L3 (first person). The far view is particularly useful while trying to herd animals, also because the others don’t let you have a complete view of the surroundings. An annoying issue is when you’re trying to look at something near Gerdy using the back view and the perspective is blocked by trees, rocks, and other natural elements (sometimes you’re not able to look at your character as well…). Anyway, the issue can be avoided switching from a view to another, even if the back view is chosen by default.
Regarding the map, it’s for sure a very useful help in some cases, but in general it’s a bit confusing. There are symbols representing the different pens, creatures and other elements present in the game, but it's not that easy to keep them all in mind. The possibility to zoom in and out on the map using the d-pad doesn't help either. The long loading times between the levels are another little issue in the gameplay of Herdy Gerdy, but they never become unbearable.