Herdy Gerdy – a forgotten little gem from the early days of PS2. I actually have a bit of a history with this game, I remember seeing it in a magazine way back when, before it even came out, and it was one of those games that represented the then new 6th gen for me, with that sort of happy-go-lucky colorful platforming vibe of the early ’00s. Though I never got around to playing it until now. It’s actually not what I was expecting it to be.
It’s sort of a “herding” game, as the name implies, but it’s really more like a simple puzzle game – you have to figure out how to trap enemies and herd different animals to their corresponding pens while avoiding danger. Ultimately there’s only one optimal way to do it and figuring out the solution becomes pretty fun and addictive. The game is fairly easy, clearly targeted at a younger audience, but there’s this soothing and satisfying zen-like process to it.
The main draw of the game are these large open levels where you can run around freely and do some light platforming; pretty impressive for the time. Every level is vibrant and very comfy, and the art direction is really interesting for a western game, with this subdued color palette and cell-shaded look imitating a ’90s cartoon aesthetic. That being said, they probably got a bit too ambitious for their actual abilities, the game looks good but runs at like 15 fps which undermines a lot of tighter platforming moments. There are also a lot of loading times every which way. At least restarting a level is surprisingly instantaneous, which helps a lot since redoing the level until you figure out the optimal solution is mandatory. The camera is also a bit clunky, it always slides off the position you want it in, and there’s no vertical movement of the camera at all. That alone would be manageable but together with the framerate it just really hard to be precise with your movements at times. You get used to it eventually, it’s not a game-breaking issue or anything, they just didn’t optimize it very well.
I think one disappointing aspect is that there’s really nothing to do outside of the main gameplay; there’s nothing to find or to collect on all these large levels. You instinctively want to explore them for stuff but there’s none. No currency, health items, or any other items. You can’t die anyway. Well, there are these bells to collect for some art galleries but you can only start collecting them once you’ve unlocked all the abilities, waaay by the endgame, so you just ignore them throughout most of the playtime. Definitely a wasted opportunity here. There’s also only one actual boss that you have to platform around, weird they didn’t do more to add variety since you do have some platforming abilities.
Like I mentioned, the game does look great, performance aside. The texture quality is excellent and all the models are nicely detailed and animated. The weirdest thing is that they have these cutscenes with very impressive animations which were all made in-engine, but what they ended up using instead are the recorded videos of those cutscenes with atrocious compression. Don’t really understand the reason for doing this, kinda ruins all the work.
On that note, there’s sadly no story to speak of, it’s basically an arcady collection of levels. Which is fine but I feel like with that whole unique art direction there was an opportunity for something here, some interesting narrative, and it’s generally nice to have some story urgency, but it’s kinda wasted here.
Music on the other hand is nice and chill and the audio mixing is great in general. Voice acting not so much, it feels like they had three people to do all the voices, and they suck at all of them.
Definitely a very comfy experience, decently long too, like up to 15 hours if you wanna be thorough.