Flock Hands-On Preview – A Shear Joy

B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, the bird is the herd.

Of the cosy games I managed to sample during Play Days, Hollow Ponds’ Flock is, far and away, the most uplifting and joyful of the bunch. With a focus on seamless flight, reminiscent of something like Flow, Flock feels like a love letter of sorts to swift movement, the magic of flight, and coasting along a gentle breeze.

With its wonderfully simple approach to moving through its globular landscapes, there’s a magic to Flock that is understated. The game itself, as judged by the small slice I saw, is all about nurturing and fostering the strange, illustrative creatures that you effectively evict as you make your way through and till Aunt Jane and Uncle Reg’s farmlands. There are shades of Pokémon, there’s no doubt about it, but instead of imprisoning these monsters they join your small convoy as you adventure through the world, which gradually grows bigger as the clouds roll back, revealing even more land to explore. 

Obviously, the loop differs from wearing these little critters down and ensnaring them within little living quarters. I only got to see the tutorial that introduces us to a lot of these elements, but it seems more about natural discovery. It’s a mix of stumbling across these animals ambling around the land and luring them with any of the whistles you’ll collect that practically cat call a creature out of hiding. You then ingratiate yourself to them through a charming, rhythmic mini-game, identify the subspecies from a set of pretty obvious descriptors, and take them along for the ride.

Although there aren’t hundreds of creatures to catalogue, I got a sense that the way you go about discovering each of them is pretty conditional and should be a decent time sink for what is a smaller scoped game like this. Although they all kind of look like flying fish and eel—at least early on—their behaviours vary greatly. I came across a thieving variant covered in stereotypical raccoon-like bandit stripes, as well as a “bewl” who hides in plain sight basking in the sun. On top of building out your encyclopaedia, you’ll have a companion sheep who’ll stay by you and function as a wool self-serve checkout so that you’re able to knit yourself a cape, beanie, or a new pair of socks—one of the best ways to differentiate yourself outside of your colourful winged mount. 

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I had to finish up right as the fog curled back to reveal the lands beneath your auntie’s farm. It was unexpectedly vast and had a welcoming presence for adventurers looking to come and dig up its secrets and charm its, at times, reclusive creatures. For consumers looking for a relaxing time to spend with friends, Flock appears to offer good value for its reasonable price point. Throw in the fact that it’s on Game Pass at launch and there’s really no reason not to hop in. 

Regretfully, although Flock is set to be a big, beautiful co-op experience where the friends made along the way make the journey itself, my hands-on was a short sitting limited to solo play. I might have had the skies to myself, but I still came away with an undeniable sense of freewheeling spontaneity. 

To combine the liberation of soaring through the uplands with what is essentially a Pokémon-like collectathon feels like a wonderful fit. Not only does Flock let you knit together the wool you’ve shorn from your companion sheep, it’s full of enough serenity to darn a weary soul. I came to realise that, with its pleasing, colourful art fitting together snugly with its nostalgic creature collection, Flock is a comfort food I’ve been hungering for. 

Flock launches on July 16th for PlayStation, Xbox and PC.