Sheep are generally thought of as woolly, cute, smelly and, well, a bit stupid. So when they crop up in games, they don't tend to be given puzzles to solve. Jilly's Farm is different. Firstly, because it's isometric - also known as oblique projection - also known as "Ultimate: Play The Game" filmation style. And secondly, because the sheep is the hero. And he's the hero because he's got a big brain. Yours, in fact, because you get to control him in this 3D landscape of grass, hay and targets.
Jilly's Farm is the latest from prolific Spectrum programmer Bob Smith, who has been programming for the Spectrum for over thirty years (perhaps most famously known for his Farmer Jack trilogy, Stranded suite and Gem Chasers). Bob takes a real pride in the games he creates, and Jilly's Farm is no exception. It has a colourful loading screen, a flamboyant introduction with a blare of bouncy music and a special guest appearance by Sabreman (of Sabre Wulf fame) and between levels, you even get a fade effect reminiscent of the "That's All Folks!" at the end of a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Which is all well and good, but what of the game itself, then? Well, it's Sokoban - also known as Japanese Warehouse Manager - also known as Push The Bales. This game is usually played from overhead and involves you simply pushing bales of hay (or just blocks in some versions) into target positions within mazes. You must get all bales into position without pushing them up against walls of the maze and blocking yourself from accessing them. Jilly's Farm just takes the idea and puts it in a 3D style with a woolly protagonist. You control him by rotating him left and right and moving him forwards and backwards in the exact same manner as Alien-8 (and its brethren). When all bales are correctly positioned, he leaps upon the last one and emits a "Baa!" speech bubble.
The game includes 30 levels and a screen designer and it's Bob's wish that any officiandoes of the game design their own levels with it. Rather than have a save level, any screen a user creates is actually compressed to a 25-character code. Simply design your screen, test it and copy the code to a forum post and any other user can play your level by typing it in. Not a bad idea, that.
From easy beginnings, the levels get progressively more demanding, and on the occasions on which you mess it up, tapping Q will return you to the opening screen so you can decide if you want to try again.
If you compare Jilly's Farm with some of Bob's earlier work, it's quite obviously been less of a challenge than what many will consider his magnum opus, Splattr. Splattr (for the 128K Spectrum and still available from www.cronosoft.co.uk) took the Spectrum places it had never gone before and would certainly have been able to retail as £10 professional release had it been released in the Speccy's heyday. Jilly's Farm would, however, have been more suited to a £2.99 budget label. That shouldn't take away anything from this great game though, and puzzle fanatics and lovers of the Ultimate Filmation series will be in their element here.
- Neat-looking graphics
- Cute protagonist
- A doddle to understand
- Great tune on start-up
- A tribute to Filmation games that works really well
- Easy-to-use screen designer utility
- Monochrome only
- Only 30 levels