Take a breather from GTA 6 hype with Flock’s brilliant new demo

Spare a thought for any game attempting to compete with GTA 6 today. It can’t be easy when big hitters like that inevitably suck all the air out the room, but bless the folks at Hollow Ponds for poking their heads above the 4K flamingo parapet anyway by releasing a lovely new demo for their upcoming critter collect ’em up Flock today. I’ve just been giving it a go over lunch, and it is truly a very relaxing way to decompress after a morning of poring over GTA gubbins.

The demo covers the very first moments of the game, allowing you to create a character, pick your bird and get to grips with its creature wrangling. I’ve been quietly intrigued by how its critter charming works ever since I spoke to the devs earlier in the year, but honestly, I was more captivated by the flavour text describing all the various haircuts on offer. A sweeping “Privacy Fringe” that’s described as “adding curtains to the windows to your soul”, you say? Truly. I feel seen beyond belief.

(Extra shoutouts to the “The Snoot” nose type (“Boop not included”, FYI), as well as “The Startled Rabbit” and “Half Eggshell” haircuts, the former of which is described as “pigtails but with superb lift” while the latter is all about embracing “the ‘just hatched’ aesthetic).

The character creation screen in Flock
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Annapurna Interactive

Flying around on your giant winged stead feels wonderful under the thumbs, calling to mind the effortless, graceful gliding of Journey and Abzu. I had a great time just nosing about its whimsical fields and rooting out new critters for my creature guide, and I’m really looking forward to poking around its full map when it launches next spring.

The demo also finally gets to the bottom of exactly what how your titular flock of sheep work as well. After all, Flock isn’t just about charming strange little abstract animal pals to follow you around. It’s also about grazing sheep, which you’ll deposit on special meadows while you soar around the world on the back of your giant bird. The devs wouldn’t reveal exactly what secrets lay within these meadows when I spoke to them back in July, but the demo reveals it’s all to do with collecting special whistles that let you charm specific types of creatures. A wily gang of Burgling Bewls come and steal your aunt’s whistle collection early on, you see, so it’s up to you to go and retrieve them from where the bewls have hidden themselves in the long meadow grass.

A trio of Burgling Bewls stealing whistles in Flock

Identifying creatures sunbathing on concrete in Flock

The Basking Bewls (right) are a lot more chill than their Burgling Bewl cousins (left). “Is a menace” couldn’t be more accurate. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Annapurna Interactive

All creatures fall into different species and family types in Flock, and you’ll need the corresponding whistle for them before you can set about adding them to your growing gaggle of pals. Before that, though, you’ll need to identify them with a tap of the A button first, which thankfully is a lot easier to do. Identifying critters can be done at any time as soon as you come across them – provided they don’t hide or run away from you first, that is – and you’ll need to match them with the brief but characterful notes given to you by your Aunt Jane.

It’s an extremely pleasant way to while away a lunch hour, and I’d strongly encourage you to find some time today to give a go yourself. It should be playable for the rest of the week as well as part of Wholesome Games’ Wholesome Snack festivities, so make sure you grab it from Steam before it’s gone.

Disclosure: Pipp Warr, formerly on this parish, is a designer and writer for Flock, which almost certainly explains why those haircut descriptions are so on point.

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