When it comes to games, usually I like my experiences to be bloody and brutal, perhaps with a little crudity thrown in for good measure. You know; games like DOOM or Bulletstorm. Sometimes though, I just feel the need to try something different to counterbalance all the violence and bad language. Something simple, bright and colourful, that I can just have a quick go on to waste 30 minutes or so of my day. I thought Handy Games‘ Clouds and Sheep 2 would be such a game. How wrong I was.

I honestly can’t remember which day it exactly was now, but it was around lunchtime sometime mid-December. I was at a loss for what to play while a so-called triple-A title was downloading on my Xbox One and saw Clouds and Sheep 2 just sitting there in my games library. “That looks like a small pick up and play title” I thought, and so I booted it up, expecting to be done with it in 20 minutes or so. What actually happened was that I had to drag myself away from it at 2am the next morning.

Like all good games, Clouds and Sheep 2 eased me in gently. Giving me just one male sheep to look after, it explained how I could play with my new fluffy friend by tossing it in the air and pulling on its tail. Then the game showed me how to read its mind to find out what would make it happy, such as dyeing its wool, making it a hat or simply feeding it. Next, it gave me the power to manipulate clouds, creating rain which helped to grow plants as well as form useful puddles for my sheep to drink from. In no time at all I was a master at meeting my sheep’s needs. So much so, in fact, that I was able to consider taking on the many quests that were being presented to me.

Things started getting trickier however, after being gifted yet another sheep, this time female. In Clouds and Sheep 2 it doesn’t take much to make them a little frisky, and so before I knew it my sheep were in love and had produced a new member of the family for me to look after. It was fun, and so I continued to expand the family until there was simply no more room on the farm for more unless I expanded it, so I did. It wasn’t easy gathering the resources required to expand my farm, but I persisted until it was as big as it could be, and soon, I had ten sheep in my flock. Unfortunately though, whilst I was happy looking after them, it became apparent that perhaps I wasn’t doing a stellar job of it.

You see, Clouds and Sheep 2 is essentially a real-time strategy game. The sheep are your units and their happiness creates stars which act a currency, enabling you to buy items to make them even happier or cultivate resources. The trouble is, the more sheep you have the more resources you need, and the harder it gets to manage everything. Inevitably then, some sheep will die along the way. And they did. It was troubling, especially when I had looked after them for so long. And whilst I could revive them at a cost, it just wasn’t feasible.  Instead, I had to take the regrettable losses on the chin and grow my flock again. Only this time, slower, and with more care and attention.

After bolstering my efforts, my sheep were happier than ever. With my smaller, more manageable flock I completed quest after quest and started progressing through Clouds and Sheep 2’s unnecessary story. I levelled up, gaining access to new environments such as a winter wonderland and a prairie, each offering their own little quirks. I was absorbed and addicted, my plans of playing whatever triple-A title I had set downloading were thrown out of the window. For some reason I just couldn’t put the pad down, even when proceedings started to feel a bit grindy. Clouds and Sheep 2 had me firmly in its grasp and wouldn’t let go.

Dragging myself to bed at 2am after completing its story, I vowed to never touch Clouds and Sheep 2 again, for fear of it consuming yet another day of my life. Up to now I’ve managed to maintain my abstinence, although the game is still there, trying to grab my attention as I browse my game library. Maybe someday I will find myself going back to see how my sheep are doing and get thoroughly addicted again. I just don’t know. What I can suggest though, is that if you’re ever at a loss for something to play on your Xbox One, give Clouds and Sheep 2 a try. Don’t blame me if you end up losing an entire day to it though.

Who knew looking after sheep could be so addictive, eh?