Jesus was famously keen on shepherds. And Christianity - in common with several other world religions - abounds with shepherding metaphors.
It's easy to see why. Ancient shepherds were renowned for their dedication to the flock - protecting them from danger, providing them with nourishment, and tracking those that strayed from the herd. The Good Shepherd is the perfect symbol of parental love and devotion.
Such a metaphor neatly overlooks the part where the sheep are sheared for their wool or slaughtered for chops, but let's not get too literal.
For its part, Clouds & Sheep isn't too concerned with the reality of shepherding, presenting a cartoon world in which coffee is the perfect pick-me-up for weary rams and your field is as likely to contain a paddling pool and parasol as it is a fence.
Nice to meet ewe
The game makes a fine first impression, introducing you to the charmingly expressive flock that you'll be tending to and teaching you some of the core principles of its offbeat version of shepherding.
For instance, you can cheer up dreary ewes by chucking them across the level, and you're encouraged to ping sheep around by grabbing hold of their woolly tails and giving them a stretch.
You'll have to keep the woolly critters watered and well-fed too, of course, but the game is pleasingly permissive when it comes to interacting with your herd. You rarely have to be particularly careful in Clouds & Sheep, and that means that you're free to just experiment and play.Sheeper by the dozen
While this freedom is initially liberating, it quickly becomes a bit boring. Once the novelties dry up, you're left to play through scores of objectives that wouldn't offer much challenge to a determined house pet.
Whether you're placing sheep for a photo opportunity or tapping rainclouds to water your field, the game asks so little of you that it can occasionally feel like you're playing with an interactive desktop wallpaper.
And since the actions that you're completing offer little enjoyment in themselves, the absence of challenge works to erode any sense of satisfaction you might have been hoping for. If completing an objective required no skill and wasn't much fun, what's left for the player to enjoy?
These objectives just keep coming. Your reward for completing a certain number of the tasks is a move to fresh pastures, but since each new level is little more than a reskin of the last, with its own set of odd jobs for you to run, completing a level quickly becomes a dubious pleasure.Sheep trick
In fact, Clouds & Sheep is probably better described as a toy than a game. After all, the 'game' label implies challenge, a difficulty curve, and a sense of progression. Clouds & Sheep has none of these things.
It certainly deserves credit for its vibrant aesthetic and an array of merry musical numbers, but as a game Clouds & Sheep is just too slight to impress.
It has superficial charm, but Clouds & Sheep is really little more than a time-filler for the most casual of casual players. It's inoffensive, but also just very dull.