The schedule for our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 made use of a theme for each day of the week. For example, Indie Mondays gave us as chance to play some gems viewers might not have come across before; and All-Action Wednesdays treated us to Grand Theft Auto V chaos.
For Retro Fridays we revisited releases we’d played when we were younger. Some of these were modern-day remakes, such as Golden Axe from the SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Classics collection and Battletoads from Rare Replay. Others were the original copies we’d purchased for the Xbox 360 back in the day such as Catherine. And the remaining were titles for the PlayStation 2, either found in Pete’s box of old games or purchased at the London Gaming Market.
One such game in that last category was Herdy Gerdy by Core Design. I’d picked it up at the event in July last year after seeing it on a stand and being reminded of playing it in February 2002. I can’t recall what attracted me to it back then and only have a vague recollection of coming across it for the first time in a GAME store all those years ago. If I had to hazard a guess now, I’d say it was because it was completely different to the typical shooters being released for the console.
You see, Herdy Gerdy is puzzle game about… wait for it… a young apprentice herder named Gerdy. He discovers his father has been placed under a spell by the evil wizard Sadorf when trying to wake him for the annual herding competition, in an attempt to prevent his dark rule over Magical Island from ending. To exact revenge on his dad’s nemesis and restore goodness to the land, our hero must embark on a journey to hone his skills and compete in the tournament to become Master Herder.
The gameplay takes place over 20 or so locations in which Gerdy must learn the relationships between creatures. There are around ten different species, each with its own personality and behavioral patterns, and puzzles arise when trying to figure out how to successfully herd each animal into the appropriate pen. For example, the cute little Doops will huddle around the Herding Stick, enabling you to easily group them together; but the pink Gromps will snack on the Doops, and give you a smack in the face while they’re at it.
I loved Herdy Gerdy at the time of its release. As mentioned above, it was completely different from other titles being published for the PlayStation 2 back then and, as someone who has never really enjoyed the FPS genre, that appealed to me. Here was a game which didn’t involve any guns or explosions, didn’t contain any violence – other than a kick from the bigger creatures when they were able to catch you – and it felt innocent. I remember chilling out with it every night after work until I’d manage to complete it.
Playing it again for our 50-days of streaming for GameBlast20 did make new see how much it has aged in the past 18 years though. As with a lot of older games, the controller buttons feel as though they’re the wrong way round and it’s easy to perform an action when you actually mean to jump. The camera is also a tricky thing: we’re so used to being able to pan around using the right-joystick nowadays that being told you have access to only three views feels rather constricting.
But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the couple of hours I spent with the game that night. It’s hard to pinpoint why I look back on it so fondly but I think it has something to do with the same elements I love about Fable. There’s something magical about the storyline in a fairy-tale kind of way and, although they contain elements which obviously aren’t from the real world, they aren’t so fantastical that they’re completely removed. There’s just something charming about them.
Our stream audience weren’t so entertained however. Although I was aware that Herdy Gerdy wasn’t a well-known title and had received mixed reviews from critics back in 2002, I was still surprised to hear that nobody who joined us in Twitch chat that evening had ever heard of it before. I appreciated how they were kind enough to indulge my nostalgia; but after a while we changed to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City so Pete could indulge in some nostalgia of his own.
It just goes to show you that you can’t please everybody – but there’s a game out there to appeal to every individual, regardless of how strange the choice seems to others. nostalgia has a funny way of making you assume that everyone is going to love an old one as much as you do so it can be a shock to find out they don’t, or aren’t even aware of it. But somehow, that makes those titles even more special: they’re like a little secret which gives you a warm feeling inside.
Is there a game you have fond memories of that very few other people know of? Why not tell us all about it.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.