Sheep in Space is a weird horizontal shoot ’em up, written by Jeff Minter and published by Llamasoft in 1984, and featuring a flying sheep who must complete horizontally-scrolling levels by shooting all the available enemies. Sheep in Space has its roots in Defender and Jeff‘s previous game, Ancipital.
A proximity indicator on the information panels shows you whether you should be going left or right and you can also “DJump” which instantly moves you to the next hostile. There’s also a stomach indicator which tells you how hungry the sheep is. If it’s “famished” or “starving” then you need to find a patch of grass, land, and then let the sheep graze on it for a short while to allow it to fill up its stomach again. If the stomach indicator reaches zero then the sheep will immediately die, so it’s not wise to gamble where food is concerned.
When flying, the sheep will move fastest when in the middle of the screen, and there are two landscapes above and below it, each exerting gravity on the sheep’s projectiles, depending on how close the sheep is to them when it fires. The sheep can change direction left and right, and can move up and down into both landscapes, but the aim is to find specific hostiles and shoot them. Often by flipping the screen left and right to coax the hostiles out.
Occasionally you’ll also get to fly in space (thus the title), where there are no gravity effects on projectiles.
The sheep’s fire rate leaves a little to be desired (it should be higher), but otherwise Sheep in Space is a playable and interesting game from Llamasoft. It’s well-produced, full of humour, and has some decent sprites and graphics. It also features guest appearances from the camels from Revenge of the Mutant Camels, and Cippy from Ancipital, among other Llamasoft characters.
I think by this stage of 1984 Jeff was starting to evolve away from random old school craziness and was structuring his games better. Making them more polished and professional. Although Sheep in Space isn’t Jeff‘s best game, it’s certainly well-constructed and meaningful enough to warrant playing today.