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Extreme Herder: An Avatar Collector's Guide


by costumely

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Welcome back! In this article series, I provide you with the strategies I developed through trial and error so you can attain the avatar for Neopia's toughest games! Today's target is Extreme Herder; you will need a score of 250 or more for the "Kacheek - Herder" avatar. Like skiing, Extreme Herder is easy to learn, but difficult to master. At first glance, it may seem like a heavily luck-based game, but after reading this guide, it will be clear that success in Extreme Herder is dependent on nothing more than skill. Let's get started!

     GAMEPLAY

     In Extreme Herder, you play Samrin the shepherd. His job is to guide the petpets back into their pen before they are eaten by Balthazar. Gameplay is simple; use the arrow keys to move Samrin around. When you get close to a petpet, you will automatically pick them up; tap the spacebar to set it back down. Drop the petpet in the pen by moving towards one of the entrances, and repeat. Easy peasy! You may also spot power-ups; the blue snowflake freezes Balthazar for about a second, while the yellow orb speeds Samrin up for a few seconds. The snowflake powerup is very useful; on the other hand, the orb powerup made Samrin too fast for me to successfully control. Experiment with both to find out what works for you!

     The levels get increasingly more difficult; in level one, there are three petpets to herd, and four entrances into the pen, as well as portals that take you to the opposite side of the screen. As the game progresses, the portals and entrances disappear, while the number of petpets increases. By level 11, only the leftmost entrance to the pen remains, and you will have to herd seven petpets per level. Every level after that will have the same layout. The only other change is that after level 16, the snowflake powerup stops appearing.

     Lastly, there is one code you can use: type "freeze", for the same effect as a snowflake powerup. Personally, I did not find it useful. Snowflake powerups appear every few seconds in the earlier levels, and once they stopped appearing, I usually did not have enough time to type "freeze" before Balthazar ate a petpet. Again, do experiment with it.

     TIPS

     First of all, let's discuss a few techniques that proved crucial when I was trying for the avatar.

     1) Understand Balthazar's behaviour. When a level begins, Balthazar always walks in from the top-left corner. He will fixate on a random petpet and chase it; he will only eat another petpet (or Samrin) if they get too close to his body. This is crucial! Understanding how close you can get to Balthazar is necessary to score past 150 or so. The exception is if Balthazar is frozen. It is then safe to walk "through" Balthazar.

     If you pick up the petpet Balthazar is focused on, he will randomly select another petpet to walk towards (not necessarily the nearest one!). Use this behaviour to redirect Balthazar if he gets too close to his target petpet. Just scoop up the petpet, and Balthazar will lose interest! Finally, if you pick up the last petpet remaining in the level, Balthazar will walk away to the top of the field (and sometimes disappear from the game entirely!) This is helpful if you need a break in-between levels.

     2) Skim around the center pen's corners. You want to be as close to the pen as possible to minimize time in between rescuing petpets. In later levels, you will have to go past Balthazar in order to deposit petpets into the pen. As I mentioned before, he will eat Samrin if you move too close to him! Avoid this by staying close to the pen, even when turning a corner. One thing I did was practice circling the pen at the end of the level, since Balthazar was out of the way. With a little practice, you should be able to move around the pen with almost no gap between Samrin and the walls. However, be careful! The most dangerous time to turn a corner is when Balthazar is also turning the same corner. Samrin will get eaten!

     3) In a pinch, sacrifice Samrin! Imagine this: Balthazar is moving towards a cluster of petpets. He is likely to eat more than one of them and you don't have time move them. What should you do in this situation? It may sound counterintuitive, but you should let Balthazar eat Samrin. This action restarts the level, so you only lose one life. In comparison, each petpet Balthazar snacks on will cost you a life, so you could lose the game right then and there!

     STRATEGY

     The first 11 levels should be a breeze to complete, even as a beginner. If you lose a life during any of them, restart the game. You will need those lives in later levels!

     Always start each level at the top-left corner. That way, you can pick up any petpets before Balthazar walks on the screen. In the few moments before he enters the screen, move as many petpets from the left-hand side of the screen as possible to safety.

     Now, the tricky part; ideally, you want to trick Balthazar into moving back and forth solely on the left side of the screen, like a seesaw. Assume that Balthazar moves for a petpet below the pen. You would walk beside him and pick up the petpet you think he is focused on. With some luck, Balthazar will turn around and walk towards a petpet at the top of the screen. This gives you time to drop the petpet in the pen, walk past Balthazar again, and grab the new petpet. If you see a snowflake powerup in your path, I would grab it, since it makes navigating past Balthazar much easier. Do not stray too far to grab one, though; this shouldn't be a problem since they usually spawn close to Samrin anyway!

     Rinse and repeat the above until there are three petpets remaining. At that point, you should be able to herd them individually away from Balthazar.

     THE END

     Now you know everything I know about Extreme Herder! Thank you for reading, and I wish you luck in getting the avatar!

 
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