The mental exercise of counting sheep has existed in the public consciousness for hundreds of years, whether or not anybody actually does it. Me, I like to fall asleep listening to a good animated comedy like Bob's Burgers, and those seldom feature any sheep. Point is, something as well-known as counting wool-coated animals makes for a great jumping off point for a game.
Indie publisher TinyBuild must have thought so, as their game Divide by Sheep involves lots of math puzzles involving innocent sheep. Players will have to move as many sheep onto rescue rafts as they can before Death takes them all in various gruesome ways. A morbid sense of humor and lots of clever puzzles make Divide by Sheep a Steam game worth playing. Find out more in our detailed review with video!
Death kindly stops for sheep
Divide by Sheep begins with a cinematic sequence depicting Death's lonely existence in the underworld. The Grim Reaper has no one to play Battleship with, so he looks to the world above for potential friends. Up there, there is so much room… And lots of sheep, pigs, and wolves for Death to befriend. The only problem is he has to kill them first!
We're too nice to let that happen, so our goal is to save as many of those critters as each level demands. In each of Death by Sheep's 120 levels, players have three life rafts to load up with animals before Death comes a-calling. The catch is that each raft can depart with the exact number of animals displayed on the left side of the screen. Load one up with five sheep when it called for four and the whole thing will sink instead of swim.
Moving the sheep and other animals around is a snap – simply click with a mouse or tap if using touch and drag to the adjacent platform where you'd like them to move. The whole group moves at once, so no picking them out individually. If you move more animals onto an island than it has free spaces, the extras will fall and drown. The goal is to save the number the level asks for, not all of them!
The sheep rescue goes dark
Some levels pair sheep and wolves up together, which creates its own challenge. If a sheep lands on a hungry wolf, the carnivore swallows the sheep whole. That wolf then becomes immobilized and can't be saved. But it won't harm any other sheep, either. These levels are designed so that you'll have to feed sheep to some of the wolves in order to get the right number of each onto their corresponding rafts.
Other hazards get even darker than simple sheep swallowing. My favorite is the laser wall. Move a group of sheep through a laser, and the animals get sliced in half. You can then move these halves around like full sheep, leaving a bloody mess wherever they land. Two halves count as one whole sheep on the raft – they get taped together and sent along with their living counterparts!
The combination of cute artwork with dark humor works in Divide by Sheep's Favor, keeping it from being just another puzzle game. This puzzle game's got guts! Not too much, just enough to be funny. But parents who don't want their kids playing with blood and guts can use the Parental Control option in the game settings to disable it. The sheep will still get sliced by lasers and the like, but it won't spill any blood.
Choose your sheep wisely
The Steam version of Divide by Sheep sells for five bucks and works on Windows and Mac. Annoyingly, the game lacks Steam Cloud support. A game like this would work great for jumping back and forth between computer and Windows tablet. It does have Steam Achievements, at least.
Speaking of playing on Windows tablets, Divide by Sheep runs almost perfectly on the original Surface Pro – just a hint of screen tearing crops up now and then. An even though this game isn't sold on the Windows Store, it works perfectly with touch as-is. All of the interactions and menu options can be controlled with single touches (or mouse clicks). If you have a tablet that can run it, I say go for it.
Counting sheep in your head is boring, but Divide by Sheep is one of the more enjoyable pure puzzle games I've played lately. It packs 120 challenging levels spread across four worlds, with a fifth world and thirty more levels coming soon. The great art and dark humor make what could have been a stale math exercise both fun and subversive. Grab Divide by Sheep and try not to divide those poor sheep into too many slices!