Divide by Sheep is a puzzle game that requires math, advanced planning, and sometimes just a little bit of luck. That description might sound less than exciting, but the game makes up for this by making you drown the sheep, feed them to wolves, slice them to pieces, and generally have some fun with the cuddly critters. Developer Bread Team has created some of the fluffiest looking cartoon sheep in the world, and then gone out of the way to let you torture them with impunity as you ostensibly try and save a few of them from inevitable death. The game has been released now for iOS and Steam, with an Android version in the works.
There’s a bit of a story at the beginning of the game, setting things up, but much like Cut the Rope, the exposition is minimal, and safe to skip. The comparison makes sense – while Cut the Rope was a physics puzzler and Divide by Sheep is a series of math puzzles, the two games have a lot in common, such as fiendishly clever gameplay hidden under a very cute exterior, coupled with excellent audio and art design.
The story – if you must know – is that the Grim Reaper is lonely, and decides to cause a flood so there will be lots of dead sheep for him to spend time with. Your job is to help the sheep jump past a series of obstacles and make their way to waiting rafts, to escape this grim fate.
The basic gameplay is simple – you have blocks of land scattered around each level, and there will be a number of sheep on these blocks. Each sheep requires a full block of land, and you have to guide the sheep across the map to reach three waiting rafts – each has a capacity and you need to get that number of sheep onto the raft to get a star.
To do this, you need to swipe from one block of land to the next – all the sheep on your starting block of land will jump, so if you’ve got six sheep on a large block of land, and you make them jump towards a smaller piece of land that only has three cells, then you’ve consigned three sheep to a watery grave. On the other hand, if you jumped three sheep onto a bigger block that already had two sheep and four empty slots, you’ll have five sheep that will now move together.
As long as you get the right number of sheep onto even one raft, you can progress to the next level, and try out new puzzles, but completionists will no doubt want to keep retrying a level until they get all three stars.
Early on, the game offers very little challenge as it is just introducing the mechanics to you. In the first 30 levels, we got a 3-star rating on almost every puzzle in the first try itself. As you progress though, the game gets trickier, and starts to introduce a lot of new mechanics that make things a lot harder.
It starts off with some fences that your sheep can’t jump over, and then introduces wolves who will eat your sheep. You can move the wolves around too, and need to rescue them at times. They can be essential when you want to thin down your flock, and at other times, you’re going to want to push them off into the water to meet the numbers required by a level.
Further complications quickly come in the form of laser fences, which slice your sheep into two. These now take up double the space on land, but two halves still count as just one sheep -which can lead to some tricky juggling to make sure everyone arrives as planned.
Trampolines that bounce you back, and splitters that divide your flock are just some of the obstacles that the game comes up with to keep you on your toes. With 120 levels across four worlds to explore, and more apparently coming, there’s a lot of puzzles to solve, and as you explore the game, it really gets challenging. Despite the difficulty of some levels, the game doesn’t ever leave you feeling stranded either; while you might not get a three-star rating on every level, you probably won’t get stuck either.
The charm of this game lies in its silly, cute visuals and cheerful audio, mixed together with a very dark sense of humour. The sense of humour reminds us of Unpleasant Horse, an endless runner which was all about crushing pretty ponies to death. But, under the fluffy wrapper, Divide by Sheep is a sharp game you really should play – just like Cut the Rope.