When I was in high school, I spent some time as captain of the Math Team and member of the Chess Club so, needless to say, I was really popular. Sarcasm aside, I was one of those rare people who actually loved word problems. If you had $10 to buy a 5lb bag of candy mixed with chocolates and jellybeans at different costs per pound, I was your girl. As for chess, I was always interested in strategic sacrifice: giving up a little now to win a lot later.
How excited I was to find that Divide by Sheep takes concepts from high school algebra and dresses them up as adorable sheep in need of rescue. The Grim Reaper is lonely and looking for some friends (was he a mathlete like myself in a previous life?), so he has flooded the world in the hopes of finding some new friends. Life rafts arrive to save stranded sheep, but those rafts can only hold a limited number of occupants. For example, if there are five sheep on an island and the raft can only hold three, two sheep must be sacrificed for the good of the flock. Jumping those five sheep to a smaller island sized only for three will send two sheep into the water, presumably to join and befriend the Reaper.
Rescues require jumping groups of sheep (and others) back and forth between islands, sometimes multiple times, utilizing obstacles and limitations to your advantage to reduce the numbers to fit each raft. As a premium game operating on the popular star achievement system, you are able to play a level ad infinitum without energy systems to limit you. Earning stars will unlock subsequent worlds.
Though technically based on math puzzles, the game will be enjoyable even if you’ve never embraced your inner mathlete. The mechanics are unique and clever, the art style is endearing and the progression is satisfying. As I was playing, I wasn’t consciously moving in any uniquely math-y way, so I wouldn’t say I had any advantage as an algebra enthusiast. However, the chess-like art of strategic sacrifice was necessary to advance through the levels and get full three-star ratings on them all.
As I progressed, I was impressed by the creativity of obstacles that complicated my sheep-saving efforts. There were islands that exploded into oblivion and some that only held certain animals in certain combinations. Trampolines divided the tiny flocks, rotund wolves devoured them, and lasers sliced sheep in half, leaving a bloody mess behind. Don’t worry about the gory dissections though- once you get your fleecy friends to the raft, they are miraculously restored with duct tape.
For the higher levels, filling some of the rafts required long sequences of moves, not unlike a chess game. I confess I found myself moving on to a subsequent level if I was struggling too long after earning my first or second star. I would have really loved a hint system or boost to offer some assistance in those difficult levels.
With a little help I may have worked harder to earn the third star but, instead, my focus became opening up all of the worlds with the fewest number of stars. I also found the lack of social features to be a noticeable omission; the game is so cute and clever I would have loved a way to connect to friends somehow.
Overall, Divide by Sheep is a delightfully morbid game with charming characters and uniquely challenging puzzles. While the idea of a math game may sound like a nightmare to some, anyone who craves a flock of great puzzles will love counting these sheep.