What it is with the Brits and sheep? In British cartoons, games and other media, I’ve seen sheep shorn, brutalized, tortured and inconvenienced in countless ways, almost always with a bizarre sense of glee. Maybe it’s the limeys’ way of sticking it to the Welsh? Or perhaps it’s the result of deep-seeded hatred for itchy sweaters. Whatever the case, it doesn’t get much more brutal – or educational – than Tinybuild Games’ Divide By Sheep.
Things start off innocently enough. You’re presented with tiny, grid-based islands full of sheep and a raft that needs to be loaded with a specific quantity. You can fling groups of sheep from island to island, and reduce their number by tossing them to an island without enough space to hold them. The first time you see a sheep tossed into the water you’ll probably assume it swims to safety. You’ll become less and less certain of this as the game goes on. Within a few levels you’ll be introduced to Wolves, which eat sheep and then settle down, full, to block squares on islands for the rest of the level. That’s a little dark, sure, but the wolves are pretty cute in their own right, and that aside it’s part of the natural order – nothing worse then you’d see in any fairy tale.
Then you hit the laser fences. These delightfully macabre obstacles slice sheep in two, causing them to take up twice as much space on islands. Once cut, they land on each island with an audible splat, stamping a circle of cartoony gore on the grass in the process. From then on the maths for each stage get more and more complicated, and the humour gets progressively darker and more gory. Eventually you’ll be met with rafts manned by the Grim Reaper himself, who demands that you kill sheep and send their souls to him – he likes cuddling them, you see. This inversion of the standard puzzle mechanics makes for some real head-scratchers in later levels, and it’s pretty funny to boot.
If you’re looking to teach your kids math… well, you’d probably be better off with something less violent, but Divide By Sheep will make them think about things like order of operations. It’ll really make them think in later levels, which are tough enough to stump even adults. That’s good, because the game really isn’t appropriate for children. I don’t think I can emphasize that enough. It is, on the other hand, good for a laugh, a dark spoof of kid-friendly edutainment like Zoombinis. It’s also a good way for Brits to get their sheep killing jollies, I suppose. Welshmen and New Zealanders should probably steer clear.