By Kelvin Marn and Tyler Morse
Editor’s Note: Point/Counterpoint is a new review format for AYB Online, where two of our writers try out a game or piece of hardware, and then we ask both to give their opinions. Like Baseline reviews, these are first impressions, and like all reviews on AYB, the products are not scored.
Our first Point/Counterpoint is Divide By Sheep, a new puzzler from SpeedRunners dev tinyBuild available on Steam and iOS. Let’s go! –JM
POINT: KELVIN MARN
An old technique I had always tried to use to fall asleep at night was to count sheep. Unfortunately for me (and I suppose the sheep) I ended up imagining the sheep as machine gun toting RAM-bos, jumping over barbed-wire fences in a scene very similar to the future scenes in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In Divide By Sheep by tinyBuild GAMES, the sheep are almost like the ones I would dream about! This time our woolly friends need to deal with laser fences, fat hungry wolves, TNT, and not so jump-able barbed and electrified fences to get on to a life raft to safety.
To get the sheep to safety all you need to do is tell the flock of sheep to hop from island to island while dodging the obstacles. Sounds simple enough, right? Well at this point the game becomes dark, humorous and extremely addicting. The sheep must move in the flocks they form when they come together on an island, forcing you to adjust how many move at the same time. Islands have limited space to keep our woolly little friends above water, but fortunately for you and not so much for them, you don’t need to save them all, and only a certain number can fit on a raft at a time. Some sheep will have to sleep with the fishes and sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the flock.
The sheep aren’t the only things that need saving from the islands; the fat hungry wolves also need rescuing! A neat change in perspective is that you can use them to control the sheep population by having a wolf eat a sheep, a useful tool for taking up a space on the island (they get too fat to move). This also helps drown the other sheep (or wolf) that can’t fit.
Divide By Sheep hides its use of math and problem solving just like a wolf in a sheep’s skin. On the surface it’s a very approachable game; the tutorials and instructions are all done through storytelling, and the art style and humor have plenty of personality. But underneath, it’s a challenging and thought provoking game. All ages can enjoy this game; the option to tone down the violence is available and the challenges vary in difficulty.
COUNTERPOINT: TYLER MORSE
Divide By Sheep does a lot of things very right. It’s accessible, it’s simple, it’s enjoyable to look at both while still and in motion, and most importantly it’s addictive. In fact, all the things I’m going to complain about are basically things I would never expect from a game in the genre. So, as I bitch and moan, please understand that somebody in this article needs to have some counterpoints, and as a default it’s going to be me.
tinyBuild has hit most of the critical points to make a mobile game successful right on the head. Upon opening DbS, with basically zero explanation, it’s very apparent what you are meant to do and how to do it. Moving the sheep around the islands is a simple as dragging each flock from island to island. As they jump, and island size becomes limited, sheep start to fail swimming lessons and your numbers start to dwindle. You must use careful management of island-hopping, carnivorous wolves, explosives, and laser grid fences to control the number of sheep at your command and finally send them off onto the “life raft” to hang out with a strange, childlike version of Jack Skellington.
Gameplay is simple and extremely natural to control. All the levels have both easy and more difficult solutions, allowing you to progress even if you aren’t amazing at the game. You are rewarded with one to three stars indicating the difficulty level you overcame to conquer the floating islands, and this is where I draw my largest qualm with the game: I can’t be better than you.
That’s right, I know, you’re shocked. Tyler is upset about the lack of competitive viability of a casual game — how original. Well, you know what? I don’t really have a good response. As I tried to shave seconds and reduce the amount of moves it took me to get three stars in every level, I began to question what I was doing. I was optimizing the next Cut The Rope, and that has to be one of the greatest endorsements a serious tryhard like me can give a game like this. It was worth my time to try being better than you, despite not being designed to do that, or being enjoyable at all for the tryhard in me while I did it.
Kelvin Marn is a Contributor to aybonline.com, and Tyler Morse is a Contributing Editor.