IGN Review of Sudoku Mania
We've already got the slick Sudoku puzzles in Brain Age, and if that weren't enough Nintendo sent an exclusive set of Sudoku challenges to shelves in the form of the less impressive Sudoku Gridmaster. Not surprisingly, other companies want to cash in on this public domain puzzle craze - Sudokumania is the Nintendo DS system's first non-Nintendo release of a Sudoku collection, and boy is it bad. I was hard pressed to convince people to pick up Sudoku Gridmaster, but with Sudokumania I can confidently tell you to use that 20 bucks for something else. Like 19 paperback Sudoku books from the Everything's a Dollar store.
For the uninitiated, Sudoku is a brain-busting puzzle challenge that requires a lot of thought to stick the numbers one through nine in a nine by nine grid. By using the given clues, players must assign these numbers without repeating in the same row, column, or grouping of three-by-three cell. Simple concept, but puzzles can get so tough that it'll take several minutes, possibly even hours, to solve them.
Where the previous two Sudoku DS games offered an assortment of a hundred plus ready-to-go Sudoku puzzles, Sudokumania takes a different approach: each puzzle is randomly generated right from the start. There isn't a single preloaded grid in the cartridge, which means players can't compare times with one another, or even try to beat their best time on a specific puzzle.
The whole idea of a random puzzle generator is actually a good one in theory since it gives the purchase potentially near-endless gameplay. But the algorithm the developers programmed create some of the most rudimentary number patterns, which makes some generated puzzles a snap to solve simply by looking at the patterns in other rows in columns. In other words, if you see a "1,3,2" in one cell, and "4,6,5" in another, you can easily guess that there will be a pattern of "7,9,8" scattered in other cells. This isn't common Sudoku strategy
this is just exploiting a poor Sudoku generator. Not all puzzles are this simple, but you'll be surprised how often the patterned grids appear.
The development team's interface is very simplistic, and disappointingly so after playing the previous two Sudoku games on the Nintendo DS. The only touch screen control is in selecting the number you want to enter into a specific square - you have to maneuver a cursor over the Sudoku grid using traditional D-pad control. The game doesn't offer any way of putting in tiny number notes, a trademark Sudoku function to keep track of possible answers.
The designers did throw in a two player mode, but even this seems thrown in there since all it really offers is a "hot potato" version of one puzzle - one player fills in squares for a minute, then the second player does the same thing. After the puzzle's solved, it determines the winner by who entered in the most numbers. There are also some custom themes with alternate symbols instead of numbers, but this bends the brain (and eyes) far too much to be fun.
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