• Ever wondered what those brainiac types on the bus in the morning are doing with all those books full of grids of mysterious numbers?

    Pretending to be intellectual. Yep that’s it. Sudoku is a puzzle game that basically involves slotting numbers into missing squares on a grid, and is designed purely to make you look clever without you actually having to be clever per se.

    Buku Sudoku for the Xbox Live Arcade brings the whole experience home to us couch potatoes who would normally play this sort of thing on the move. The thing is, and here’s the crux of what’s wrong with it – why would you really want to play this for hour after hour at home on a console that has other games available for it?

    Buku Sudoku

    Buku Sudoku is very nicely executed on the plus side. For those not really into the game, you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to know how to play, you just need to bear in mind the simple rules. Each row or column of numbers can only contain the numbers 1-9 (and A, B and C in larger grids) and no repeats. Similarly, each grid of squares (starting off with a 3×3 square in a grid) must only contain unique numbers / characters too. By slotting numbers into the squares you’ll soon begin to work out how to complete the whole grid.

    See? Simple really. Well there’s always the very easy tutorial mode to work through if you really get stuck.

    Buku Sudoku has 1200 puzzles of this ilk to get your teeth into, starting (as I mentioned) with smaller and less complex puzzle setups and working up to some truly gargantuan challenges, each of which could take hours to complete assuming that you don’t start to see numbers jiggling around in front of your eyeballs and suffer some sort of embolism.

    Slotting numbers into each of the squares is easy enough, and in the early levels (those picked out with a lovingly patronising screen border depicting kid’s toys, a nursery, and all things infantile to remind you that you’re really not very good at the game) the game will actually more or less tell you if you’ve got the right number in place. Later on, when the border’s changed to a zen-like artificial construct depicting lots of computery-style things in order to tell you that you’re a mega-brain in human form, things aren’t so easy and you’ll need to do a lot more chopping and changing of numbers in order to succeed.

    Presentation aside, there’s nothing here that you couldn’t find in those cheap puzzle books that you can get at all disreputable newsagents for a mere fraction of the price. Arm yourself with a pencil (with a rubber on the end), and one of those books and the only thing you’ll be missing are those achievements. But for 800 points or the cash equivalent, couldn’t you just hire a smart 12-year-old kid from your neighbourhood to max out some of your other games for achievement points? It’d probably be money better spent.

    In conclusion then, Sudoku really works on portable consoles like the PSP and DS, saving you the fiddle of mucking around with pieces of paper and pencils. At home on the 360 for 800 points, even despite the game’s nice presentation and fairly lengthy challenges later on, you’d really have to be the world’s most fanatical Sudoku player (or Carol Vorderman) in order to gain maximum enjoyment from it.

    Score: 4/10

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