DS

North America

Sudoku Gridmaster

by Jonathan Metts - June 25, 2006, 8:08 pm PDT
Total comments: 4

6

The newest Touch Generations game has quantity and little else.

The first question that should be asked about Sudoku Gridmaster is why anyone would want this game. Sudoku is a captivating logic game that is enjoying widespread popularity for good reason. But why do we need it in video game form? Sure, it's nice to have 400 puzzles in a tiny DS game card, but the system itself is roughly the same size as a typical Sudoku book. Playing on paper requires no battery power, no loading times, and the interface is more natural. There are only two real advantages to playing in electronic form: the DS Lite makes it possible to play Sudoku in the dark, and the software can give you useful tools to make the game easier to play. But this game's tools are few and not very helpful, and there is no hint system for when you get stuck. The game can tell you when you've placed a number incorrectly…but only on ten puzzles out of 400 total.

In fact, the disadvantages of playing Sudoku on the DS far outweigh the advantages. The small screens mean that the grid is displayed at a fraction of the size usually found in printed Sudoku puzzles, so people with poor eyesight may have trouble seeing the small numbers. The complete lack of motion on the screen can affect anyone; after looking at a static grid of numbers on an LCD screen for half an hour, my eyes lost focus and started to feel uncomfortable. Gridmaster makes laughably bad use of the dual screens, as it displays the exact same grid on both screens at all times. When you pause the game, the bottom screen is covered by the pause menu, but the top screen is left exposed. The game offers bonuses for completing puzzles quickly, so you can pause the game after every move and take as long as you want to decide your next move. Using this method, it's possible to solve difficult puzzles with the game clock only showing a couple of minutes, even though it may have taken you over an hour to figure it all out. Even Tetris on NES is smart enough to hide the puzzle while the game is paused. And who thought it was a good idea to put the "Erase All Game Data" feature on the pause menu?

The interface is designed just as poorly. It seems simple enough: touch a space on the left, then touch the number panel on the right to input your guess. It's functional but hardly elegant, especially if you want to make notes in the corners, which involves touching an additional button to switch to note-taking mode. Typing notes is in fact so laborious that you'll probably learn to do without. Gridmaster includes handwriting recognition as another option, but it’s pretty bad. You have to write numbers in a very specific way for them to be accurately captured. For instance, the numbers 4 and 5 absolutely must be written with two (very quick) strokes each; otherwise, the software will not recognize them no matter how straight the lines or how exact the curves. The number 7 is often mistaken for 1 or 9 unless drawn perfectly straight. Writing out the numbers would be the most natural interface for this game, but due to the software's inadequacies, it's quicker to tap the numbers as you would on a cell phone.

Gridmaster looks like an NES game. All the touch screen buttons have a ghastly crosshatch pattern, while the actual puzzle grid isn't even white. It's more like a manila color, really ugly. The music is based on public domain tunes that your great-grandmother probably listened to on her Victrola. Of course, that a Sudoku game has any music at all begs the question: who would want to listen to this stuff? Who would pop in Sudoku Gridmaster for a quick game and then take the extra effort to plug in headphones? If you do go to that trouble, you'll find there are only three songs to choose from during gameplay, and all of them sound like the generic MIDI garbage that people (including me) used to blare on their personal websites back in the 90s.

The only, ONLY thing Sudoku Gridmaster has working in its favor is sheer quantity. Four hundred puzzles is a ton of Sudoku. If you can put up with the game's other problems and have some special aversion to playing Sudoku with pen and paper, this game will last a ridiculously long time. And then you could easily go back and replay puzzles – it's not like you'll remember the solution.

If 400 puzzles sounds like more Sudoku than you could ever want, much less need, I highly recommend Nintendo's own Brain Age as a superior alternative. It includes only 100 puzzles, but the interface is significantly better, and you get all the Brain Age stuff in addition to Sudoku, which is really just a side offering in that game. Plus, Brain Age is still budget-priced and still designed to appeal to older players. Two months later and less thoughtfully designed, Sudoku Gridmaster is a mostly pointless endeavor.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
4 4 6 6 10 6
Graphics
4

This sort of game doesn't need a lot of flash, but it should be clean and pleasant to look at. Gridmaster can't even get the color scheme right. The grid is also too small for lengthy playing sessions; after playing this game, I can properly appreciate the zooming mechanic in Brain Age's Sudoku.

Sound
4

On one hand, I have to point out that the music is severely limited and utterly boring. On the other hand, I have to wonder how much it really matters in a game that is normally played to the backdrop of The Today Show or the whine of jet engines.

Control
6

The simple buttons for entering numbers are a good idea. The method for taking notes is not. And the handwriting mode is best ignored altogether.

Gameplay
6

Sudoku is fun and addicting. Sudoku Gridmaster's many shortcomings are not enough to detract from the quality of the core puzzle game, but they are at least distractions that make you wonder if the game wouldn't be just as good on paper. The built-in tools are rather limited and do not help very much.

Lastability
10

With this many puzzles, it's hard to imagine anyone actually finishing Gridmaster. The game packs in literally hundreds of hours of possible playing time, especially if you replay puzzles to get faster times and thus earn more stars. (It is easy to cheat the timer, though!)

Final
6

Sudoku Gridmaster is actually decent in its workmanlike presentation of the puzzle game. It's just completely redundant thanks to a superior version in Brain Age and the fact that you can pick up a book of 400 puzzles for five bucks at the supermarket and enjoy a better interface.

Summary

Pros
  • Contains 400 puzzles for you Sudoku masochists
  • Three difficulty levels, plus practice puzzles and rank tests
Cons
  • Lazy graphics and sound
  • Not even as good as Brain Age's Sudoku
  • Somehow less fun than using pen and paper
  • Top-secret "pause" trick negates timed challenges
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

KDR_11kJune 26, 2006

Sounds like Nintendo should rename that brand Trash Generations.

Touch Generations also includes Nintendogs, Tetris DS, and Brain Age. So I think it is overall a strong brand.

WanderingJune 27, 2006

That's a shame. If it had 400 puzzles + Brain Age's interface + a $9.99 price tag, I may have gotten this.

I'm hoping that the English version of Brain Age 2 will include even more Sudoku puzzles and better writing software (though the recognition in Brain Age is still much better than in Gridmaster).

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Sudoku Gridmaster Box Art

Genre Puzzle
Developer Hudson Soft
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Sudoku Gridmaster
Release Jun 26, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Puzzle Series Vol. 3: Sudoku
Release Mar 23, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages

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