The game of sudoku has become rather popular among people of all ages. You can often find a sudoku puzzle alongside — or, in some cases, replacing — the crossword puzzle in any magazine or newspaper. This fact was not lost on video game developers, as at least one form of sudoku has hit all of this generation's available consoles. With the touch-screen being a natural replacement for standard pen and paper, the Nintendo DS is the king when it comes to Sudoku. The portable console has seen countless versions of the numbers game either as stand-alone titles or as companions to the ever-popular brain training titles. The glut of these titles has created a problem, since they seem the same to the average consumer. Playlogic and Whitebear Studios seem to have this issue figured out with their latest title, Sudoku Ball: Detective.
The game actually has something few people expect from a puzzle game: a story. You play the role of a former detective from the world famous Scotland Yard, and you've been invited to a wealthy friend's party. Things seem to be going rather well until a seemingly harmless bee sting causes your friend to die. Knowing that he isn't allergic to bees, you surmise that this is an act of murder, and using the power of sudoku, you find the clues that will lead to the murderer in this heinous crime.
Sudoku Ball: Detective is spread over four different modes. Story mode has you trying to solve the mystery by solving sudoku puzzles presented in four different scenario types. Crime Scene has you unraveling clues as you solve certain sudoku squares. The Lock Pick puzzles have you trying to correctly guess the center number of the puzzle without messing up and running out of lock picks. Laboratory has you trying to solve all of the squares on the ball. The longer you take to solve puzzles, the more numbers begin to disappear, and you have to replace them once more. Finally, there's Suspect Chase, which has you trying to solve puzzles faster to catch up to your suspect.
Classic mode gives you the chance to solve 90 different sudoku ball puzzles of varying difficulties without any penalties or time limits. Story Level mode has you solving the same puzzle types as in Story mode, but without the cut scenes. The last mode, Standard Sudoku, gives you the traditional flat sudoku puzzles that you normally see on other games and on newspapers nationwide.
Does playing sudoku on a sphere change the game in any way, shape or form? On paper, the ball concept takes the corners of five sudoku puzzles and shares them with one another, much like the pattern seen on the "5" side of a die. One would think that the sharing of a puzzle would make things more difficult since you have to be conscious of every other puzzle on the ball. In practice, though, you never get that feeling of added difficulty because everything is now in a ball shape. If anything, the only feeling you get is that you can solve several different sets at once in any order without fiddling with menus. It doesn't make the game feel any more exciting or revolutionary. The scenarios for Story mode are the only ones that offer any real challenge, which isn't found in the rest of the game, but even then, Lock Pick and Laboratory are only exciting because of their stipulations. Ignore that, though, and this is simply another sudoku game without any twists.
The controls are exactly what one expects from a title like this. Everything is controlled with the touch-screen, and the game does a good job of number recognition no matter how bad the writing may be. Ball rotation is handled by dragging with the stylus and, again, no real problems were seen here. If there is an issue anyone would have, it would be with the number entry itself. Specifically, one cannot place multiple numbers for annotation purposes on one square like other sudoku games let you do. Anytime another number is written in the square, the old one gets erased. Depending on your playing style, you may either not notice the change or become infuriated that it is no longer there.
Both the graphics and the sound don't do much to affect the game. The numbers and squares are legible enough, no matter the size. The balls are detailed enough and scroll smoothly when the player rotates it. There's not much for the sound except for ambient music and confirmation sounds that the numbers are right, but they even sound good on the system's tiny speakers. About the only knock would be on the cut scenes. The character models aren't appealing to look at, especially the hair on some of them. The more they stay on-screen, the more you want to tap through them to get to the next puzzle.
At the end of the day, Sudoku Ball: Detective is still your basic game of sudoku. The ball gimmick doesn't really affect general gameplay, while the four specific modes only benefit those who want some added pressure to their game. If you already have a few sudoku titles on the system, this game doesn't bring enough new material to the table to merit being added to your collection. However, if you still haven't tired of playing sudoku on your Nintendo DS, then give this a shot.
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