Lock up your daughters: it’s Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku, and it doesn’t get sexier than this.
We like to imagine that Nikoli W Sudoku was born with that name, forever fated to make an Xbox sudoku game. This is their calling. We suspect that the title has a more mundane story than that, though. Everything about Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku is mundane, after all.
Here’s the sale’s pitch: fifty sudoku puzzles, optimised for console controls. If that doesn’t leave you moistened and fanning yourself with the morning’s post, then we don’t know what will.
We will give Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku this: it is superbly optimised to the game pad. Start working through your traditional 9×9 sudoku grids, and you’ll likely find yourself nodding away at how simple and effective it is. Numbers are selected with the right analogue stick, while the grid is navigated with the left. Press A to input a number, and press B to erase it. Then tap X to annotate the square with a tiny number, so you can start deducing each square’s number through the power of elimination.
It doesn’t sound like much, but we can list off countless mobile, handheld and console sudokus that have grappled with a control system and failed, lying crushed on the floor. Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku works, and that’s a rarer statement than it should be.
That doesn’t stop it from making some questionable decisions. Nikoli W Sudoku nailed the controls and then had a brainwave: “perhaps now I should **** it up?”. So they do weird things like not actually completing the puzzle when you’ve finished it. It even feels weird to type the sentence. If you complete a puzzle, you don’t get a fanfare of fireworks: you have to press pause, find ‘Check’ in the menu, and then it will let loose the fireworks. There’s nothing more unsatisfying than completing a puzzle and then having to wait for VAR to check your notes.
There’s also no mistake-checker. Remember that ‘Check’ function we mentioned? You can press it mid-puzzle, but it doesn’t actually check whether you’ve placed a number incorrectly or anything useful like that; instead, it highlights the squares you haven’t filled in yet. As if you didn’t have human eyes that could discern empty squares from numbered squares.
We can understand that a sudoku’s relationship with its hint system is a complicated one. How much handholding does it want to give? Does it give constant nudges to the right answer, so that a player could just spaff 9s on the grid and let the error system do the work? But we can’t help thinking that Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku needed to do something – anything – to guide a player who has legitimately reached the end of their sudoku puzzle, but failed on a few counts. Picross games like Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S has found solutions, so you’d hope Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku would too.
Puzzles come in three different difficulties, and there are fifty in total. Ten present themselves to you initially, and you have to complete five of each batch of ten to unlock the next ten. It’s a neat-o way of getting you to explore higher difficulties without being too demanding about it.
Fifty puzzles, though, is on the smaller end for a sudoku collection. We’re a bit on the fence: this is, after all, a £3.99 game, and fifty puzzles will average out at about ten minutes a pop, so 500 minutes for four English pounds is a decent deal. But come on: this is sudoku. It doesn’t take years to forge each puzzle out of gold. We’re expecting more from a video game compendium.
Mode-wise, there’s not much on offer. You can play each puzzle individually, or you can opt for a random puzzle (we’d have appreciated an option to flag puzzles that we’ve already done, so we weren’t repeating the same puzzles, thank you very much). There’s no highscores, challenges or POWGI-style jokes to add a splash of colour. Even the tutorial is a Powerpoint deck. But it’s all got a clean, clear (if a little clinical) presentation that never tripped us up. As they say in the trade, it does a job.
It’s hard to feel even an iota of excitement about Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku. But if you’re looking to get kicks out of a sudoku game then you’re doing it wrong. The basics are all present: it controls well, the puzzles have numbers in all the right places, and achievements pop for your efforts. It has a couple of quirks and fifty puzzles is on the stingey side, but for £3.99 it’s a worthy competitor to an issue of Puzzler from your local WHSmiths.
You can buy Puzzle by Nikoli W Sudoku from the Xbox Store