Every game can be improved by adding a cat. It’s a theory that’s tested by Sudocats which, as you’ve probably guessed from the name, brings cats into the very un-catty world of Sudoku. Has to be Sudocute, right?
If you’re wondering how the two worlds collide, it’s pretty simple. In fact it’s less a collision and more a snuggle. Replace each number from 1 to 9 with a different coloured, distinctly posed cat. 1 becomes a ginger tom, 6 becomes a sleeping calico. Everything else remains the same. And there you have it: everything you need for a new take on Sudoku.
Full credit to Sudocats, it knows what the people want. The cats are appropriately cute and well-drawn. The presentation is chunky and clear, often feeling like it’s been printed on slightly crumpled paper and stuck down on the screen with Pritt Stick. The music is actually pretty gorgeous, wistful and floaty in the same manner as the soundtrack for Wingspan. This is a hugely accessible, modestly lovely take on Sudoku.
That accessibility spans to the puzzles themselves. Rather than throw you into 9×9 grids straight away, there are easy gradients towards them. 4×4 grids allow a player to understand the basics of Sudoku, while 6×6 grids (with each ‘block’ being 3×2) offer a stepping stone. There’s a strong argument for Sudocats being the Xbox take on Sudoku that’s most appropriate for new players or beginners. We can’t recall one that does it better.
It does mean that Sudocats never tickles the tippity top of Sudoku difficulty, however. Even on the 9x9s, it’s possible to ‘complete’ individual cats from the very start. We never spent more than, say, five minutes on a given puzzle, and we certainly didn’t need to jot notes in a given square (not that there’s the capability). It’s an indication of where it’s trying to pitch itself, which is right at the bottom of Sudoku difficulty. If you’re looking for a more challenging take, we’d suggest heading to Puzzle By Nikoli W Sudoku.
More disappointingly, Sudocats is thin on puzzles. We completed everything in a couple of hours. Part of that’s down to how quick they are to complete, but there are only six 4x4s, nine 6x6s and twelve 9x9s, albeit with some ‘extra levels’ to top-up the two larger categories. Considering how much effort clearly went into creating the game, it doesn’t make sense to us that there wouldn’t be more, particularly of the smaller sizes, considering how easy they are to make. The counterpoint is that Sudocats cost £2.49, making it the cheapest game to come out this week.
Sudoku isn’t the easiest game to replicate on a game controller, but Sudocats has a good run at it. You can move via the analogue stick or d-pad, which is welcome, and you can zoom should you choose to (we never did). Adding a cat is as simple as tapping A to bring up a radial menu and then picking your chosen kitty. It’s very simple and unfussy.
In terms of features, it’s possibly too stripped back. As far as we could see, there was no undo button, no ‘check if there are errors’ options, and – the biggest miss – the list of cats doesn’t update with ones that have been fully added to the grid. If you have a sleeping white cat in every ninth of the grid, does it really need to be present in the list? We’d have taken it over some more unnecessary ‘cheat’ power-ups..
But the reason that Sudocats has the score that it does is basic legibility. You start realising why Steve Sudoku, inventor of the Sudoku (we assume), made it with numbers and not cats. In a numbered Sudoku, you can tell, at a glance, which numbers you have done or haven’t done. You work your way up the numbers from 1 to 9, and it’s clear which number is omitted. That’s far more difficult when you have an abstract collection of cats. Which calico cat are you missing? We found ourselves bringing up the cat menu to find the one cat we were missing, rather than referencing a mental checklist.
And let’s be honest, some cats do look the same. We know that’s cattist, but brown jobbies are similar to other brown jobbies, which means that scanning a grid isn’t quite as immediate as it would be with numbers. There’s a kind of mental calibration that goes on when you’re looking at so many cats, and it’s not as swift as the back-of-the-newspaper brand of Sudoku.
Is Sudocats better for swapping the numbers with cats? From a pure clarity perspective, no, not really. It’s a thin, furry layer of awkwardness on top of the Sudoku solving, and it means each puzzle needs a spot of translating. As a devil’s advo-cat, though, the cats are cute and more approachable, so there’s a choice to be made.
Where Sudocats shines is its accessibility. For not much money at all, Sudocats is a perfect Sudoku starting point for mewbies and young players. If you’re in that group, or you love cats so much you could cry, then Sudocats lands on its feet.