In the words of our esteemed podcast host, Gareth Brierley: “Did you know” that there are 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 different solution grids for a sudoku? That is just using the numbers 1-9 however, but how much would it be with 26 letters of the alphabet? Undoubtedly, a lot more than 300, but that is how many are on offer in Word Sudoku by POWGI.
For anyone living under a rock for the past 20 years, a sudoku is a number logic puzzle where the numbers 1-9 are placed in a 9×9 grid. In each orthogonal line or 3×3 sub-grid the same number cannot exist. According to their history they have existed since the late 19th Century, but only across the last 20 or so years has the puzzle appeared in English-speaking newspapers and gained widespread attention.
Despite Word Sudoku changing things up by replacing the numbers with letters, there is some cohesion as each of the nine letters spells out a word. Credit is due to the developers at Lightwood Games for managing to find 300 9-letter words where no letter is repeated. And to make things easier, the word is guaranteed to appear once in the puzzle with the letters in the correct order.
Transitioning to letters from numbers can be a bit jarring at first, but if you struggle to make the adjustment, Word Sudoku has an option to change the boards to a more traditional number format.
Of course, there are already thousands of sudoku apps available on all forms of touch devices that will feel far more intuitive than having to use a controller to input your letters. That said, the use of the controller here is about as good as can be. You move around the grid to select the square you wish to fill, before choosing the letter/number you wish to fill it with.
Other additional touches include a check feature, where you can see your progress at any point. You will be notified of any issues, with the option to fix them. This doesn’t exactly correct them, but it does remove any incorrect inputs. Then there are erase and undo options, and the ability to even annotate in squares what the possible letter could be. This is also updated as you begin to fill in the puzzle, so you don’t need to worry about continuing to update it.
This is a useful function, as Word Sudoku has five difficulty levels to choose from: Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard and Fiendish. Plus, a sixth category of lucky dip choices is present. Using the knowledge above that the word will appear once in full on the grid helps to make the ‘Fiendish’ puzzles that little bit easier.
Sadly, there isn’t much else in the way of features. In the pause menu you have a little dog companion that will offer puns or inspiration to push you gently on your way, but there isn’t anything else. Just 300 sudokus. Or 600 if you wanted to complete them in word format and then number format. But that’s everything.
One thing I was grateful for though was the option to turn off the background music. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t offer much. I was much better off sticking my own music on and muting Word Sudoku.
However, achievement hunters will be happy to know that Word Sudoku has 27 to unlock, and all are related to specific puzzles as opposed to completing X percentage of total puzzles. These puzzles are found throughout all the difficulties, but anyone who has spent time understanding sudoku will not have any issues with unlocking all of them. It will be better to find a list of which specific puzzles you are looking for though, as on the main menu it isn’t made obvious which puzzle is which until you start it up. Also, changing puzzles from letters to numbers doesn’t negate achievements, which may make it even easier for the full 1000G.
The achievements themselves though are really well-named. They take the words you are inputting and create clever and coherent sentences as their achievement names.
Word Sudoku by POWGI on the Xbox One is simply a sudoku game. It would have been perfect to utilise the snap feature like Threes did all those years ago – and something that Microsoft should have never got rid of – but here it is instead on your 65” 4K-ready TV. If you enjoy a sudoku, here is another way to take on a puzzle or two. If you aren’t a fan though, there is nothing extra here to tempt you. There is a nice twist on it being based on the letter format rather than that of the number, but ultimately this is sudoku with an Xbox controller. Nothing more and nothing less.