Given that the PSP Minis are meant to be bite-sized games with a smaller scope and focus, Sudoku seems like the perfect candidate … well, other than all of those ports of iPhone games. The game itself is a classic Japanese number puzzle that is simple to understand conceptually, but challenging and wonderfully addictive.
This one is bound to keep you coming back for more, even if you aren’t into Sudoku or maybe just never played it before. Life time statistics for each difficulty will have you comparing your skills with friends and family. Newspaper mode is a great addition considering you could easily just hop online and pick any puzzle from the internet. If you want to be more creative, just create your own puzzles. EA really nailed it with this game and is a no brainer for all Sudoku fans.
Sudoku is actually something I had heard about long before I’d ever played, and my first direct exposure was through my kids: they were using it as a teaching tool in elementary school math. The basic concept is simple: you are presented with a game board with 9 outer boxes each with nine boxes inside, and you need to arrange the numbers 1 – 9 in each of the inner boxes such that each row and each column contains only one of a given number. Sounds simple enough, right?
As a core Sudoku game, the PSP Mini implementation does a great job. It is clear and robust and responds instantly to selections. The puzzles scale nicely with difficulty, and the options available add to a nice variety of gameplay. You can even change the music to whatever you have on your PSP, something bound to draw comparisons to iPhone games.
Depending upon the difficulty you choose, a set of ‘seed’ numbers are placed in key squares to get you started. As you progress, more and more possibilities will get closed off and the correct answers will narrow to a couple of choices. Also depending on your settings you can get hints and instant feedback on whether you have placed a number correctly. Placing incorrectly will diminish your score more than taking more time to solve the puzzle, which serves as an incentive to think instead of guess.
There are two modes: the standard game just sets you off solving a puzzle based on your selection of settings. Newspaper mode presents you with a blank grid, which you can fill in with your own seed numbers – you can grab these from your local newspaper or make up your own. This is a nice feature as it allows you to infinitely expand the puzzle selection, and gain more subtle help than the full-solution of a solved puzzle in the newspaper the next day.
The game offers plenty of options that impact how the game looks and plays, which adds nice variety as you stare at the same basic board for a long period of time. There are also loads of ways to get help and hints. For example, pressing ‘triangle’ on an empty square will solve that square – and cost you points off your score. Each button gives you some form of help, and costs you points off your score.
My final thought is regarding the value proposition: PSP Minis are meant to be smaller games at lower prices, and in that regard this is a resounding success. It is a better game than many I’ve paid more than $20 for, and it only costs $5. However, the days where paying $20 or more for Zuma or Luxor on the PSP was acceptable are long gone. The iTunes App store has caused a tremendous change in the pricing models, and since Sony has placed PSP Minis squarely in that same consumer space, it needs to deal with that pricing reality. And, in my opinion, Sudoku would cost $2 on the iTunes App Store – which made me feel the entire time that the game was fun but over-priced.
Sudoku is a game that is simple enough to really work as a PSP mini. As a game it is small and works great and I have no hesitation in recommending it to any fans of on-the-go puzzlers. However, at $4.99 it feels too expensive for what it offers, and since the PSN Store seldom sees the sales that happen on the App Store, it is likely a price we are stuck with. Also since the North American PSN Store has yet to add a new game since launch day (other regions have added many games and also started out with more), it is one of the very few options we have. It is a solid and fun game, and if you like Sudoku you could do far worse.
Review: Sudoku (PSP Minis)
Where to Buy: Playstation Network Store
What I Like: Gets the core game right; Nice ‘newspaper’ option gives infinite expansion of library; Good choice of difficulties; Plenty of variety of help options.
What Needs Improvement: Help options make the game trivial, too easy to use; Feels like a $0.99 iTunes App Store game
Source: Review code provided by publisher