Review: Sudoku Ball Detective (Nintendo DS)

Sudoku Ball Detective
Developer: Whitebear
Publisher: Playlogic
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 08/18/09

Sudoku: you may know this as that number game in the paper next to the comics. It is the one where you have to fill in a grid with 81 squares doling out the numbers one through nine such that each appears once in every row, column, and nine-square mini-grid. Generally, I prefer just reading the comics, or doing the crossword, or the crypto-quip, or the jumble, or staring blankly at the world’s slowest game of bridge, or reading people horoscopes that don”Ëœt match their astrological sign. Sudoku is anti-fun. It destroys fun.

But, did you know that aside from letting you kill about fifteen minutes “problem solving” while only using a working knowledge of pre-school mathematics sudoku has myriad other abilities?

Well, it does, at least according to the fine folks who made Sudoku Ball Detective. In their world, you can use the powers of sudoku and sudoku alone to solve a mystery that aspires to be a fourth-rate Agatha Christie rip-off! I know what you’re thinking, “Sudoku to solve crimes?! That’s less plausible than Numb3rs?! That’s only slightly more plausible than talking to ghosts to solve crimes! When are they going to make a show about it on CBS?”

We play as Sir Edward G. Bannister, retired superintendent of Scotland Yard. Bannister goes to the birthday party of Jonathan Coleridge, a chum from his days at Oxford. The game then introduces over half a dozen other characters in a few seconds, such that it is hard to keep track of which character is ours. (Not that it matters, mind you.) After feeling what he thought was a bee sting, Jonathan goes down for the count. Bannister’s Scotland Yard sense starts tingling, and we start solving this crime via the awesome might of SUDOKU!

sbd1“How?” you may ask. Or maybe even, “why?”

(Or perhaps you are just saying, “that sounds hella-gay.” If so, shame on you for using the word “gay” as a pejorative! But kudos for keeping “hella” alive.)

Let me explain the main assertion of this game:
-Need to pick a lock? Use Sudoku!
-Need to search for clues? Use Sudoku!
-Need to examine the clues at the lab? Use Sudoku!
-Need to chase a suspect? Use Sudoku!

Now, this might be simplifying the games concept a bit, but just by a bit. First off, instead of regular sudoku, the game makes use of a “sudoku ball” which is made up of six overlapping sudoku puzzles. Second off, each of those problems is solved by a slight variation on the sudoku ball.

Lock picking only requires solving for the six center numbers of the six sudoku grids. We are given a time limit that is presented as our lock picks breaking.

Those aren’t lockpicks; those are keys. AND WHY ARE THEY BREAKING?!

Searching for clues requires only certain fields to be solved in the sudoku ball.

We need to solve everything for the laboratory work, and we are given a time limit that is presented as the amount of red fluid left in a test tube. I’m not really sure what that’s about. If we run out of red stuff, some numbers fall off the sudoku grid and we have to. . . PUT THEM BACK ON!! The horror!

Chasing a suspect requires us to solve certain fields with footprints over them before the suspect “gets away”.

sbd2

There are five parts to the story and each one has those four components: Locks, clues, lab and chase. So, the story is over after completing all or part of twenty sudoku balls. You can replay the story missions after completion, but I”Ëœm not sure why anybody would want to do this thing. They are the same missions. You can change the difficulty. This option is nice, I guess, as the story mode difficulty is non-existent. Seriously. I don’t play sudoku, and I never came close to losing a single mission. The most difficult part of this game is that sometimes the game thinks I drew a 1 or a 4 when I drew a 6.

There is absolutely no point in replaying the story mode after completion, and little point in playing it in the first place. There is zero interaction between player and plot. Seriously, we play sudoku and watch a cut-scene. We never have to problem solve outside of sudoku problem solving. We don’t ever control our character in any way other than sudoku. We can’t choose which people or areas to investigate, we are just told what Bannister is doing, and then told to play sudoku. I would never imagine a game with “DETECTIVE” in the title would be as linear as possible.

sbd4
When did the Earth get so freakin’ small?

To make this even more frustrating, we have to click on a location to start a level. They give us a mini-globe on the bottom screen. We can spin it around and look at the other locations. But you can only click on one location. You have to select the subsequent level. Even if you are sure that the butler didn’t do it, you have to investigate and chase him.

I’m also going to add that this game contains lines like, “But you didn’t went to the bathroom”.

I find it frustrating that the characters never mention sudoku, and there is never any reason given (let alone a compelling one) as to why filling out number grids is being used as a crime solving technique. The story and the gameplay are entirely unrelated. Imagine a game called Jim Kelly – Buffalo Bill Jumble: You solve five jumbles, Jim Kelly throws a pass to Andre Reed. You solve six jumbles, and Jim Kelly hands off to Andre Reed. No matter what you do, the Bills win 23-19. Sounds like fun, eh?

Sudoku Ball Detective really lacks the level of interaction required to properly be called a video game. You can recreate the experience (enhance it most likely) by following the subsequent steps:
1. Check out a random mystery book from the local library.
2. Read chapter 1.
3. Visit http://www.websudoku.com/ and play any one of a billion free sudoku games.
4. Upon completion of the puzzle, read the next chapter of your book.
5. Repeat step 3-4 until the book is finished.

Now, you can play this game without the story. You can play sudoku balls or regular old sudoku. All things combines it adds up to over 200 puzzles. These puzzles work fine. There are various difficulties, and the game keeps track of fastest times. I would imagine playing these parts to be a decent experience, were one to enjoy sudoku.

I don’t.

Sudoku is stupid and boring. That isn’t my opinion; it’s fact.

sbd3

Besides, who needs to pay for sudoku? Aren’t there numerous free methods of playing sudoku? This is besides the point, however, as no one should be playing sudoku as sudoku is crap.

Aurally, the game is pleasant enough. The music is relaxing, but fairly simple. There is are satisfying bleeps and bloops when rows and columns are completed.

See, this review isn’t entirely negative.

The Scores:
Story: Dreadful
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Decent
Control/Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Very Bad
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Pretty Poor
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Worthless
Final Score: Pretty Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Sudoku Ball Detective is lame.
Sudoku Ball Detective does not like cheesy poofs.

(If interested in acquiring the rights to Jim Kelly – Buffalo Bill Jumble contact me via WBXylo@gmail.com)

Note: Neither Jim Kelly nor the Buffalo Bills will currently answer my calls. Also, I currently lack the express written consent of the National Football League.

3 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *