Sudoku is a puzzle game which involves filling a 9x9 square with the numbers between 1-9, while ensuring each 3x3 square within the larger square only holds each number once, and each horizontal and vertical row only holds each number once as well. Buku Sudoku on the Xbox Live Arcade is Sudoku as you would find it in any newspaper, with a few minor alterations for the true Sodoku fan.
So the aim is to fill a 9x9 square with numbers. It sounds easy, but the twist is that several of the numbers are already filled in. This forces you to use these first numbers to find the placing of the next numbers. It's a tricky game that requires you to think and use a process of elimination to find out which field fits which numbers. This works by allowing you to pencil in numbers where they may or may not fit, until you find a field where only one number can fit. It can be exceptionally frustrating when you hit a point where you can’t seem to find out how it carries on, but the clue is always there, somewhere.
The beauty of Buku Sudoku is you're not simply limited to the Sudoku you have in your newspaper, you have an enormous number of Sudoku grids you can complete, with more to come as downloadable content. In the present version there are over 1200, which probably beats the hell out of any book or magazine. There is certainly no risk of you completing them at any time in the near future, and the ability to select your difficulty level is also great for beginners and experts alike. You have three settings and each is reflected in the Sudoku you are presented with to complete, and you have options to highlight errors as well as to receive hints when you are stuck. This is great if you are learning and struggle to finish some of the harder puzzles. There is also a tutorial mode as well as a 'how to play' guide to help you starting out with Sudoku.
In Buku Sudoku you can choose from Sudoku grids ranging from 6x6 to 12x12 fields. The 12x12 field includes the letters A, B, and C for you to integrate into the puzzle as well. You can play either a timed or a casual game, the timed game being a race against the clock.
There are a range of control schemes to choose from, so chances are there is something intuitive and fast to use for any player; we found the standard scheme works well enough. You use the left stick to move around the fields, and the right stick to select the digits to enter. Then you can use either the A button to enter or erase the answer in pen, and the X button to enter or erase the possible answer in pencil. The pencil is what you will use most of the time to eliminate possibilities for completing the Sudoku.
The game is played to some rather dull music that becomes more of a headache than a pleasure, and you’ll be thankful for the Xbox 360’s custom soundtracks in no time. The game's music made us nervous more than anything else and for a game of Sudoku something a bit more relaxing is called for.
The game looks good... well, as good as a grid with numbers can look. It's easy on the eye and it is quite simple to gain an overview of the grids. For a game like Sudoku it really needs to be more about overview and functionality than the looks, but Buku Sudoku succeeds reasonably well at both. It might not totally replace the original pen and paper version, but it's definitely fine to work with.
The inclusion of the online mode intrigued us, as fans of the original pen and paper Sudoku. It poses the possibility for a co-op game, team battle (where several players make up a team and vs. another team to complete a Sudoku), and a one-on-one duel. However, our attempts to find an opponent online were futile, and your best bet would be to find some friends who are keen on Sudoku to play against.
Overall Buku Sudoku succeeds at what it has set out to do, and that is bring Sudoku to the Xbox Live Arcade. It's a solid attempt that is difficult to fault, but at the end of the day this game will only appeal to real Sudoku fans or people eager to learn about Sudoku. It's most certainly not action packed nor very thrilling. We found the game failed to re-ignite our interest in Sudoku, but as with any Xbox Live Arcade title you can always download the free demo and see if it is for you before splashing out 800 MS Points for the full game.