Get on a plane, get on a bus, or go to a break room and you are bound to see a sudoku book. Some people are even addicted to this puzzle phenomenon. Why in the world would you want to play it on a TV instead of a book? Buku Sudoku attempts to convince us that we should.
Gameplay - 8
Sudoku gameplay is pretty simple which is both a plus and a minus when bringing the game to Xbox Live Arcade. The goal is to position numbers on a grid such that each box, row, and column only has each number once. Depending on the difficulty you choose, Buku Sudoku places some of the numbers for you. You can also choose to play on either a 6X6, 8X8, 9X9 or 12X12 grid.
The simplicity is also its main problem. Buku Sudoku has limited gameplay options.
There are two single player modes, casual and timed. Timed mode can be pretty challenging on the hardest difficulty. Casual mode is not limited but does have a timer. You get more points as you solve the puzzles faster.
I had never played on an 8X8 grid...
The devs at Merscom wanted to add more value so they implemented a co-operative mode and a head-to-head mode. In co-op mode, you can team up with friends locally or over Xbox Live to complete the puzzles. Head-to-head simply means whoever finishes the puzzle first wins. To the side of your puzzle you can see how much your opponent has completed.
Buku Sudoku also has multiple controller options. It supports the regular controller, DVD remote, Big Button Pad and (of all things) the dance pad! If you already own Scene-It: Lights, Camera, Action, then you have all you need to turn Buku Sudoku into a party game.
Visuals - 8
The only visuals are the backdrops and effects and both look great on an HD screen. You can choose from several different backgrounds including a kids playroom and computer screen. Each theme is beautifully rendered and includes all the user interface elements, such as the aforementioned grid that shows your opponent's progress.
How come the monochrome screen on my Heathkit never looked this good?
When a box, row or column is completed an effect celebrates the accomplishment. These are nice and really complement the gameplay but there certainly isnâ€™t much opportunity or need for 3D graphics for a sudoku game.
Sound - 6
Similar to the visuals, there are several songs available for background music. There are Japanese, electronic, piano and children's tracks, for example. Mostly, you will want to stick with the song that fits the graphical theme but you can always hit the right bumper to change tracks. I would have preferred a few more songs. You can also take advantage of that custom soundtrack feature on your 360 if you feel the need.
Longevity - 5 (Medium - Came back to it occasionally)
The challenge of completing the puzzles kept me coming back but there just isn't enough variety. After beating the different gameplay modes, there is still plenty to do but its hard to justify coming back when there are so many great games now. Achievements vary and certainly help make it more fun to come back and play.
Learning Curve - 8 (Easy)
For those new to sudoku, there is a great tutorial. It introduces the player to the concepts of the game and also the controls. I had only done a few puzzles before so the examples were helpful to me. People who are already good at the game will find it annoying that one of the achievements is for completing the tutorial.
Despite its limitations, Buku Sudoku is one of those games that is really needed on the Xbox Live Arcade. It brings a classic puzzle game that can be played by anyone and you even can get your friends to join you. If you don't want it for yourself, pick it up next time you have some non-gaming friends at your house.
Overall Score - 7.0