Review Date | Platform | Genre | Rating | Production |

2006-07-16 | Nintendo DS | Puzzle | E (Everyone) | Hudson Soft / Nintendo |

I never really had any interest in Sudoku until I learned how to solve the puzzles from the tutorials that came with Brain Age. More recently, I would even skip my brain training because I would be playing Sudoku and forget the daily exercises. Needless to say, Sudoku Gridmaster came as a really nice surprise.

It took me a bit to adjust to the controls since I was very comfortable with the ones in Brain Age, but after a few puzzles it wasn't so awkward anymore.

For those (like me until a couple of months ago) who aren't familiar with Sudoku, the rules are fairly simple. You must insert the numbers from 1 to 9 in each of the nine 3x3 squares in the grid, without repeating them in any row or column. By inputting possible answers into each square, you begin an elimination process that leads to finding the correct numbers for each grid cell, until you fill up the grid with all the numbers.

Sudoku Gridmaster lets you use the stylus to either input the numbers in a keypad or by writing them down, although (and opposite of Brain Age) I prefer using the keypad to the writing.

In the Easy puzzles, the wrong numbers will show in red squares, which makes it so much easier to find a mistake, but this feature isn't available in the other difficulty levels. You only know you made a mistake once you fill up the grid and the "Incorrect" text pops on the screen. It's tough to backtrack and find the error, so your best bet is to start over.

Using the left or right trigger buttons will bring up the Guidelines, which highlight a 3x3 square and respective row and column starting at the square you have selected. The Guidelines are a really convenient tool to use for spotting which numbers are in use in those squares and filling in the blanks quicker.

Tapping any number twice will highlight all the same numbers on the grid. When all nine numbers have been placed on the grid, that number will be darkened on the keypad.

You can access the Options menu at any time while solving a puzzle to change your background, music or input style (writing or keypad). You can also erase all puzzle data, restart the puzzle or go back to the main menu from here.

Solving puzzles awards you with stars. On Easy difficulty, if you finish a puzzle under 5 minutes, you get four stars. Finish it in less than 10 minutes, 3 stars. Finish it under 15 minutes, 2 stars. I'm not sure what's the time limit for a single star, fortunately I haven't gotten there yet. In higher difficulties, you are awarded more stars. In Normal difficulty, the maximum is 5 stars if you complete a puzzle in less than 15 minutes, and in Hard difficulty you can gain up to 6 stars.

Accumulating stars unlocks more puzzles (there are about 400 of them) as well as Rank Tests. A Rank Test is a timed challenge where you must solve the puzzle before the timer runs out. If you fail a Rank Test, you can take it again, but the puzzle won't be the same.

A few things could have use some tweaking. For example, you can only insert up to four temporary numbers in a cell, when sometimes you could use another number in there. The Undo button only works for permanent numbers and not temporary numbers, and I would have really liked a single button to erase all temporary numbers at once from a cell.

There is also room for a single saved "in progress" puzzle, so if you want to start another one in a different difficulty level, you must abandon whatever work in progress you may have.

These minor things aside, Sudoku Gridmaster is a great portable brainteaser, perfect for the geeky side in all of us, and all you need to do is know how to count to nine. Best of all, this title is part of the Touch Generations line of games, which makes it very user friendly for beginners and accessible in terms of price ($19.99).

Once you try Gridmaster, the daily Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper will become obsolete.

*Special thanks to Allison Guillen, Eileen Tanner and Nintendo for providing a copy of this title.*

**SUDOKU GRIDMASTER UNLOCKABLES**

- 20 stars: 50 bonus puzzles (20 Easy, 20 Normal, 10 Hard)
- 40 stars: 70 bonus puzzles (30 Easy, 30 normal, 10 Hard)
- 60 stars: Bronze Rank Test
- 80 stars: 30 bonus puzzles (10 Easy, 10 Normal, 10 Hard)
- 100 stars: 30 bonus puzzles (10 Easy, 10 Normal, 10 Hard)