With their origins dating back to the 80s and the 8-bit software company Gremlin Graphics, developer Sumo Digital have an impressive track record behind them having been responsible for a string of hits across a range of formats including many of the Virtua Tennis and OutRun games and on the Vita their most recent games included F1 2011 and Sonic And All-Stars Racing Transformed so they’re known for producing quality results. In addition to the bigger titles, they’ve also worked on smaller games though, including Go! Sudoku for Sony back in 2006 which was released for the PSP…
As well as RPGs, arcade games and a plethora of other genres, I have to admit that I am rather fond of puzzle games and am partial to a game or two of Sudoku. Infact, when I first purchased my PSP several years ago, this was one of the first games I purchased for it on UMD so when I had some funds spare in my PSN account I thought that it would be worth getting a second time to be able to carry around and not have to worry about taking a second console with me on the go.
For those of you not familiar with Sudoku, it is a number puzzle played on a 9 x 9 grid. Each puzzle starts off with some numbers already positioned in some squares on the grid and thren have to complete the grid by placing numbers 1-9 in all of the remaining squares. Sounds simple enough? Well, it would be but there is one rule that needs to be adhered to for Sudoku… each row or column on the grid must contain the numbers 1-9 with no duplication and each 3×3 block in the grid can also only contain the numbers 1-9 with no duplication. Despite being focused around numbers, it’s a puzzle game that is dependent on pure logic rather than mathematical ability so it’s a game that can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages which is why it’s enjoyed such diverse and global appeal from young children to the elderly (as my 13 year old daughter and 75 year old mother would attest!).
With the rules of Sudoku out of the way, what does Go! Sudoku have to offer the discerning PSP (and most importantly for us) and PS Vita owner? In in essence, the game presents you with no fewer than 1,000 puzzles spread across four difficulty settings. In the main Solo game mode, these are played against the clock with your fastest times logged both in an overall score table and individual score tables for each puzzle. Play is simple enough using the d-pad to move a cursor around the puzzle, the shoulder buttons to cycle through a wheel displaying the numbers at the top of the screen and X to place the current number in the square you are in. The game automatically tells you if you have placed a number correctly but if you get a number wrong you lose one of your five lives. Losing all of them doesn’t seem to make any difference to the game itself or whether you are allowed to continue playing it so in Solo Mode I’m not sure why they are there…
To remove an incorrectly placed number, a simple press of the square button fixes this (although you can cancel your previous move by way of the triangle button) and the final button for use during the game is the circle button which allows you to set “candidates” in each box on the grid. In essence this sets markers for numbers allowing you to place notes for yourself on possible numbers before committing yourself to selecting an answer – essential on the tougher puzzles!
Playing through all 1,000 puzzles is likely to take a LONG time, especially as some have quite lengthy target completion times so don’t expect to have this game beat any time soon. Even the most adept of Sudoku players will still find this game challenging them well over 100 hours in so there’s an incredible amount of value to be had for your money when it comes to longevity and only an RPG of the depth that the Final Fantasy series offers would give you the same amount of gameplay for your money. But even if you do manage to get through all of the puzzles, Go! Sudoku still has more to offer with its multiplayer modes…
There are several modes on offer with local and ad-hoc modes. Local Multiplayer takes the form of Pass Sudoku allows you to play with up to 4 people using a puzzle of your choice you. Each player takes it in turn with the puzzle to place a number on the grid correctly with their time being recorded and and the objective is to complete the whole puzzle in the fastest possible time. Ad Hoc mode again plays on the same puzzle for up to 4 players but in two game modes. Battle Mode allows all the players to use a single grid all aiming to complete the most squares of that grid in a race to the finish and the player who completes the most squares wins. The Versus Mode is a head-to-head challenge with each player using their own identical puzzle and it’s a straightforward race to the finish. Interestingly enough with all of these, while I haven’t been able to test these using two PS Vitas, they work remarkably well using a PS Vita and a PSP for cross system play so assuming you have multiple systems you could download the game to each for multiplayer gaming.
If that wasn’t enough, Go! Sudoku even comes with a Game Sharing option allowing you to send a 5 level mini version of the game to another system via wi-fi so someone without a copy of the game can play 5 random levels in Solo Mode. It’s a nice touch and again, works across systems.
Combining all of these modes makes for a fantastic experience. Go! Sudoku plays fantastically and plays a mean game. If you love Sudoku as a puzzle then it’s just as compulsive and with so many puzzles on offer it’s a game you’ll never grow tired of. With increasing difficulty levels there’s something to challenge puzzle addicts of all abilities and no matter what frame of mind you are in when it comes to playing the game it’s something you can pick up and play at any time – for shorter game sessions you can dive into the easier puzzles but for something more in-depth you can try to tackle the fiendish levels at your peril!
Visually the game is top-notch. Most importantly, the game itself is clear and easy on the eye with all the numbers, text and candidate numbers being easy to read. The game offers a range of animated visual themes to break up the monotony of visuals that you’d expect from a puzzle game that’s traditionally found in print and while they look attractive on the eye they don’t detract from the gameplay in any way. Sound is just the same with a selection of soothing background tunes playing throughout and basic sound effects for each of the actions during the game. Nothing earth shattering but they work well enough. Certainly as far as the overall look and feel is concerned SCEE have managed to do everything possible to make the game look and sound as good as possible without going over the top.
At this point, fans of Sudoku might be getting ready to rush off to the PSN Store to buy Go! Sudoku and download it to your Vitas straight away ready to dive into the 1,000 levels and get playing BUT with all things there’s a big problem to be found with the game that only reveals itself when you take a closer look…
There are two main issues with Go! Sudoku that you need to be aware of before thinking about taking the all important plunge and spending any hard-earned cash buying it. First, there is a known bug with the game that has been around since the title was first released that causes a dialogue box to appear randomly on the screen displaying the message “Attention. Please Wait…” for no reason, which the disappears after about 15 seconds or so. Now, being a game where the player’s performance is based on how quickly puzzles are solved, this can prove to be incredibly frustrating when the entire game screen is obscured wasting valuable time. This bug is all the more frustrating as it appears without warning and there is no consistency as when (or if) it appears. Many people reported occurances of this yet in all the time I have played this – both on the PSP and PS Vita – after playing hundreds of puzzles I never encountered this message once. Some believe that the message is related to the battery power of the PSP hardware so it is unsure whether this would rear its head on the Vita or not, or whether it is best to simply play Go! Sudoku with a fully charged console. Either way, it doesn’t spoil the game itself, just the timer.
More seriously is the initial set-up process. On first loading you are asked to create a profile which will then autosave your progress, high scrores and settings throughout the game. However, on the PS Vita Go! Sudoku simply doesn’t allow you to create new save data reporting the error message that there is insufficient space on the memory card. Regardless of your memory card, this is not a space issue, but another bug with the game. For some reason, and this is a bug dating back to the PSP, Go! Sudoku is not capable of creating player profiles on memory cards greater than 2Gb in size. While that was fine with the PSP (especially when the game was first released), that’s not really practical for the PS Vita.
What this means is that as a player you are left with a couple of choices. Either not buy the game or settle for having to remember what levels you have played and accept the fact that there will be no records of your personal best times. Certainly not something that many gamers would be happy with. Saying that, there is a workaround to the problem but it’s not straightforward. First you need to run the game on a PSP (either a downloaded or physical UMD copy of the game) and create a new profile. You then need to connect the PSP to a PS3 and copy the save game file across to the PSP. Then connect the PS Vita to the PS3 and transfer the save game data down to the Vita from the PS3 and when you load Go! Sudoku up on the Vita you’ll have a save game ready and waiting for you. An incredibly cumbersome way of getting the game to work but it does the trick.
What makes this bug more frustrating is that the game does function perfectly with larger memory cards (I’m currently running it from a 16Gb card) and I’m not experiencing any problems with save game data – it’s just the initial set-up that is the issue so as long as you can create the data you’ll be fine so I would assume that the PS Vita 2000 series (slimline) won’t have any problems running the game as long as you run it without any additional memory cards inserting initially and the same with the PlayStation TV.
It really pains me when looking at Go! Sudoku as an overall package for the PS Vita. I absolutely loved this game when playing it on the PSP and the game itself is identical when running on the PS Vita with the exception of the custom backgrounds – hardly a deal-breaker – but it’s incredibly frustrating to set up. I was fortunate in being able to play this game without too much trouble but that was only because I already own a physical copy on the PSP and I was able to create a save game and then transfer that to the PS Vita via the PS3 but no gamer should have to go through that just to be able to play a download from the PSN Store.
It’s because of that, and that alone, that I can’t recommend this to anyone unless you’ve also got a PS3 and PSP to be able to manage the game saves (or if you own a 2000 series PS Vita or PlayStation TV assuming that the initial save game function will work with the 1Gb on board storage) otherwise you’ll have to cope with remembering just what levels you’ve completed each time you load the game and you’ll lose all your time records, something that isn’t really acceptable for a game that makes such a big deal about achieving fast completion times of puzzles. It does sadden me to say it about a game I love so much, but unless you have the right hardware and a degree of patience this is a game you will need to give a wide berth to.
At A Glance
- Title: Go! Sudoku
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
- System: PSP
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: Yes (Ad hoc mode works between PSP and PS Vita)
- Online Multiplayer: No (Ad-hoc wireless only)
- PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 230Mb