Mobile Spotlight 12/17/12: Sudoku App

Hello, this is Argus9, here with another installment of my Mobile Spotlight series.

Today’s subject isn’t going to be any particularly obscure game title or genre – in fact, it’s one that’s been popular among all audiences for the past decade, if not longer. Sudoku took its place among the top “brain games” right next to the crossword puzzle and word search, especially in the past ten years. Given that Sudoku is so wide-spread in its popularity, it’s safe to assume that there are literally tons of Sudoku copies available on the App Store or Google Play, and it can be hard to choose which one to spend your hard-earned bucks on.

Look no further than Intent Software’s aptly-named Sudoku App, available on the iOS App Store.

For the uninitiated, Sudoku is a logic game best explained by Wikipedia:

Sudoku (数独 sūdoku?, すうどく) i/suːˈdoʊkuː/soo-doh-koo is a logic-based,[1][2]combinatorial[3] number-placement puzzle. The objective is to fill a 9×9 grid with digits so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3×3 sub-grids that compose the grid (also called “boxes”, “blocks”, “regions”, or “sub-squares”) contains all of the digits from 1 to 9. The puzzle setter provides a partially completed grid, which typically has a unique solution.

Traditionally, like crosswords, Sudoku’s been the kind of game that’s played with pencil and paper, often found bound together in books and sold in convenience stores and truck stops. There’s limitations to this traditional method, however – puzzles were often more confusing and required a lot of doubling back upon realizing a number didn’t belong where you thought it did. Besides chewing through pencils and erasers, the fact is, you’ll eventually finish with a Sudoku book and will need to buy another one to keep playing. So for the price of one book and a pack of pencils, you can have an even better experience with Sudoku App – this is where it shines.

Rather than try to take a classic game and put a new, convoluted twist on it (I’m looking at you, Uno, and your many spin-off games), Sudoku App provides one of the best pure Sudoku experiences you can get. It’s Sudoku – no more and no less – but with five built-in difficulties and literally thousands of puzzles available, there’s tons of gameplay and replay value here. Each game starts with some of the numbers filled in, and it’s up to you to determine the right place to put each digit. The game’s controls are simple and intuitive, providing you with the full assortment of digits from 1-9 at the bottom of the screen; just touch the number you want and tap on the grid to place it there. The main advantage Sukodu App has over its paperback version is the game’s intelligence. Similar to Daily Crossword (featured in the first Mobile Spotlight), if you place a digit in the wrong place, the game will tell you right away, even highlighting any duplicate digits present. This is a great way to prevent backtracking and promote a constant sense of progression through each game. This dynamic also helps to contribute towards the game’s score system, as it will keep track of how many mistakes you make, as well as the time taken to complete a puzzle, so you’ll constantly drive yourself to improve these statistics to keep the top spot on each difficulty’s high score list. The game’s Options menu also presents several toggleable options to help you find hints and patterns more easily with no noticeable impact on scoring, so it’s pretty decently customizable as well.

There’s also a sense of showmanship in the game’s presentation. Sudoku App boasts a collection of three unique interface skins, including a tried-and-true paper and pencil theme, a wooden game board interface, and a truly unique Steampunk-inspired design. There’s fun quirks littered throughout each as well, such as doodles spontaneously appearing on the paper and pencil theme. Numbers will also animate as they flick onto the grid or are unceremoniously dropped in the case of an error. Sudoku App’s sound direction is simple, but clean and easy on the ears as well. Most presses, taps, and events are accompanied by glassy, almost fairy-like effects. Interacting with the game’s menu invokes wooden taps and thunks. Much like the game itself, it’s simple and no-frills, but enhances the experience without going over the top, and with a game like Sudoku App, that definitely plays to its strengths.

As good as Sudoku App is, there’s just a couple of gripes I had with it – neither are deal-breaking, but can be addressed down the line. First, the price – $4.99 – may alienate some players looking for their 99-cent fix. There’s no reason Intent Software can’t lower the price or put it on sale, though, and it’s likely you’ll find it in free-app-a-day programs (like App Gratis, my app of choice, and the one I downloaded Sudoku App from). Game Center support is also surprisingly absent, but if I had to guess, it’s because the game’s scoring system is so simple that a leaderboard system would eventually consist of top-10s full of similar times. If Intent Software devised a true scoring system for the game, I could see Game Center support following shortly.

All in all, if you’re looking for the hands-down best Sudoku experience on your iPhone or iPad, Sudoku App is the way to go. It does Sudoku right with simple game mechanics and a nice, clean audio-visual presentation. The $5 price tag may be a bit high for some, but if you’re a Sudoku junkie, hold back on that next book purchase, and put it towards this awesome app.

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of Mobile Spotlight. Join me next time as we continue to deliver the best experiences you can get on your mobile device.

Until then, game on!