E3 06: Sudoku Gridmaster Preshow Hands-On

The huge popular and addictive mind-flexing math puzzle challenge is coming to the DS in a simple game that seems like it could keep you engaged for hours.

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LOS ANGELES--If you're familiar with sudoku, then you know that all it takes to be enthralled by a challenging puzzle is a grid and some rows of numbers--no fancy graphics or special rules. This elegant simplicity seems to be the intent behind Sudoku Gridmaster for the Nintendo DS, a fairly straightforward interpretation of the beloved game. As admitted sudoku neophytes, we got a chance to hunker down with the game at a Nintendo pre-E3 event, during which the first 10 or 15 minutes or so were spent learning the ropes, and the next half hour was spent trying to pry ourselves away from the game.

If you're unfamiliar with sudoku, the object is simple: On a 9-by-9 grid, you must arrange the numbers one through nine both horizontally and vertically in a particular order. The rules are that you cannot reuse a given number more than once within a row, within a column, or within a 3-by-3 matrix from the grid. The premise of every sudoku puzzle is identical: by prefilling the grid with different numbers in different spaces, a virtually limitless variety of puzzles becomes available. Some of these are naturally easier, while others can be extremely difficult. Either way, it definitely takes some time to grasp the rules for the first time, but Sudoku Gridmaster provides a fairly simple and concise tutorial for stepping you through it.

Sudoku can be played with a pencil and a piece of paper, but the DS has some obvious advantages. The default control scheme features a numeric keypad that lets you punch in whichever number you want. For a more tactile feel, you can also enable a writing mode that lets you write out your numbers on the touch screen. This seemed to work fine, but the default system is quicker. In addition to this, Sudoku Gridmaster lets you highlight a given 3-by-3 matrix and the corresponding rows and columns at the touch of a button, letting you focus your attention better on the area surrounding your cursor. It's not cheating, it's just a convenient visual cue.

The game will feature more than 400 different sudoku puzzles, as well as multiple modes and difficulty settings. Notably, the practice mode shows you where you're making mistakes, allowing you to readily gain an understanding of the playing field and the complexities of the game.

Sudoku Gridmaster is headed to the DS this summer, and it seems like it will have plenty of content both for sudoku newcomers and masters. Look for further coverage on GameSpot.

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