Sudoku, the little number-grid puzzle that just won't quit, has been making inroads into the world of handheld video games for a bit now, and already a firm trend has been established. Most of these sudoku games are fine, but their interfaces often leave something to be desired. The one exception so far has been Brain Age, which used its handwriting recognition and touch-screen technology to make writing the numbers into the boxes very simple. Sudoku Gridmaster, also published by Nintendo, would have been better off if it were just the Brain Age take on sudoku with more puzzles. Unfortunately, this Hudson-developed puzzle game makes poor use of the Nintendo DS touch screen and falls flat as a result.
Gridmaster is a very no-frills game. You fire it up, and you're dropped right into a menu that lists multiple difficulties, with sudoku puzzles in each one. As you complete these puzzles, you earn stars that can unlock bonus puzzles. You can also take four rank tests, which are puzzles that must be completed within a specific time limit. Some sort of multiplayer time challenge or even multiple profile support to allow for a scoreboard might have made the game slightly more interesting. All in all, the game really only offers two mildly different ways to play sudoku, which is unfortunate, because you're saddled with the same interface across the board.
The default way to put numbers into squares on a sudoku board is to tap the space on the board you want to effect, then tap one of the nine numbers on a keypad on the right side of the screen. There's a separate option that lets you tap squares, then write the number you want in a small box, but we found the handwriting recognition to be pretty terrible, with the game frequently interpreting fairly straight-looking 1's to be a three or a seven or something. Furthermore, the game doesn't make any concessions for left-handed players, who will be continually reaching to the far side of the screen to enter numbers. You can place up to four notes in each square, but with all the tapping you'll have to do to enter notes, you're probably just better off making mental notes instead.
On the presentation side, the game offers three different music tracks, none of which are particularly good. But the rest of the sound isn't anything special, so you could just turn it down. Graphically, you've got three different backgrounds to choose from. Again, this variety doesn't really add anything to the overall package.
With a fairly drab presentation and a subpar interface, Sudoku Gridmaster is a pretty weak package. If you're looking for sudoku on the DS, get Brain Age instead. Sudoku isn't the main focus there, but it's put together much, much better.