What would happen if you took the popular numbers-based puzzle game and combined it with the quirky mystery solving of Clue? You would get something like Playlogic’s latest DS title Sudoku Ball Detective. Now you may also be wondering if such a concoction could possibly be any fun. Well I am here to tell you that developer Whitebear has managed to take two completely different ideas and mesh them together quite well. While it may not be the finest form of either genre, what you get in this package for $20 is more than worth checking out if you are a fan of either. The concept sounds ridiculous, but in practice it makes for an intriguing experience.
As you can imagine the story is based around a murder mystery, and the only way to catch the perpetrator is to solve some Sudoku puzzles. For each puzzle you solve you gain a clue or get closer to catching the assailant. This method works mostly due to the fact that the pacing is done well enough that you get just enough for each puzzle to continue pushing through. Combining a story mode behind the puzzles is what separates this from every other Sudoku game on the market and what makes it worth checking out even if you have exhausted your fascination with the game.
All of the puzzles in the game solve something, and the way the developers have implemented it is quite unique. For example picking a lock requires you to obtain the numbers by solving a Sudoku puzzle. The same can be said for investigating and collecting evidence. There are even timed puzzles that allow you to continue using memory as opposed to logic. I found myself truly engrossed at solving the puzzles, but it didn’t come without a cost. Some puzzles are extremely long, and without the option to save mid-puzzle, I gave up from time to time due to frustration. Portable games should always have a save anywhere function, and it really hurts the flow of the game.
My other gripe is that while the mixture of murder mystery and number puzzles is cool, they feel somewhat disconnected from each other when you get right down to it. The entire flow of the game consists of solving a puzzle, watching a cut scene, then rinse and repeat. It would have been much more interactive if some of the puzzles were a bit more involved with the plot. It would also help if you actually cared about any of the characters. At times I forgot who I was supposed to be and worse yet who I was trying to solve the murder for. This takes some of the mystery element out of the game as you never know who the killer may be, or for that matter actually care.
The touch screen controls involve you navigating menus and of course drawing numbers. For the most part it works well enough to get by, but there were times where the game confused which number I was trying to draw. Now I know I am not the most talented artist in the bunch, but I certainly know how to decipher between a six and a two. Outside of that there really isn’t much interaction within the game. As I mentioned you really only solve the puzzle, watch a cut scene and move on. It also doesn’t help that the game isn’t the longest I have ever played, and the difficulty is almost non-existent.
Outside of the main game you can also just play Sudoku if you are so inclined. There are also three difficulty levels to tinker with in the story and outside modes. However, once you solve the mystery and complete the game there isn’t much reason to come back for more. A lack of multi-player also hinders the experience quite a bit, plus Sudoku is only entertaining for a while. What you do get is a twisted take on the genre by throwing in a reason to solve the puzzles, and any fan of Sudoku should find enough value to warrant their $20 with Sudoku Ball Detective.
Sudoku Ball Detective is an interesting concept that will satisfy players in need of a spin on the genre. If you are not a fan of the quirky number puzzles then the additives are not going to sway your opinion. It is certainly not going to reinvent the wheel, but what it does do it does well. If you are looking to spice up your Sudoku playing then the $20 price tag should not deter you. There is enough here to enjoy and with over 200 total puzzles the game will keep you occupied for those long bus trips and plane rides.