Carol Vorderman

When you think of puzzles in the newspaper, the object most often thought of is the crossword puzzle.  The New York Times’ crossword puzzle is so famous that a book of them is published each year.  Some people get discouraged by the crossword puzzles because of the difficulty of some of them.  Since then a new puzzle has caught on that has taken the country and the world by storm.  That puzzle is Sudoku.

Sudoku takes place on a nine by nine square grid.  The object is to place the numbers one through 9 in each row, column, and the nine individual squares inside the nine by nine grid three across and three down.  Some people are intimidated by the numbers thinking that math is involved, but Sudoku is purely a logic puzzle.  Letters, colors, or any nine other objects could be substituted for the numbers one through nine.

While Brain Age for the Nintendo DS has a Sudoku game included, we haven’t really seen anything for the PSP.  That has changed with Eidos bringing Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku (CVS) to the US.

When you create a game like Sudoku, you don’t really need to have a powerhouse in the graphical department.  You should have a clean and well-organized interface.  The Sudoku puzzle is dead-center in the PSP screen.  The left side of the screen is generally unused, with white and blue numbers falling down.  There is one game where you’ll see silhouettes of Carol indicating the number of misses you have left in that style of game.

On the right side the number selector is shown in the upper corner.  A timer is shown in the middle that counts up or down, depending of the game.  The bottom right shows a counter that indicates how many times a number has been used.

The numbers are clear and easy to read, even on the PSP screen.  There is one issue I have with the graphics though.  The difference between the numbers that are entered into the squares at the beginning of the puzzle and the numbers that are entered in by the player are very close in color to each other.  This makes it difficult to figure out which numbers you have entered in, especially when you figure out you’ve made a mistake.

The music in CVS has a Zen-like vibe to it.  It is relaxing, with an Oriental feel to it.  The music has a calming and soothing effect.  This is certainly different than some of the pulsating music found in most games.

The sound effects do the job they are meant to.  When you insert a number into the square a little clink is heard.  When you finish a row, column, or three by three square a sound effect goes off.  When you finish the puzzle a little chime goes off.  It’s functional and it works.

The game controls aren’t very complex, but they seem to do a good job.  Moving the cursor is handled with the D-pad.  Hitting X selects a square and hitting it again inserts the number selected in the upper right hand corner.  Hitting Circle inserts a pencil mark or removes it.  Hitting Square removes the number from a square, and using Triangle undoes your last move.  Hitting L or R switches the cursor between the puzzle and the Number Selector.  It doesn’t take long to get adjusted to the control scheme and putting numbers into the puzzle becomes second nature.

When the game starts, Carol Vorderman gives you a brief history to Sudoku.  It is brief and skippable, but it’s interesting to find out if you haven’t heard it yet.  Once you finish with this you can get into the game.

Tutorial videos are available for those who are new to Sudoku.  The include rules for the game, tips for the puzzles, a solution for the easy puzzle from start to finish, and tips for more difficult puzzle.  It would have been nice for there to be some type of interaction with the Tutorial, but it is helpful that these are included.

Multiple single-player options are available.  The Classic option lets you select a difficulty level and immediately jump into a puzzle.  In the Arcade there are four different modes.  “Beat the Clock” has you solve a puzzle within a specific amount of time.  In Extra Time you have to solve puzzles within a time limit, but you earn extra time by inserting numbers correctly.  In Perfection you are given a specific amount of time, but every pencil mark and mistake costs you time on the clock.  Finally, 3 Strikes has you solve a puzzle in the fastest time possible, but you are only allowed three mistakes within a puzzle.  Each of these has four difficulty levels.  In the Career Mode you work your way through increasingly difficult puzzles.  You start at the White Belt level and go all the way up to the Black Belt level.  Seven belts levels need to be gone through.  Finally there is the Challenge Carol mode.  Here you have to beat the times set by Carol in puzzles.  There are four “Dan” levels.  Once you have completed the 4th Dan and earned your Black Belt, you have beaten Carol.

The challenges to the puzzles are the right difficulty.  Those who have played Sudoku for a while will blast through the easier levels, while they are good stepping stones for beginners.  The challenge ramps up with the more difficult puzzles.

A few Multiplayer modes are available.  In Head-to-Head you compete against another player to see who solves the puzzle first.  This game also supports wireless play in Ad hoc mode, but unfortunately not Infrastructure mode.  In Quickfire you alternate with another player putting numbers into the puzzle.  The one who solves half of the puzzle in the shortest time wins.  In Time-Attack you are given a Sudoku puzzle.  You need to complete your puzzle before your opponent completes theirs.  This is a good way to play the game in a “hot seat” mode.

The game is $20, and with the number of Sudoku puzzles you are given, it is really a good deal, especially if you don’t want to bring a book and pencil around.  It also has a Sudoku puzzle solver that will help you solve puzzles that you might be stuck on.

Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku is a Sudoku puzzle game.  If you like Sudoku, you probably will enjoy this game.  If you have a PSP and want some Sudoku on the go, this is a great way to get your fix.  While it doesn’t have a lot of splashy effects, it has enough to keep things interesting.  It has enough to get beginners started and has enough challenge for experienced players.  There are much worse ways to spend $20.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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