Developer: WhiteBear Studios
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista; 1.8 GHz Pentium IV or equivalent CPU; 256 MB RAM; 256 MB graphics card, DirectX 9.0-compatible sound card; 2 GB hard-drive space
Release date: Available now
Sudoku Ball Detective is a peculiar murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie novels, that comes complete with the classic collection of characters, such as aristocrats, a doctor, and a detective. The peculiarity lies in the fact that, playing as the detective, you complete all of your tasks by solving Sudoku puzzles. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the heart-pumping excitement of chasing after an escaping suspect via Sudoku.
The main feature of this precious offering is that the puzzles are located on a ball that you can rotate. To some of us such a solution may appear obvious, now that someone else has done it, but nobody can deny the genius behind this seeming simplicity. It’s as if someone had cut out a bunch of Sudoku puzzles from a newspaper and pasted them on a soccer ball—truly a most glorious innovation. To play the game, you click on empty fields and a radial menu appears with numbers from 1 to 9, which you use to complete the puzzles.
There are four game types in Sudoku Ball Detective. First is the Story Mode, which gives the game the aforementioned mystery element. It involves some guy dying and a detective making the rounds trying to figure out what happened. Classic Mode is next, featuring plain Sudoku on a rotating ball. After that comes the Story Level Mode, which involves solving puzzles to pick locks or find clues. Last is the Standard Sudoku Mode, which is just a number of regular, non-presumptuous Sudoku with the ball not rotating.
The game’s technical implementation is rather poor. The very first thing that stands out to me is the absence of the usual screen-resolution controls. In the options menu you can choose between low, medium, high and wide resolutions. After some experimenting I discovered that these names correspond to 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768 and 1280×800 respectively. The year is 2009, by the way.
The rest of the visual components are equally crummy. The controls range from good to atrocious. The radial menu works as expected, but then it’s hard to come up with a way to mess that up. Rotating the ball, on the other hand, is a task for those with steady hands and steadier tempers. One false move and the accursed thing is spinning at the speed of light, when you merely wanted to nudge it to the left a little. Since the game is also available for the Wii and the DS, I suspect that the PC version was an afterthought, hence the above issues.
If you live and breathe Sudoku puzzles, go and buy this game right now. It’s the Holy Grail of gaming as far as you’re concerned. For the rest of us it might be ok if you are simply out to kill some time and you have your DS on you. To PC gamers, however, I recommend avoiding it. There is simply nothing there but Sudoku, Sudoku, Sudoku. Might as well pick up a newspaper while those are still around.