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Kakuro Magic (Switch) artwork

Kakuro Magic (Switch) review

"All trees and no forest"

Any pen and paper puzzle can be translated to a video game without too much effort. Think about it: no worries about graphics, or frame rate, or physics, or controls, or AI, or anything! Just make sure the logic is correct, the input method is relatively painless, toss 100 or so puzzles into the game, and you're good to go. Sounds like easy money! I'm not missing anything, am I?

Besides making good puzzles in the first place?

Well, at least the concept behind Kakuro is sound. You have a grid laid out like a crossword puzzle. But like Sudoku, each square contains a number from 1 to 9, and only one of that number can be in the "word" (either horizontal or vertical) in the grid. Many of these "words" have clues associated with them: a number that is the sum of all the numbers in the word. So if you have 2 squares and the clue is 3, you will be filling in either [2,1] or [1,2]. But if the clue is 5, the answers can be [1,4], [2,3], [3,2], [4,1] and so forth. But if that's a horizontal clue and an associated vertical clue for a 2-square set is 13, then you know it has to be [4,1] and the vertical answer is [4,9]. So you keep going, filling in the constrained outer edges to get you more information to slowly fill in those large inner clues.

Kakuro Magic (Switch) image

And at least the basics are there. There are 96 puzzles in all, starting with simple four square tutorials and leading up to complex grids. You can either set a number in stone, or write a bunch of options down as clues (always a plus with these types of puzzles). There's even a hint system if you want it, and a timer to see your time, and a little medal you can get if you play without the hint system. Basically, everything here appears to be functional at first glance.

So you play a decent size puzzle, fill in a few of the simple "3" or "17" clues (ie, must be 1 and 2 or 8 and 9, stuff like that). And then you find yourself stuck. No matter how you slice it, no matter how many moves ahead you try to see, you just can't seem to guarantee any number to be correct. Are you just dumb? Nope, you discover, to your horror, that there is no unique solution.

So again, let's imagine a horizontal 2 square word with the clue being 5. As I said, there's four options available to you. But now imagine there are no vertical clues, and no other constrained words nearby. The answer can be any one of those four options! Sure, that's a simple example, but this is what happens everywhere in the game. 90% of the tiles aren't constrained, 90% of them can be multiple different numbers. And not just on one or two puzzles, but on every single large one I played!

What does this mean? To be blunt, you aren't solving a puzzle. When you get to this point, you just start tossing numbers in and going forward. Just make sure they add up to the clue and it'll work. Sure, every once in a while you'll make a mistake and switch a few numbers around, but there's barely any thinking involved. There's barely anything involved! No logic, no brains, just mindlessly putting numbers in. Needless to say, that also equals no fun.

So unfortunately, I suppose there is some effort required for these types of games. You have to know how to make a good puzzle. You have to constrain the logic to make only a single unique solution. You have to give the player a logical path forward. Kokura Magic does none of that. It tosses up grids and clues without any sense of how it all comes together, making the whole experience completely and totally pointless. It may look competent on the surface, but the most important ingredient is completely absent.


mariner's avatar
Community review by mariner (June 20, 2020)

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