Toon-Doku (DS) review
"Toon-Doku turns things on its head by replacing the familiar digits with non-offensive picture tiles. Not only that, but it throws a whole bunch of them at you and lets you choose which you would like to have in play. Itís a nice touch, but it doesnít do a thing to change how Sudoku plays. You still do nothing more than line up your characters the same way you have in any of the million rounds of Sudoku that youíve played before."
Toon-Doku is difficult to review because it completely lacks ambition yet doesnít fail to entertain as a result. It exists for one principle purpose: to make Sudoku palatable to those who get a headache when they stare at numbers too long, or grow bored with the familiar concept when they might not if there were some cheery imagery available.
Sudoku is a simple enough game, as anyone who has played it will tell you. Perhaps youíve already experienced it for yourself and know that for truth. All you must do to succeed is place nine digits on a grid several times over without repeating any of them in a horizontal or vertical row (or smaller 3x3 block, for that matter). Any grid you tackle will have a few digits placed throughout right from the start, so that you canít simply fill one out the same way every time. The challenge doesnít come from scribbling in numbers, then, but from guessing at where you should place numbers ahead of time so that later youíre not surprised to learn that youíve totally ruined any chance of completing the puzzle. Each move you make is the result of working through the process of elimination, and each successful character you place will make the next move that much simpler.
Toon-Doku turns things on its head by replacing the familiar digits with non-offensive picture tiles. Not only that, but it throws a whole bunch of them at you and lets you choose which you would like to have in play. Itís a nice touch, but it doesnít do a thing to change how Sudoku plays. You still do nothing more than line up your characters the same way you have in any of the million rounds of Sudoku that youíve played before.
The only exceptions are the boss battles. To imagine how that works, imagine that youíre playing Sudoku in a puzzle book on the airplane and just as you start to really examine the puzzle, a little boy next to you blocks your view with his chubby little fingers and sticks his tongue out at you. Irritated, you flick his fingers away and turn in your seat so that heís behind you and you can focus, only youíve lost your train of thought and must figure out what you were going to do all over again. Just as you catch on, the little rugrat reaches around and sticks his hand across the puzzle again, then giggles.
Toon-Doku is a lot like that, at least when youíre playing a boss battle. I donít know who thought Sudoku could be improved by distractions, but having part of the puzzle board blocked out periodically--something you must address by moving the stylus across the obstacles and sliding them out of the way--does not suddenly turn Sudoku into a game thatís any more interesting than it was before. If anything, the play mechanic frustrates.
Fortunately, Toon-Doku is reasonably successful at making Sudoku fun when youíre playing the standard stages. The 9x9 grid fits on the screen just fine, even if the images themselves are a bit on the fuzzy side. If you find that you canít tell one of the tiles apart from the next, you can always swap one out for something more easily recognized (like a pair of boxer shorts with hearts on them that would make Arthur of Super Ghouls Ďn Ghosts proud, or even numbers if thatís what you want). The more puzzles you complete, the more options youíll have for substitution. If you wish, you can even edit the tiles so that their personality comes closer to matching what you want to see on the screen as you play.
About all I would really change is the system that requires you to drag pieces across the screen. Your board is on the left and the icons you can place are set on a little square to the right. Any time you want to use one, you have to manually drag it, rather than tapping the desired icon and then tapping the square where you wish to place it. That just seems like an unnecessary waste of time.
There also are selectable background wallpapers to keep things fresh, and the 110 different puzzles will occupy you for hours when all is said and done. If it sounds like Iím just quoting from a fact sheet, I apologize. Itís just that at the end of the day, Sudoku either excites you or it doesnít. Itís not the sort of thing likely to make anyone wax eloquent, and thereís nothing in Toon-Doku that changes that fact. The number of available puzzles is just fine, the music that loops in the background is good but not great and the images that give the game its Ďtooní feel are generic but effective. Itíll give you something fun to do with a few minutes of your time here and there, on long car rides or while youíre stuck at the office or bus terminal, but it wonít rock your world. It doesnít need to, though. Itís Sudoku with pictures, and for many addicts and newcomers throughout the world, thatíll be more than enough.
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 23, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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