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DS  header logo

Zendoku

For: DS   Also on: PSP

Sudoku with fighting: it's mental jujutsu!

Product: Zendoku | Publisher: Eidos | Developer: Zoonami | Format: DS | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Zendoku DS, thumbnail 1
Let's face it, sudoku can be a bit dull. A case of filling gaps with numbers, there's little of the panache required when struggling with a tricky crossword. Not only does trying to unlock cryptic clues provide real brain training – if you fail, you can always learn something when you check the answers in tomorrow's paper. Compared to that, sudoku is merely a logical progression, with frustration the most likely outcome if you make any mistakes.

Maybe that's why sudoku needs ninjas, special attacks and head-to-head battles. For these very reasons, Zendoku is the sort of sudoku we've been waiting for – battle action sudoku.

The basics remain the same as conventional sudoku. There's a 9x9 grid and nine lots of nine symbols – Eastern flavoured, with everything from a panda to the ying-yang circle, a sumo, and a sword – for you to organise with your stylus. The overal goal is to place one of each symbol in each row, column and 3x3 box.

Cool new style or not, the prospect of a limitless variation of grids to play through would be about as appealing as a 20-hour chess-a-thon, were it not for the other elements Zendoku brings to the board.

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Most notable is the way you send attacks to your opponent. Every time you complete a row, column or square, your opponent's game is paused while they fight to complete the mini-game that your attack triggers (and vice versa). These include tasks such as having to quickly tap the screen free of snowflakes, unroll toilet paper, and blocking the punches of a mini martial arts fighter.

Another neat touch is that the difficulty of each attack is determined by how high your three-section stamina bar was when you attacked. This bar is reduced by one each time you make a mistake when placing a symbol on the grid. Such carelessness also results in your opponent getting a couple of their boxes filled in for free, so success relies on sharp eyesight, careful planning and attention to detail.

Despite the game's ninja credentials, then, you do need to know your sudoku to get the most of out it. After all, the winner is the one who completes their grid first.

As well as being more exciting than standard sudoku, Zendoku also offers structure in the crazy shapes of the playable characters. There are eight in total. Each starts out as a virginal white belt martial artist and it's your mission to battle them into becoming black belt masters, completing their own little story nugget in the process.

For example, the mask-wearing Sakura is fighting for true love, while frizzy-haired man/woman (it's hard to tell) Ayumi is seeking power. None would look out of place in a Dragon Ball game, and although the choice of characters doesn't have an effect on the game itself, the stories are short, unobtrusive and supply a decent interlude to those intensive bouts of concentration.

Attacking a computer-controlled character – as in the main Quest mode – is never as much fun as attacking a real-life opponent though, so it's no surprise the two-player (single cart sharing) Battle mode is the most fun part of Zendoku.

Competition really gets fierce as the attacks go flying back and forth. Each character has a 'lucky symbol' and this becomes important to master in Battle (and later in Quest mode too). When your opponent launches an attack by completing a row or square, the attack travels along a line at the top of the screen, giving you a few seconds to react. If you can quickly place one of your lucky symbols correctly on your grid, you'll reverse the attack back at them. It's almost as satisfying as firing a perfectly-placed red shell just before the finishing line in Mario Kart DS.

Zendoku isn't just about 30-second long bouts of concentration followed by frenzied mini-games, however. The Zen mode enables purists to play traditionally – alone and against the clock – while the Attack Box offers the WarioWare-style challenge of all the mini-games collected together in a timed environment.

Combined with its funky presentation, it all makes for a much more interesting package than the numerous other versions of sudoku that are available on DS. Still, Zendoku isn't an addictive puzzler like Zoo Keeper, nor does it offer the longevity of games like Tetris DS or Lumines. If you don't like sudoku, it probably isn't the game for you. But if you're a competitive player with a DS-owning mate, Zendoku fills all the boxes.
 
Zendoku
Reviewer photo
Kath Brice | 1 May 2007
Neatly presented, well thought out and with plenty of modes – multiplayer is especially good - Zendoku is a fun improvement on the basic Sudoku
 
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