Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Found Religion...

...and its name is "Sudoku". I'm sure that everyone has heard of it by now. It's the puzzle game sensation presently sweeping across North America, or at least its newspapers. I first encountered it a month or two ago when I was at the Sheraton for BackBone's information session, leafing through a copy of some major paper (National Post? Globe and Mail?). I glanced at it, got the impression from the description that it was currently "all the rage", spent about thirty seconds seeing if a solution jumped off the page at me, and then, having had my fill, promptly moved on and forgot about it, assuming it was some silly new fad. Well, it is. But I love it anyway.

My next encounter came a few weeks ago when I first noticed that it had made it's way into the Gleaner (which, incidentally, is entirely too expensive give it's quality, running roughly $50 for 3 months). I again paid it no mind, although I did stop to do that day's Target (my grandmother got me hooked on Target when I was young-- I'm actually good at it now), finding the 9-letter word almost immediately. After that, I ran into it on Gamespot, as apparently it's coming out as a mobile phone game (for which it is uniquely suited, incidentally). However, this version was spelled Sudokou, which, according to the way I learned to romanize Japanese, means that it ends in a long 'o' sound instead of a 'u' sound. I have yet to learn conclusively which pronunciation is correct, although I have seen the kanji for it and probably could have found out if I wasn't so lazy. In any case, I ignored that Gamespot article as well.

Now, fast forward to earlier this week. There was a news post on a webcomic that I read regularly talking about it yet again, but the difference this time is that I generally find myself in agreement with this person, so, taking him at his word that it was indeed fun, I decided to try out Web Sudoku. Thirty or so games later, I find that I can't stay away. It's just so simple and addictive. The last thing that I needed was yet another time sink, but here we are.

It's a fairly simple game, really. You have a 9x9 grid of spaces, separated into nine 3x3 sections. Each space can hold any of the numbers from 1 to 9 inclusive (it can actually be any arbitrary set of nine distinct symbols, so the numbers themselves aren't important, and it's definitely not any kind of math game, which might otherwise scare some people away). To begin, some subset of these spaces are already filled with numbers, and it's your job to fill in the rest such that no row, column, or 3x3 section has the same number occurring twice. There is only one unique solution to each puzzle, which means that the solution can be arrived at without any guessing at any point. Sounds easy, right? Well, it is, at least at first.

Introductory puzzles have lots of numbers filled in already, so it's largely just a matter of looking for rows, columns, or sections that are very cluttered and figuring out what's missing by simple process of elimination. These used to take me upwards of ten minutes at first, but I can usually finish Easy puzzles in 3 or 4 minutes now. However, once you move onward to Medium, Hard, and Evil, there are far fewer numbers to start with, and the strategies that you use to solve them have to adapt accordingly. I find that the game feels like Minesweeper in a lot of ways, both in the feel of play, the addictiveness, and the way in which it can insidiously suck up your free time. Much like Minesweeper, as you play harder and harder puzzles, new strategies emerge organically, bringing with them new dimensions of gameplay, and areas that would have been hard to solve become solvable almost by rote.

I don't think that I'd enjoy doing them in the newspapers now though, since the convenience of the web version has spoiled me. I have my options configured to let me enter subscript possibilities in empty boxes and a competition clock to let me know how I'm doing, not to mention the convenience of easy deletion (although, generally, if you make a mistake you're pretty screwed anyway) and the joy I take in comparing my scores to the statistics the site has collected. In any case, I highly recommend Web Sudoku to anyway looking to kill time in front of a computer, whether you're waiting for a large app to compile or you just feel like you're not getting paid enough. :-P I'd suggest starting with a few easy puzzles and then moving on to medium and hanging out there for a while.


Anonymous NOS said...

I'd heard of this everywhere lately, as it truly is the latest fad. I'd never actually sat down and done one until this post. Conclusion: meh. It's ok I guess. I can see sitting down to one every day or so, like a crossword puzzle or whatever, but not spending oodles of time on it.

Friday, October 28, 2005 9:43:00 PM  
Blogger Requiem said...


Saturday, October 29, 2005 1:58:00 AM  
Blogger Requiem said...

i just did one it took 13 minutes and 28 seconds. I don't know if im hooked on it though, im pretty tired right now. I'll most probably just stick with my online puzzles, crib, and hearts games.

Saturday, October 29, 2005 2:06:00 AM  

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