I know what you’re thinking, who is Carol Vorderman? If not for the one-sheet Eidos kindly provided, I would have had to "google" her myself. Apparently Carol is one of Britain’s best-known TV personalities, having gained notoriety for hosting “Countdown,” a show in which she rapidly calculates math problems. She’s a member of MENSA with an IQ of 154 and she’s written numerous Sudoku puzzle books. To sum up, she’s a bit of a whiz and considering this particular Sudoku video game was developed in Europe, it’s not surprising she was chosen to endorse the product.
Now on to the bigger question, is Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku any good? The answer, in short, is yes. In fact, Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku is arguably the best Sudoku video game I’ve come across. The reason for that is simple, not only does it offer over a million Sudoku puzzles to solve, but there’s a considerable variety of ways to play.
For starters, in single player, there’s the Classic mode, which allows you to choose from four difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Difficult, Super-Difficult) and play Sudoku. Then there’s the Arcade mode, offering four additional ways to play Classic Sudoku. First up is “Beat the Clock,” which simply challenges you to complete a puzzle before time runs out. Next is “Extra Time,” another time-based challenge in which you earn extra time by inserting the numbers correctly. In “Perfection,” every mistake or pencil mark you enter costs you time. The goal here is to complete the puzzle in the fastest possible time. Last but not least is “3 Strikes,” which plays just as it reads. Make three mistakes and the puzzle is terminated.
The ultimate test of your Sudoku skills comes in the Career mode. You’ll start with the White Belt Challenge and work your way up to Black Belt. Each belt involves completing a series of puzzles in a specified time. As you move higher up the belts, the puzzles increase in number and difficulty and the time allotted for each puzzle decreases. If you can manage to earn the Black Belt, there’s only one thing left to do to become Sudoku Master, and that’s challenge Carol herself in the mode aptly titled Challenge Carol. Here, you’ll progress through four levels of Sudoku puzzles with the objective of beating the times set by Carol herself. If you already think you’re a Sudoku Master, trust me, you’re in for a real test.
For those of you who aren’t Sudoku experts, Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku includes several tutorial videos not only explaining the basics of Sudoku, but also offering tips for both easy and super-difficult puzzles. The game also provides various “Assists” to help beginners solve puzzles. There’s even a Sudoku Solver that’s lets you enter any Sudoku puzzle that you might be stuck on, from a newspaper for example, and the game will help solve that puzzle for you.
There are also some multiplayer games available. Quickfire lets you play against a friend using one PSP by taking turns inserting numbers into the grid. The winner is the player who completes half of the puzzle correctly in the quickest time. Time-Attack is similar to Quickfire, except players take turns completing the entire puzzle, or entering as many numbers as possible, before the time runs out. The third and final multiplayer mode is Head-to-Head, which pits two players against each other on the same puzzle. This game is played via wireless link, so if you know somebody else with a PSP and a copy of Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku, you can get your puzzle on. With respect to multiplayer, I would like to have seen an online leaderboard for users to share their quickest times, but we’ve seen so few PSP games use online leaderboards that I can’t really hold that against it.
The presentation in Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku is nice and simple The puzzle is set up so that not only is the square you’re working on highlighted, but so is the row, column and 3x3 mini-grid the square lies within. It really does a great job isolating the portion of the puzzle you need to concentrate on with respect to that square. If you’re unsure whether a number goes in a square or not, you can “pencil” it in along with other numbers, until you know for sure what the correct number is. The layout features mostly light shades of blue, which is easy on the eyes, and the music, consisting of a single track that loops over and over, is surprisingly soothing in its Enya-ish nature.
Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku is available for the PSP, PlayStation 2 and PC. I’m sure each has its advantages but the PSP version is ideal to pull out on your daily commute, on the airplane or while you’re lounging around up at the cottage. If you’re a fan of Sudoku and you’ve been looking for a video game version, I highly recommend Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku. It caters to beginners, challenges experts and offers an impressive variety of ways to play Sudoku.