Support Libby, click to buy via us...
Is it possible to go on a real Odyssey when you're doing a Sudoku puzzle? Of course it is, and my vessel was Andoku.
Sudoku itself is not an extremely compelling game, apart from the age-old satisfaction derived from reaching a solution. In fact, the difficulty with any Sudoku is that it's usually just you, the Hero, raging against the Machine (for me, that's my wily Android Operating System).
Enter Andoku, your supreme Ally and Assistant in the quest to beat your Arch-Nemesis: The Numbers.
If you haven't played a Sudoku before, you are presented with a grid of little boxes, 9x9. That grid is also divided into 9 equal boxes (3x3), each containing 9 individual cells. (Why is it so hard to explain that?!) The idea is to have one of each digit (1 to 9) in every row and every column, as well as in every box of 3x3, without any double-ups.
Depending on which level you're on (there's a range, from easy through to fiendish), you will be presented with a few (or very few) strategically placed concrete numbers as starting points. In the simpler games, there will be more of these Anchors, making the puzzle easier. I like to think of them as my Allies in the Sea of Numbers.
One advantage of playing Sudoku with an App like Andoku is that you can easily see how many of any one digit is already on the grid. For example, if I touch any 3 on the grid, my Andoku Ally immediately responds by highlighting all 3s with yellow. The 'anchor' 3s -- the ones that can't be changed -- are red. This makes it very easy to see immediately where missing 3s might go.
If you can't quite nail the solutions down, you have the option of entering more than one number as a solution for a cell. You can go back and reduce these as you get closer to Ultimate Completion, and you can delete entire cells if you've been a bit quick to populate it with numbers.
(Speaking of being a bit quick to populate, parents might be interested to know that even though it's a freebie, Andoku doesn't have ads. This is good news if you like to encourage your offspring to do numbers games.)
Once in a while, you might feel like your Odyssey is going off course. You might be cruising along punching in your 3s until you realise the only remaining possible free cell already has a 3 in that row. What are you to do? You can Undo your last move ad infinitum, if you like, with the calculator-like C button. But how do you know where you went wrong, and how far back you have to negate? Was it back at Move 2, or just now?
It's like a little map of all the wrong turns you've taken on your Odyssey.
Well, why not try going to Options and Check Puzzle? This is like a nice little back-stop Mentor, who will tell you reassuring things like, Everything is OK, and how many cells you have left to complete. If entries are wrong, however, it will politely apologise and tell you you have made some mistakes. It will also place helpful, big red Xs on the wrong answers, and link them with a red line to the double-up number, for instance. It's like a little map of all the wrong turns you've taken on your Odyssey.
Occasionally, you might find yourself falling asleep as you play, and this is through no fault of your own. This is just because the screen full of numbers might have inadvertently aroused the Doing Taxes part of your brain. Which sends the rest of you to sleep. Every adventurer must face this at some point in their travels. It's when you reach that all-time low. You fall into the pit, enter the inner-most cave, or get swallowed by the trash-masher.
In that case, the best advice I can give is to:
1. Switch to the candy-coloured playing grid option (although that might exacerbate your sense of confusion).
2. You enlist the help of a Side-kick -- a friend or offspring will do nicely.
Victory always tastes much sweeter when it's shared.
I've tried this latter approach, and -- surprise, surprise -- our time taken to reach Ultimate Completion was halved. It was also much more fun because when you finish a game of Andoku you are not allowed a Victory Gloat while you look at your completed grid. You are taken swiftly to a corporate-looking graphic representation of your game, where you are told in a very no-nonsense fashion that you have successfully completed your puzzle. Hence the importance of your Side-kick because, in my experience, Victory always tastes much sweeter when it's shared.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: