We may not have received an Xbox Windows Phone release last week, but thankfully the drought did not continue this week. What’s more, the latest release is either both good news and bad news, or just plain good news, depending on how you look at it. The very good news: console and arcade giant Capcom is now making Windows Phone games. The kinda-sorta bad news: it’s a somewhat expensive puzzle game. Still, fans of brain puzzles will absolutely eat up KenKen (akso known as KenKen Pro).
You could be forgiven for not recognizing the game of KenKen. It’s actually quite a popular puzzle in newspapers and such (regularly appearing in The New York Times), much like Sudoku and the word jumble. The Sudoku reference is apt in more ways than one. KenKen too comes from Japan, and even shares some of the rules of Sudoku. I’d call it a cross between Sudoku and the age-old sport/punishment of math.
KenKen puzzles consist of grids spanning 3 x 3 squares all the way up to 9 x 9, the standard Sudoku grid size. Like that popular game, the goal is to fill in all the squares on the grid with a number. A number cannot appear twice in the same row or column. But unlike Sudoku, all the squares start out blank. Groups of squares do have little math statements in them, though. For instance, all the numbers in a group may need to add up to 5 or be multiplied to reach 24.
It sounds complicated and takes a little while to learn, but the game includes both a detailed help text and a video starring a geeky guy named Will Shortz, the NY Times Columnist and NPR contributor. We’ve embedded said video in this post so you can get an idea of the gameplay. Honestly, after about four games the easy puzzles became second nature to me, and I can now make satisfying goes at the harder ones.
KenKen cost $4.99, which some people will deem an exorbitant price for a puzzle game free of bling, exploding zombies, or blinged-out exploding zombies. But there are multiple factors to consider beyond the appropriately simplistic presentation. First off, Capcom is one of those large Japanese publishers that balks at lowball mobile pricing trends and keeps their prices higher than average. We’ve seen the same thing before with Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy and CAVE’s Dodonpachi Maximum. And indeed, the iOS version of KenKen costs $4.99, so our version doesn’t suffer from an Achievement tax.
Now, I’ve only played the game for an hour or so and this isn’t review. But I think you can also make a good argument that KenKen represents a fair value from the sheer amount of content it contains. Each of the seven grid sizes contains multiple difficulties and both signed and unsigned (less detailed clues) puzzles. And those categories have tons of puzzles within. It will take numerous hours to finish this title without cheating, and people who like logic puzzles will have a blast getting there. People who value every mobile game at $1 or don’t like this style of game just won’t get it.
KenKen runs great on WP7 and WP8. Get it here on the Windows Phone Store (not available in Brazil or Korea).