This past summer, sudoku-holics were blessed with Hudson's Sudoku Student and Sudoku Master, which brought hand-crafted puzzles straight from Nikoli to the DSi Shop. However, where Student was for beginners and Master had a little bit of something for everyone, Sensei brings the pain with 100 of Nikoli's hardest puzzles to tantalize your already number-numbed brains.
Like Sudoku Student, Sudoku Sensei is a scaled-down version of Sudoku Master featuring only one difficulty level: Hard. As you start the game, you'll be greeted again by the pink-haired "Godfather of Sudoku," Maki Kaji, who is back again to walk you through the basics of sudoku.
The main mode of the game is Puzzle Mode, where you're presented with the 100 available "Super-Hard" puzzles to play at your leisure — start with number 1 or 100 if you like; all are available from the get-go. Sensei features the exact same gameplay as its predecessors. Using your stylus, simply tap any open cell you like and either enter a "temp number" by tapping one of the little squares in the 4x4 grid in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and then choosing a number to input. When you're ready to enter in a solution, tap the open square to the left of the little grid and then input whichever number you like. If the number you chose is in conflict with another number in the same line or 3x3 subsection on the main playing grid, the existing number will briefly flash to call your attention to it so that you can correct your mistake with the "erase" button located just below the number input panel. At any time, you may shuffle back and forth through all the moves you have made so far with the green left and right arrow buttons. The little book icon allows you to review how the game controls work (in case you've somehow forgotten), and the little wrench is your Options menu, where you can switch your music, which hand you write with, and other basic options. You may also start the grid over entirely if you like, or quit without saving. If you don't want to lose your progress on this particular puzzle, press B or tap the "Back" button and then tap the big red "Save" button on the main playing screen.
Be warned: When Hudson said "Super-Hard Puzzles," they were absolutely not kidding. Intermediate-level players will have problems getting through these puzzles. Of course, there's plenty of them to choose from, and some may be easier than others, but the only way to find out is to try them all one by one. If you mastered Sudoku Student in an hour or you just got through Sudoku Master's Normal difficulty and think you're just the bee's knees, Sudoku Sensei will quickly put you in your place. This game is not for the faint of heart (or brainmeats).
You may only have one puzzle saved at a time, so if you'd like to move on and try a different one for a while, make sure you write down whatever temp numbers and solutions you'd already come up with someplace so that you don't lose your progress. They're each individually numbered, so if there's one you particularly enjoyed you can replay it or hand it off to a friend with ease. The game will highlight completed puzzles for you in case you've forgotten which ones you've defeated already and it will also record your best time for each one.
In the Options menu, you may choose between the same four endlessly-looping tracks featured in the other games, or you can turn it off entirely if you're in the mood for silence as you concentrate. "Entry Mode" allows you to choose between tapping the numbers you wish to input and writing them by hand instead. You may switch between Right-handed or Left-handed play and you may also toggle guidelines.
Featuring the exact same music, graphics, and gameplay as its predecessors, the only difference here is the difficulty level of the puzzles involved. Thankfully, Hudson didn't bother trying to fix what wasn't broken - the music and graphics were simple and inoffensive to begin with, and hardened sudoku connoisseurs will be able to look past their pink-haired host and focus solely on the hand-crafted puzzles before them. The only possible problem is the music which, while generic, may become annoying during extended play. Again, it can always be shut off on-the-fly via the Options menu.
Sudoku Master and Sudoku Student were both praised for their simple controls and ease of play, and well-seasoned sudoku fans will be pleased to know that Sudoku Sensei is more of the same. If you truly enjoy challenging sudoku puzzles and thought Sudoku Master's "Hard" difficulty was a breeze, Sudoku Sensei is the game for you, but mere beginners and intermediate-level players will want to steer clear.