Review: Akari by Nikoli (3DS eShop)

Spark in the dark

Hamster is now at the halfway point of chopping up upcoming retail release Sudoku + 7 other Complex Puzzles by Nikoli and selling each puzzle type individually through the eShop. With Sudoku and Kakuro out of the way, the far more interesting chunks have started to hit as evidenced by last month's Slitherlink and now Akari.

Breaking out of the realm of pen-and-paper puzzles, Akari asks players to strategically place lights to illuminate every empty square on the board while following a few simple rules: black squares act as barriers that stop light in its tracks; numbered squares tell how many individual lights must be placed directly next to it; and lights can't be illuminated by other lights — much like how in Sudoku two of the same number cannot go on the same line. As long as these rules are obeyed, lights can be placed anywhere.

Akari is probably the easiest Nikoli puzzle type so far for the visually minded, and its use of light as a mechanic makes it a far better fit for the medium than the prior titles' paper puzzles. While Nikoli's hand-made puzzles have so far always steered players in logical directions toward finding solutions, the guided hand is far more evident in Akari, and watching puzzles unfold can be a delight so long as you are able to keep up.

And just like all the other ones so far, Akari includes a local multiplayer "race" for its 50 puzzles ranging from Easy to Hard that unlock as you go, although the difficulty curve ramps up in a considerably more even fashion to allow a greater feeling of progress, or to perhaps allow progress. A hint system would be welcome for the absolute stumpers, but at this point we don't expect to see one in any of these eShop releases.


Akari by Nikoli shines the brightest of Hamster's eShop puzzlers so far. However faint that praise may seem, watching these 50 puzzles unfold can be an illuminating experience once you wrap your mind around how they work.

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