I essentially finished Brain Buster Puzzle Pak some time towards the end of the summer. I’d finished all the built-in levels for the puzzles that I cared about; it has a random puzzle generator, though, which I wanted to explore more. But I never got around to doing that, and then I looked for it last week, and couldn’t find it! Annoying because, if those random puzzles are good (which they were in my brief experience), it’s actually a perfect game for having available at odd moments. Not sure if I like it enough to buy another copy, but I’m considering it. (If I can even find another copy; Amazon for one doesn’t carry the game.)

Enough blathering: I suppose I should tell you what the game is. As you might suspect from the title, it’s a collection of puzzle games. (Of the pen-and-pencil variety as opposed to, say, the falling blocks variety.) It has five types of puzzles in it: Sudoku, Kakuro, Nurikabe, Light On, and Slitherlink.

The sudoku interface is crap, at least compared to the interface in Brain Age. (Or, for that matter, the interface in a random physical book of sudoku puzzles.) And I don’t particularly like kakuro. So I gave up on those puzzles ten or twenty into them, and only made it that far because the initial puzzles were so mindnumbingly easy.

The other puzzle variants, however, were much better. I’d seen nurikabe and slitherlink before; they’re both pleasantly geometric (or perhaps topological would be a more appropriate adjective?), and have a completely different feel to me than most other puzzle types that I’m aware of. (Masyu is another example of that; a pity there aren’t any examples here.) Nurikabe is actually the reason why I’m currently subscribed to Games magazine: before a trip a few years ago, I picked up a copy to go through on the plane, and they had some really fun nurikabe puzzles. Of course, not all puzzle makers are of equal quality, but the ones in Games magazine and the ones in this game are both by Nikoli, and they definitely know their stuff.

So: good puzzles. The DS screen is only so large, and they decided to avoid scrolling, which meant that there weren’t any enormous nurikabe puzzles that take an hour to solve. I can live with that. The slitherlink puzzles were actually done on a grid that was a bit too small, so it occasionally read me as trying to draw a line somewhere other than where I intended; annoying, but I could deal. I’d never seen light up before; it’s a pleasant genre, though all the puzzles that were included were basically trivial, which makes me suspect that it’s impossible to make difficult light up puzzles unless you’re working on a larger grid.

And, in my brief experience, the randomly generated light up puzzles were good, too. I didn’t get around to trying the randomly generated nurikabe or slitherlink puzzles before I lost my copy of the game, unfortunately.

I recommend the game, and Liesl enjoyed it as well. Having said that, if you’re only going to get one DS puzzle game, then Picross is the one you want: Liesl is sitting to my left playing it right now, and it is insanely addictive. But this is good, too; writing this review, I want more of those puzzles to work through! Hmm, I was thinking of doing an order from Amazon Japan soon; I should throw in some of Nikoli’s puzzle books…

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