In Defense of Sudoku

Escape room players hate Sudoku.

In a community that can debate the merits of anything, there seems to consensus around the idea that Sudoku and escape rooms don’t generally mix.

The Problems with Sudoku

We’ve knocked quite a few games over the years for including Sudoku… and occasionally given praise for a novel take on the puzzle type, or having one that at least kind of fit into the story.

That’s the problem that most seem to have with Sudoku: it almost never works narratively. Even if you squint, accept it as a metaphor, and really believe that it belongs… it just doesn’t.

Meme of a Firefighter going to save a person who tells him to do a sudoku first. He is seen outside of the burned house saying "She was already dead when he found her."
Via Room Escape Problems – I think that this is some of Bill’s finest work

Setting story aside, I think that problem of Sudoku in escape rooms is deeper than narrative nuance. I can enjoy puzzle-focused, no-narrative escape rooms. I think that they can be done well, although I suspect that in most places their market is going to be more niche.

Even in a puzzle-focused, story-free escape room, I think that Sudoku is generally lame for 3 reasons:

  • Sudoku is best solved by one person. It’s a solo, quiet, sit-down-at-the-desk-and-shut-out-your-team type of puzzle. This does not work well in an escape room.
  • This puzzle type requires outside knowledge to solve, even if it’s commonly known.
  • The world is filled with free or inexpensive Sudoku that are far more interesting than anything that will show up in an escape room.

I know that last point because… and please don’t tell anyone this… I like solving Sudoku.

In Defense of Sudoku

Sudoku has tons more depth than most are aware. There are countless additional rules that can be applied to transform this basic concept into something far more compelling.

The Miracle?

Probably the best-known illustration of this is “The Miracle Sudoku” video that has been circulating the internet for a few weeks. Brace yourself because you’re about to spend 25 minutes joyously watching an expert solver go from thinking that he’s being trolled to solving a puzzle so elegant that it defies logic:

Zelda Sudoku?

In a similar vein, The Legend of Zelda Sudoku Hunt assembled 6 different puzzles into one interlocking experience inspired by The Ocarina of Time. Each of the grids represented a temple, and the mechanics were especially cool (specifically the Shadow Temple):

Personal Thoughts

I have solved 1,127 Sudoku on my phone app alone since getting this device in the spring of 2016 (such an innocent time). I’m by no means an expert, but I can hold my own… at least on a computer. My skill abilities drop when I have to solve on paper.

David's Sudoku app stats shows 1127 solved. Most on Medium or Difficult setting.

I did most of that Sudoku solving on the subway or when I couldn’t sleep. I love that there’s always a puzzle to solve and I can feel my skill, knowledge, and awareness grow with practice. It has reached a point where I literally use Sudoku to gauge how alert I am. For detail-driven work, if my Sudoku solving isn’t on point, nothing else that I do will be either.

This puzzle type gets a lot of negativity thrown at it within the escape room community and in the context of escape rooms. While that is generally well earned, I wouldn’t discount the whole puzzle type. It has a surprising amount of depth.

If I ever have a dog – which my allergies won’t allow – I would name that hypothetical doggo “Sudoku.”

Ask Gratuitous Sets your burning scenic questions!

We’re fans of Gratuitous Sets and we want your help building a list of questions to ask them!

As we start the summer of RECON, we’re excited to be putting together our first video collaboration.

Gratuitous Sets logo

Their set design and tech videos are a fantastic resource for the escape room and immersive experience community. I find them informative, amusing, and honest.

Submitting your Question

We’re making this super easy by providing 3 simple options for you:

  • Write your question in the comments on this post.
  • Drop it in our Facebook post.
  • Reply to our Tweet.

You’ll get your question in the queue through whichever option floats your boat.

How’s This Q&A Gonna Work?

David and Lisa will read the questions and Gratuitous Sets will answer them… and it will all go up on their YouTube page which you should be subscribed to.

We will, of course, share the piece as well.

Virtually Tour: Chernobyl’s Ruins

Chernobyl disturbs me like few things do. The mixture of hubris, human error, and authoritarian stupidity that led to that disaster has long been a source of fascination for me.

A massive, rusted radiation sign mounted outside of a ruined building in Chernobyl.

While the Paris Catacombs might be the living embodiment of macabre, I don’t find them disturbing. Maybe it’s the age… maybe it’s the fact that it was deliberately created… or maybe it’s that the Paris Catacombs are so over the top that they feel less real.

On the other hand, Chernobyl was recent, accidental, and haphazard… all of which is on frightening display. There’s nothing graphically disturbing here, but viewing these ruins hit me in a way that few things do.

These videos are captured in 360-degree VR. While they are playing, you can look around within them.

Via Dread Central

Thank you to Mark from Walnut Creek, CA for sharing this virtual tour.