By Kyle Starr

Good Sudoku and The Grid

August 01, 2020

Brendon Bigley, writing at his new site, Wavelengths:

After playing daily for about a week after its release, I’ve noticed Good Sudoku activating the same brain-space as roguelikes in the vein of Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac. These are games meant to be played hundreds of times, and for thousands of hours. After years of playing Spelunky I immediately go into auto-pilot when starting a new run because I’ve seen so many permutations of the level generation I can’t help but feel as though surprise is unlikely. But that comfort with such a hostile environment has come from thousands of runs. I’ve died in Spelunky more times than I can count, and each death brings with it a small lesson for survival in future attempts. At this point, my head is crammed so full of strategies and techniques and possibilities that I feel more equipped than ever to survive the next run. I mean I probably won’t… but it’s nice to feel confident sometimes!!

I haven’t played Good Sudoku, nor Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac, but I know enough about vanilla sudoku and these roguelikes to understand that Bigley’s observation is striking. I’m having of those, “How didn’t I see this before?” moments.

To the uninitiated or uninterested, sudoku puzzles all look the same — a 9x9 grid with numbers sprinkled about. How many variations could there be? How is sudoku not a solved game? But the number of variations of sudoku puzzles is staggering — far more than any human could experience in their lifetime. Nigh-endless possibilities within a consistent environment. And what is the procedurally generated experience of a roguelike if not nigh-endless possibilities within a consistent environment?

Thanks to Bigley, it’s now hard to think of roguelikes and procedural generation as something made possible with today’s technology, but something conceived from a 9x9 grid.