Sudoku is far more addictive than it deserves to be, but when playing it there’s still that strong sensation of being back in a maths class - and school was never my idea of fun. The whole nine-by-nine puzzle theme feels a little too regimented to leave much room for enjoyment.

Then along comes KenKen, designed by a Japanese maths teacher and based upon the sudoku puzzle concept. Sounds just like my kind of game (yawn).

So I was rather astonished to find myself smiling along as I laid out the numbers in their rows, chewing on the end of an imaginary pencil and looking wide eyed, on occasion, at the ceiling for answers.

It never gave me any, but the mere fact that I asked it is a good indication that someone’s finally managed to make sudoku into enjoyable, light entertainment.

So, what’s the difference between boring sudoku and exciting KenKen, you might rightly wonder? I’ll try to explain, but please bear in mind that as the maths became more complex, the only way I could beat some of the game’s levels was by taking my socks off.

Rather than always having a nine-by-nine board, KenKen’s play area varies. It begins with a board of three-by-three squares, with no numbers in them to get things started - that’s no longer needed, you see.

Instead, the squares are separated up into small selections of one, two, three or more groups (called ‘cages’), with a number in the top left corner of each cage along with a mathematical symbol (plus, minus, divide and multiply).

Your task is to place a number in each box, with the sum of all the numbers in each cage adding up to the little number in the top left. To further twist your brain into submission, the sum must be achieved according to the mathematical symbol, so you might need to make the numbers in the cage tally up to four, by multiplying the individual numbers, or by dividing them.

For instance, making an outcome of four from a cage of three squares by multiplying them together could mean placing two 2s and a 1 inside the three squares. It sounds horribly complex in this description, but when it’s in front of you it really does make quick sense, even to a mathematically lobotomised truant like myself.

On top of all this, KenKen adopts sudoku’s strict rule that each row and column (and, in this case, each cage) can only have each number in it once. The available numbers correspond to the number of squares making up the game board, so on a level with a board of four-by-four squares, you have the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 to choose from in solving the puzzle.

Look, this is getting far too complicated to carry on. Let’s put it like this: if you like sudoku and are bored with it, or you enjoy a bit of light brain training, the occasional crossword or you have leather elbow patches on your tweed jacket, you’ll be quite smitten by KenKen.

For the rest of us, KenKen is sneakily addictive, though the latter stages will cause the kind of game-induced migraines that can really muck up a game of Kill Frenzy Mega Massacre 8 later on. You should still try it though.


Far less complex than it sounds, KenKen revamps sudoku and manages to add a dash of fun where the usual number games resort to extra difficulty. Clever in design and enough to challenge the puzzle fans, this is very much sudoku 2.0
Spanner Spencer
Spanner Spencer
Yes. Spanner's his real name, and he's already heard that joke you just thought of. Although Spanner's not very good, he's quite fast, and that seems to be enough to keep him in a regular supply of free games and away from the depressing world of real work.