At first glance, KuGon looks like an interesting number puzzle game–kind of like a free-form Sudoku. Appearances can be deceiving. Sudoku requires serious mental agility and problem-solving skills, but KuGon relies more on basic arithmetic, making it the Checkers to Sudoku’s Chess. If you have a real mania for addition and subtraction, you may have fun with KuGon, but most puzzle gamers will find it a chore.
Like Sudoku, KuGon’s all about putting the right numbers in the right places, but KuGon’s not set up in the usual 9×9 grid. Instead, you have to fill in clusters of shapes called KuGons (we imagine this is an abbreviation of “Sudoku Polygon”), which are themselves linked together in various patterns to form complete puzzles.
A single KuGon consists of an octagonal center section, surrounded by four squares. The numbers in these squares, ranging from 1 to 9, must add up to the number in the center, and you can only use each digit once per KuGon. However, adjacent KuGons share their squares, and you are given a bunch of pre-filled squares to start; the game also tells you the sums of certain clusters of hexagons, to help you deduce the contents of blank hexes. These hints allow you to gradually fill in an entire puzzle from its edges, earning the information necessary to continue along the way. If you prefer, you can also use two different kinds of powerups: one reveals all the numbers on the board for a limited time, and the other simply fills in the box you point to.
This process is very repetitive and not especially fun. Basically, the way to work through KuGon is to add three numbers together and subtract from a fourth to get the fifth; lather, rinse, repeat about a thousand times. The puzzles do get harder as you go along, as you get less free info to start out with, and you have to do some guess-and-check to come up with the right answers (or simply use your powerups to bully your way through). However, you will still be adding and subtracting one- and two-digit numbers, in volumes approaching a semester of first-grade mathematics class. For most players, this is going to be work, not pleasure.
The number puzzles are set in the larger context of a trivia game. First, KuGon asks you a trivia question. Then, you solve six full puzzles to slowly reveal the answer in pictorial form, whether you already know the answer or not. Finally, you answer the question in a multiple-choice format, which unlocks the picture and saves it to your photo roll for use as a wallpaper. The game comes with 15 different pictures, all of which are pretty nifty–but not nifty enough to force yourself through that amount of drudgery.
KuGon clearly isn’t all bad. Its graphics are clean and functional, its interface is thoughtfully laid out, it rewards the player with tangible goods, and it’s inexpensive. Unfortunately, the central gameplay is ill-conceived, and the trivia game attached to it is basically an afterthought. Those who are really into number games might want to give the demo version a spin, but everyone else will probably want to stick to Sudoku.