KenKen: Train Your Brain Review

Brain training exercises tend to do well on the App Store, so a number puzzle like KenKen should fit perfectly. Yet, while its concept is fresh, and there is plenty of content, more experienced players won’t find a challenge due to small and easy puzzles.

Math is totally cool.

Anyone who has played the highly addicting Sudoku will feel right at home with KenKen. In Sudoku, you must align numbers in a square grid so that every collection of boxes, rows and columns all contain the specified numbers without repeating.

KenKen takes this simple concept and replaces the boxes with ‘cages’, or groups of one to four boxes. The numbers in each cage must equal a given number after one of the four common operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) is performed. At the same time, all of the other rules of Sudoku are still present. It can get quite challenging, and the game is sure to give you complete satisfaction upon completing a puzzle.

In the iPhone iteration of KenKen, you can choose from the vast collection of unlocked puzzles in free mode or take lessons from the floating head of creator Tetsuya Miyamoto in the academy. This boils down to completing three hand-picked puzzles to learn new skills, and then taking a final exam in order to unlock the next of five difficulty levels, as well as puzzles in free mode. Free mode includes 250 puzzles–50 for each difficulty. The lifelines feature, which you can use three times for any one puzzle, will help beginners get out of tight spots.

The game only contains puzzles sizes from 3×3 to 6×6, which is a big turn off for advanced players or those looking for a greater challenge. Even on the largest boards, most players will find themselves whipping through puzzles quickly. A 9×9 board would be a welcome challenge.

A 6×6 is nice, but let’s see a 9×9!

The note system, which allows you to track which numbers are possible for each box, was tedious to use due to it resetting every time you move from one cage to another. Advanced players who utilize this tactic will likely suffer from this bad integration.

Even though the game has its issues, its aesthetics are worth noting. The tables have a classic hand-drawn look to them, which can be changed through three different themes. Each theme comes equipped with its own music. As if this wasn’t enough, KenKen plays as good as it looks. It is easy to select your box and place numbers in.

While KenKen does things right as far as looks, feel and gameplay go, its low difficulty and mediocre notetaking system really narrows the target of this game to numbers puzzle junkies.

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