Sumico Review

Grade three math homework: the video game

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a 3DS on

ESRB Everyone rating

If you've ever wanted to take simple math equations to the next level then here's a game for you. Sumico combines math with path-drawing puzzle mechanics to make one intriguing game. But, does it add up to warrant your undivided attention?

Sumico screenshot 1
Who said one was the loneliest number?

Sumico is played by drawing a path through tiles via the touch screen in order to create equations that result in a desired number. These tiles populate the playfield and correspond to different numbers and operators. As you link tiles, the only way you can know what number will result is if you do the mental math yourself. It sounds simple enough, but things can get rather frustrating. First off, instead of guiding you intuitively by not allowing you to draw illegal lines (for example, directly from a number to another number), there is a colour system. When your chain of tiles can be executed, it will be highlighted in green. Yellow means that you're on an operator and red notifies you that you've made an erroneous link at some point. Although you can figure everything out yourself, it would definitely be a lot more playable if these mechanics were more automated and intuitive.

The visuals in Sumico are utilitarian at best. Every puzzle looks the exact same with no variation whatsoever. There are no themes or background images in any form. When you execute a move, you're forced to wait for your score to be counted and for tiles to fall into place which takes way longer than it should. Anybody would want to keep playing, so being forced to wait is frustrating. When making a chain of tiles, you'll have to memorize the order of your chain to work out the resulting equation because there is no indication of where you started. All of these issues seem easily fixable which ends up making the game feel half-baked. You'll hear an ambient song as you play that sounds like it's straight from a yoga compilation. It'll get on your nerves since it both highlights the monotonous premise and contrasts with the frustrating nature of the gameplay. Overall, Sumico's sights and sounds will surely disappoint.

Sumico screenshot 2
This stage only has three columns? Why, that's awfully tricky!

Sumico's main problem is that there are too many gameplay mechanics that contradict themselves and end up making the game more about luck than skill. The most contradictory event occurs when you chain many tiles together since you'll be rewarded with more points but then you're left with fewer tiles. As a result, your next move may become very difficult if not impossible. Another irritating event is when the operator and number tiles cluster around their own kind. This severely limits the possibilities of your next move for no understandable reason. Why am I punished for making large chains? Why don't the tiles fall into logical places? The gameplay itself quickly becomes monotonous and excruciatingly boring and if that's not enough to solidify your opinion of Sumico, you'll definitely make up your mind when you have to deal with these frustrating events over and over again.

There are two ways to play Sumico. Campaign mode will have you complete stages as you try to get high scores and are rewarded with up to three stars for doing so. The difficulty gradually ramps up and it'll take you quite a while to finish every stage. That being said, you'll probably put the game down out of boredom or frustration well before you reach the end. In endless mode, you'll try to get a high score before you can't make any more moves (which will end the game). It's a much more satisfying experience than the campaign but it still relies too much on luck to be fun. Sumico features many options such as toggling the various operators and deciding if the mathematical order of operations should be adhered to or not. It's nice to have these options but any adult who plays this game should hopefully not have to disable anything. Therefore, these options are probably targeted towards children.

Sumico screenshot 3
This is about as good as Sumico gets...

Although you may be intrigued by a mathematics-based puzzler, you should definitely consider what Sumico has in store before you purchase it. After you put it down, the only math problem that you'll be thinking about is how much your frustration and boredom levels have multiplied and how that relates to the minutes that have been subtracted from your life.

  • + Unique concept is intriguing at first
  • - Success requires more luck than skill due to multiple limitations and contradictions
  • - Monotonous gameplay with no lasting appeal
  • - Visuals and music severely lack variety
2.5 out of 10
Official trailer for Sumico 1:04

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