Another mind game?

Posted on May 8, 2008 at 5:56 am by Ian Brown

The Nintendo DS is very well known for it's abundance of puzzle games, and the majority of them are so good it's hard to choose which one to purchase. With existing franchises such as Tetris and Picross already on the well-established market, it's possible that Neves is in a hard selling position.

Neves, which is seven spelled backwards for those who enjoy semordnilaps, is based on the popular Japanese Lucky Puzzle game, which is very similar to the Chinese tangram games. A tangram is a game that dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279CE); the basic premise of the game is to use seven different shapes to make up a pre-determined shape without any overlap. As with all good puzzle games, the premise is simple but mastering the game is an accomplishment and Neves is no different.

Neves starts with a brief tutorial on how to play the game; while the tutorial is brief, it's long enough for players to grasp the concept of the title without overloading them with information. All gameplay is controlled via the Nintendo DS's unique touch screen to move the shapes, or "tans." All that's needed is for the tan to be selected and then for the tan to be dragged across to the right place. The accuracy of the touch screen is brilliant and at all times the player will know exactly where the tan is about to go.

However, Neves isn't as easy as that. The tans must also be flipped, twisted and turned so that they are in the right position for the other tans to fit. It's a simple premise that gets progressively harder as the pictures become progressively more complicated the more puzzles the player completes. With the more complex pictures, the tans will become more varied and start to differ in size for the same shaped tan as well.

At first it takes a few seconds to get through the pictures. Then the player will start to move onto some of the more complicated pictures, and at first it will seem like nothing has changed. Then, suddenly, there will be one tan left that will just not fit anywhere and there's still loads of space left on the main picture. This frustrating and taxing game will often require the player to re-think their strategy whilst completing the pictures. Of course, the other option is turning the DS off and going back to it a few minutes later.

With such a simple premise, it could be expected for the game to be rather short. Fortunately, this is not the case at all. The main bulk of the game takes place in Silhouettes, which has over five hundred different puzzles to keep the player occupied. Once these five hundred have been done, there are further options, such as 7 Steps - which requires the player to complete the shape in, yes, 7 Steps. There's then Time Pressure, which requires the player to complete the shape in a set time limit and then there's the Versus mode.

Versus mode does not have online capabilities unfortunately; although it allows for players to play, with one cartridge, against each other. This will allow more casual gamers to enjoy the title with others as much as those who love to own hundreds of different games.

In Neves the graphics aren't really anything special; however, there's little that the developers are able to do with such a simplistic game in the first place. As with many other puzzle games such as Tetris, there's literally only so much that can be done with shapes. But for what the game is, the graphics are bright and easily visible.

One area where Neves may fall a little is with the audio. Although the music isn't bad, it's certainly subjective. It will lull the player into a very relaxed mood; however, it's certainly very close to lift music or amateur jazz. Luckily, the sound isn't a requirement on this title, so for some the volume will just be turned off. The genre of the music aside, the music isn't "tinny" and is of a decent quality.

Final Verdict - 8/10

In a platform where there are hundreds of puzzle games, Neves manages to stand out with a spot on price and is just enjoyable and addictive. With hundreds of different shapes to play with, this is anything but a short game and will certainly keep people playing for a long while to come.