Neves DS Review - 03/04/2008

Every successful game that is not part of a long running franchise is one that appeals to the casual gamer on the DS. Brain Training was the first, and ever since, developers have focused on attracting this type of gamer. Neves falls into this category, as a puzzle game that anyone can play. Is it worth booting your DS up for, or is it too casual for the average gamer?

The premise of Neves is easy to understand, but as with most puzzle games, insanely hard to master. This is a silhouette shadow puzzle game, or so the instruction manual says, and the object of the game is to match all 7 pieces to the silhouette design. In practice this means that the game gives you a large shape to make, and 7 smaller shapes to make it with, each shape supposedly looking like an everyday object or letter. This is the basis for the entire game, which is split into 4 ways to play starting with basic Silhouette mode. This allows you to play any of the 542 puzzles included on the cartridge (yes, 542!) at your own pace where you succeed by simply completing the puzzle.

This basic style of play develops into Time Pressure, and 7 Steps, the first being self explanatory, and the second failing you if you make a mistake with one of the pieces. The problem with both of these modes is that you won't ever get round to them, considering how many puzzles there are in the game. On top of that, 7 Steps is just not fun at all, forcing you to restart if you make a mistake at any point in the puzzle. This can make some of the harder puzzles (harder being used here instead of impossible), even more annoying, and mild screaming may begin to ensue. On the other hand, a 2-player mode is included, one that doesn’t require a second copy of the game. Bragging Rights, as it is known in Neves, gives each player a series of 3 puzzles to complete, with the first person to complete all three of them winning the eventual right to brag about their victory. This makes the game much more competitive, and surprisingly exciting. If you know someone else who owns a DS and enjoys puzzle games, then this can be the best way to play the game, even if you can’t choose which puzzle to tackle like the other modes.

It's a very simple concept, but is performed in Neves particularly effectively.

If Neves is to be credited for one thing, and one thing only, it should be that it is the best possible way to play a shadow puzzle game. The controls are so effective that you won’t want to bother playing with real life pieces anymore. Using the touch screen is a perfect way of manipulating the 7 pieces of this never-ending puzzle, with three simple controls to deal with. Moving is achieved by touching and sliding a piece across the screen, while moving one of the circles on the side of a selected piece rotates it. To complete certain puzzles, the piece must be flipped over, done by double tapping a shape. These three controls become second nature after a few minutes, and from then on, you’ll be moving pieces around faster than you can think about moving them. The simplistic nature of these controls helps gear the game to the target audience, while also putting the focus on the puzzle itself. The controls have been flawlessly executed, rectifying something that had become a problem with DS games in general.

There are 542 silhouettes on offer here; a number that feels like the amount of possible pictures that can physically be made from these 7 shapes. The randomness of the shapes is apparent throughout the game, becoming even more prevalent through the addition of The Room, a place where all of your records are stored. This amount of content is truly staggering, and even without playing the multiplayer or harder difficulty modes, you are looking at a close to 30 hours of puzzles here. This may seem like an astronomical amount of time, but about half of that might end up being spent on a single puzzle. This may be a slight overestimation, but I personally spent a whole hour trying to fit the pieces of a single silhouette together. This is the sort of puzzle game where there isn’t a difficulty curve as such, more of just pot luck as to if you see the silhouette in the way the developers intended it to be seen. It is vital to see different shapes that reappear in many levels and use this knowledge to fill in the rest of the gaps. But even so, there isn’t really a set approach you should take to completing each stage; you have to interpret each one as you go. This isn’t helped by the lack of a feeling of progress as you play the game. You don’t have a series of puzzles to complete; you have to pick each stage out from a huge list. This makes the game lose any sense of progression that having smaller levels would have given, something that makes the whole experience feel repetitive in long play sessions. Even so, this is the sort of game that is not designed to be played for hours on end, and playing through a few stages a day can get rid of this repetitive tendency.

There's a wide range of shapes, and tons of puzzles – plenty to keep you amused if it's your sort of game.

Even though there is a lot good about Neves, one aspect of the game can make it a traumatic experience. The music is some of the worst that I have ever heard in a videogame, and while turning the volume down can rectify this, the result of these disgusting compositions is everlasting. Obviously trying to appeal to the casual, older market, this jazzy nightmare is so bad, that it can be physically painful to listen to. If you are looking for a way to destroy a DS, try listening to the score for more than 5 minutes, by which time, you will have been driven into a state of insanity by the 4 tunes that are repeated over and over and over again. On the visual front, Neves does the job. It doesn’t push the DS whatsoever, but in comparison to the music, is better than could be expected. There really wasn’t anything that developers Ignition could have done to make this silhouette shadow puzzle game look better, opting to go down the minimalist route of simple colours instead.

Neves is not a revolutionary game by any stretch of the imagination, but it achieves what it sets out to do brilliantly. This is the best way to play a shadow silhouette game, and people looking for this should get Neves right away. There is so much content here, that you’d be hard pressed to find time to complete everything that is included, something that lends itself to handheld-play excellently. On the other hand, there are far too many things that are not in the game's favour to recommend this to a new shadow silhouette player. The game can be fun for 10 minutes, but after that, you may find the repetitive nature of the experience too much. Add to that the abysmal music, and simple graphics, and choosing this game over a game like Brain Training becomes a silly decision. Neves does what it says on the tin, but not much else that it can be credited for.

- Sam Atkins



Ignition Ent.