If we said Art Style: CODE was a game about adding up to ten, you probably wouldn't be very interested. If, however, we said Art Style: CODE was a mashup of Tetris, Lumines and Brain Training, you should be very interested.

Truth is Art Style: CODE is a game about adding up to ten that, in parts, reminds us of Tetris, Lumines and Brain Training.


What's even more significant is that it's one of the first download-only DSiWare games Nintendo's made available through the DSi Shop. Hopefully, it's a taster of what's to come, too, because it's an extremely polished, little piece of entertainment – especially considering it only costs 500 Nintendo Points (£4.50, $4 or €4).

The basic set-up is, as you hold your DSi like a book, the two screens are 'split' into six vertical columns and five horizontal rows, into which numbers move – from left to right. (The screenshot above only shows one half of the screen.)

As the numbers start to stack up, on the touchscreen, you can swap any two adjacent numbers, reflecting them either horizontally or vertically as you move your stylus in the respective directions.

Next comes the geometry bit. As you swap them, some numbers, such as 8 stay the same whichever direction they move, while other numbers transform into each other. For example, switch a 2 vertically and it becomes a 5 and vice versa. Equally, a lot of numbers become nonsense whatever you do to them (4 and 7). Finally, if you're really clever, 9 and 6 are equivalent, but only if you transform them once vertically and then once horizontally.

So all you have to do is move the numbers around, making lines that add up to ten. Touch the first and last numbers in the line and it will group together and disappear, allowing all the other numbers in the row to shift rightwards to fill the gap.

By now, you're probably confused.

Thankfully, like the best teachers, Art Style: CODE explains by doing, not lecturing. So as well as detailed instructions, and a demo, you start off the Challenge mode only dealing with the numbers 1 and 2.

Frankly, everyone should be able to add those up to ten, especially as you can turn 2s into 5s – 5 and 5 would do, as would 5, 2, 2 and 1, or five 2s in a row. You get the picture?

The other outcome of this approach is the game's complexity is unlocked slowly, because as you complete each stage, so you move from stage 12 (i.e. just involving 1s and 2s and their transforms), to stage 123, and then 1234, all the way to 123456789.

There are two other gameplay mechanics to get to grips with. Coloured numbers can't be moved, but when you combine them into a 10, all other numbers of that particular digit on the grid will disappear, effectively making the coloured numbers immovable smartbombs.

You can also create combos by manually linking numbers to those in a disappearing chain. The simplest example of this is three 5s in a two up, two across configuration. Touch on the vertical set of two 5s and then as they slowly fade, touch the remaining 5 to remove that one as well.

These techniques are used in different ways depending on the game mode. Challenge is about clearing a set amount of numbers to unlock the next level before the entire screen is filled up. You get a warning when this is going to happen as a red line starts to sweep across.

The Endless mode, meanwhile, works out a score in terms of your style in disposing numbers, with bigger chains scoring best.

This approach is encouraged in the Versus option, which you can play against another player equipped with either a DSi, DS Lite or original DS using the DS Download Play option. When you clear more than three numbers at a time they're sent onto your opponent's screen, while clearing a chain of six mixes up their numbers.

Finally, there's a neat Puzzle mode, which works well as a place to practise as it gets you thinking about the various patterns and combos moves you'll need to master in the other experiences.

The icing on Art Style: CODE's cake, however, is the audio. When you're on a roll, it's almost Lumines-esque in terms of how the rhythm of the notes you create as you swap and eliminate numbers, combines with the underlying electr-o-rchestral beat. Actually, it gets a bit ominous as the screen fills up, which adds to the overall atmosphere.

So, despite being an early example of the new type of DSiWare games we're looking forward to downloading from the DSi Shop, it could take a long time for anything to impress us as much as Art Style: CODE.

Think of it as Brain Training for people who actually like games.