It's the simple games that are most admirable these days. Those minimalist gaming mechanics that seem so obvious when you see them in action that you can't believe no one's done them before.

If nothing else, it's this unleashing of brilliant design ideas that the smartphone revolution has brought to the video game world.

Just because those ideas are simple doesn't mean they're easy to realise, of course. NodeOut: ARENA is one unfortunate instance where a simple puzzle game disappears into a mish-mash of bewildering and disparate ideas.

A quick note

The game board is made up of a haphazard web of nodes, connected via lines that make up (mostly scalene) triangles. Your blue dot travels along these lines and stops at the next node, turning the interconnecting line blue as it moves.

Its movement is deliberately slow, but increases as you collect up musical notes that are dotted around the web. These notes are then blended into the game's soundtrack to build up a procedurally generated tune in the background.

This is one of NodeOut: ARENA's first points of confusion. Although it's a simple concept that you must collect a certain number of notes before you can enter the portal and finish the level, the purpose behind building a background tune is unfathomable.

Perhaps that's because there is no purpose behind it other than delivering a tuneful melody, yet the game intimates there's more to the musical notes than this. After all, why have notes at all, if they have no impact on the gameplay?

A good question, to which we've fathomed no real answer.

Call me snake

You're not just collecting notes, though. Eventually rival dots will appear and also start snaking their way around the web. To defeat a rival you need to trap it inside a triangle that you've drawn between nodes.

This is frustratingly difficult, since the triangles tend to be very small, and no one ever stops moving, so at best you chase them along a couple of sides before one (or both) of you heads off in a different direction.

Should you manage to build the beginnings of a trapping triangle, your rival can fight back by activating a 'cobra' (eh?). If they activate a cobra before your triangle is complete, they win instead of you. Hmm.

If the tables are turned, and it's you that's being trapped, activating a cobra of your own is achieved simply by holding a finger on the screen. Then it's down to whoever completes this strange task first.

Further randomising matters are different levels to the game board. It's not really clear where these levels are, but the game suggests they're above or below the web you're currently on.

However, you can apparently still trap other dots within triangles from different levels, even if you can't see where they are, or move between the levels.

So there you have it. Despite multiple attempts at the tutorial, the actual mechanics and objectives of NodeOut: ARENA manage to evade us.

There's a strong feeling, which is hard to shake, that there's a great, minimalist puzzle game somewhere inside, but try as we might, we just can't find it.