I'm not very good at spatial puzzles. Taking a set of random geometric shapes and rearranging them to make, say, a three-dimensional chicken has never been my forte. My solution to the Rubik's Cube was to peel off all the coloured squares and rearrange them accordingly, which I felt displayed an equally valid brand of genius. Um, no, I'm not sure why the PG team chose me to review this game either.
NEVES is a spatial puzzle game with one crucial difference, though – I can do it. It's one of those wonderful games that makes you feel far more clever than you actually are. Something that can be attributed to an incredibly simple core concept and a set of tools and rules that remain pretty much unchanged throughout the game.
Each puzzle here presents you with a crude outline of an everyday object – an airplane or a microscope, for example – each of which is made up of the same seven building blocks (a couple of quadrilaterals, a pair of triangles and a pentagon). You are provided with these same blocks at the start of each puzzle, and are tasked with overlaying them correctly on the outline. This is achieved by flipping, rotating and dragging the pieces into place with the stylus.
It's all very intuitive, and you'll soon be slotting pieces into place without a moment's pause. Indeed, you'll soon get into a rhythm of play which is very hard to stop. Because of the simple nature of the puzzles you won't get stuck on any one for more than a couple of minutes, so you can blast through a dozen or so of them in ten minutes or less.
Unfortunately this simplicity and accessibility is also NEVES' biggest problem. With the same seven shapes for every picture, each becomes a variation on a theme. As such, the learning curve flattens out almost immediately, and my interest tailed off a little sooner than it should have.
While the purity of the design is appreciated, a few variations or additions to the central premise would have worked wonders for the game's longevity.
Instead, what we have in terms of variation is two additional modes outside of the main Silhouettes feature. Time Pressure is pretty self explanatory, presenting you with the same puzzles but giving you a three-minute time limit in which to complete each one. While there's nothing wrong with the idea, three minutes is a little generous for the majority of the puzzles. 7 Steps is a little more demanding, tasking you with completing each puzzle flawlessly and thus removing the trial and error nature of the other modes.
This adds a whole new degree of tension and thoughtfulness to proceedings, requiring planning and a proper grasp of how each shape works together with the others to make further shapes within each composition. It can also become a simple memory test from your time spent in Silhouettes mode, but it's a worthwhile addition nonetheless.
With Bragging Rights offering DS download play against a human opponent without the need for a second copy of the game, you can't really complain about the multiplayer side of things.
The presentation is crisp and clear, and Yuke's has clearly been paying close attention to the Nintendo school of concise design. It's all backed with some pretty forgettable jazzy muzak, but this is the sort of game that lends itself to turning the volume right down and adding your own soothing background music for a near Zen-like experience.
Slightly harder to overlook are the control issues you experience. The corner bubbles (used to rotate each shape) can often be pressed accidentally when trying to touch the centre of the shape (in order to move it into position) due to their close proximity. While they work very well for the most part, the controls are not quite the silky smooth experience they could and should have been.
Nevertheless, it would be churlish to be overly critical of NEVES when it supplies such a fresh and instinctively fun puzzle experience. At full price you could be less forgiving of the flat-lining learning curve and the lack of any real variation, but with a SRP of £20 it starts to look like far better value. NEVES represents the kind of simple, all-inclusive fun that has become almost unique to the Nintendo DS. If it takes the concept a little further, we could see the potential sequel shaping up to be very good indeed.