Neves is based upon the one thousand year old Tangram dissection puzzle. If the name seems odd then fear not, it is ‘seven’ in reverse. Each level presents you with a predetermined silhouette and the player must position seven shapes together to match the silhouette. Silhouettes vary from an athlete to a rocket and there are hundreds of configurations to wade through.
The basic premise is one that should do well on the DS and could make for a great travel game. My expectation was this would hinge on the success of the touch control implementation. Shapes can be moved around, flipped by double tapping, and rotated using corner points that appear on the selected shape. Even during the intricate rotations the results are very impressive and pretty much straight away you will be comfortable re-organising the shapes at speed. We were off to a good start.
However, it wasn’t long before a number of issues became apparent. With each level you are given the same seven shapes EVERY TIME, which makes it feel like you’re playing the same minute long level over and over. I’m a believer that simplicity is often an important trait in video games – Tetris epitomises this – but here the simplicity is a disaster as the only variety on offer is the silhouette you are trying to recreate. That is all the level to level variation you will see and it and adds nothing more than a passing surprise at how many levels can be constructed using the same seven shapes, which you will tire of and start to hate. With any game there needs to be the sense of achievement but here the puzzles are purely guess work and trial and error. This is clearly a game that would have been fun one thousand years ago, less so today.
Graphically Neves is the opposite of colourful. The most common colour is beige, brown or a combination of both. This presentation style is clearly aimed at the grown up market and no attempt is made to appeal to kids. The shapes have a variety of colour schemes, which is nice, but all levels are played out on the same brown background. At the very least give us something colourful or scenic to look at – it’s as inspiring as going through the monthly bills.
Despite this negativity there is an option of challenging a friend via multiplayer using a single copy of the game. You both get presented with the same level, and once you complete this you move on to the next. In theory this should be the most entertaining mode of play as it introduces a much needed second dimension to the gameplay, but disappointingly the implementation doesn’t make the most of the opportunity. After completing the level your opponent stays on the previous one and can quickly be left behind. It would have been much better to move both people on to the next level, ramping up the pressure to complete each level faster than your opponent, or at least offering this as an alternative. The multiplayer mode is a very welcome addition but falls short of its potential.
The grown up theme is continued with the entirely jazz soundtrack. Jazz can be good, but this has to be the most horrendously monotonous, dreary and annoying jazz compilation ever assembled. Neves is crying out for that magical soundtrack that can make even the most boring of games fun, but what we have is one of the worst soundtracks in history. If the US military are looking to raise the bar in audio torture they should look no further than picking up a copy of Neves, retailing at £19.99. For everyone else even half this much is a bit steep.
The back of the box proclaims “A puzzling experience for a relaxing life”, but this is anything but relaxing, and I wouldn’t recommend giving this to an elderly relative. I am a patient guy but the extreme repetitiveness will annoy even the most enthusiastic puzzle fans. What should have been an addictive quest becomes tedium personified and one I can only recommend this if you plan on solving a couple of puzzles in a sitting. If you were stuck on a desert island with this as your only game, you would be tempted to take your chances with the sharks.