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Neves

Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Yukes

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NDS Review - 'Neves'

by Keith Durocher on March 5, 2008 @ 4:52 a.m. PST

NEVES is a puzzle game that challenges players to think critically as they align pieces and build figures that correspond to a silhouette. Each puzzle features 7 wooden blocks, requiring the player to combine them to form specific figures ranging from simple items like a sword or key to more complicated ones such as birds or airplanes.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Yuke's
Developer: Hanayama Toys
Release Date: November 6, 2007

Seven is a powerful number. There are seven spots on a ladybug, seven planets in our solar system visible without the assistance of a telescope, and Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Japanese have their seven lucky gods, while Christian faiths state that God rested on the seventh day and thus we usually have Sunday off to engage in any of the seven virtues or seven deadly sins. Literature is rife with the influence of seven; Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, George Orwell, J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien have all shaped much of their works under the mystical auspices of the number. Musicians wallow in seven, even my own band is called Seventh Image, and while I'm inserting myself into this list, I might as well mention I have a heptagram tattoo as well. Yes, seven is a very potent number. What does all this rhetoric have to do with this review? The game I'm writing of today is entirely based on seven shapes and the near infinite ways one can manipulate them. Its name is seven backwards; Neves is seven kinds of awesome.

Produced by an Osaka-based development team known as Yuke's Future Media Creators, the design of Neves springs from a company with a great deal of history in this particular field. Hanayama Games was founded in 1933, and for all this time has been cooking up new brain-teaser metal puzzle toys. Not many companies can last that long, and it's a safe bet that their skill in this field must be refined to a razor's edge to keep the business afloat for 70 years. Now imagine their experience and logic acumen being brought to the NDS. That's what Neves is: two great tastes that taste great together.

The basic idea is that you're given an empty blocky shape that needs to be filled in. You have seven blocks of varying sizes that can be configured in an almost limitless number of ways, and you need to figure out how to configure these shapes to fit within the empty space that comprises the level. A single screenshot will probably illustrate what I'm trying to say here.

Neves is played out pretty much entirely on the bottom screen of the DS, and the top screen only really comes into play during multiplayer head-to-head matches. The entire control scheme is stylus-based, and you basically click and drag, only without a mouse to click or drag. All of the shapes can be manipulated in several ways: touch once to select; tap twice to flip over the block; tap and hold any of the corners to move clock- or counterclockwise to any angle you need; and tap, hold and drag to move the block anywhere you need it to go. The input is an elegant and simple affair, leaving more time to sort out the puzzle itself.

There are three single-player modes, as well as multiplayer. The meat of the game takes place in Silhouette mode, which has a huge series of shapes that need to be filled in, with no limits as to how long you can take. Effectively, there is no way to lose in silhouette mode. Next up is Time Pressure mode, where you only have three minutes to sort out the challenge. Finally, there is the 7 Steps mode, where you have to solve the puzzle in seven moves; mistakes are not an option here, so each move must be correct, or you lose.

I have taken quite some time in covering this game, and I haven't even come close to Time Pressure or 7 Steps. There is so much to choose from in Silhouette mode that I have yet to feel the need to move on to another, harder method of play. Level one of Silhouette mode alone has over 40 challenges in four stages. That's over 40 on each stage, not spread through them all. Time Pressure and 7 Steps both draw from the same list of puzzles, but when you do the math, the answer comes to somewhere around 500 different shapes to fill in.

Multiplayer, via the NDS download-and-play function, is a snap. One person hosts, another joins in, and you play out "best two out of three" challenges. You're both given the same shapes to fill in, and the fastest player wins. There is a timer running as well, so if you're both slow on the draw, then you both lose. Ruthless, isn't it? No draw, oh no, you both lose. I got a chuckle out of that. Remember how I said that the top screen comes into play during head-to-head? Well, the upper screen displays your opponent's moves and progress, so technically you can ape whatever they're doing that you haven't figured out yourself. It seems unfair, but keep in mind that it works both ways.

Neves has the distinction of being the first NDS title since I got the handheld in which my wife has expressed any interest. After playing through a couple of the challenges in about half the time it took me to sort out even one, her reaction was simple: "It's a puzzle game," she said with an almost dismissive air of "Why else am I better at it than you are?" Everyone knows women are the real brains on this earth, but did she have to point it out so bluntly? Of course she did. The point here is that not only is Neves an addictive brain teaser, but it's also gender-neutral in its appeal. This isn't a common achievement for digital games. What I quite enjoy about this is that it creates a friendly competition and can help bridge a gap between gamer and non-gamer spouse relationships.

Neves has a simplistic elegance that is incredibly elusive in the gaming industry. One could look to the pedigree of the designers, but I think there was more to it than just experience. There was some real care put into the creation of this addicting, challenging puzzle game. Have you noticed that I haven't really thrown any criticism at it? That's because there really isn't any. The only consistent wish I've had while playing this was that there was a hint feature of some form. I've gotten hopelessly stuck many times. I just move on to another stage; it's not as if there isn't a ton of them from which to choose. However, as a complete package of entertaining content with near-endless replay value, Neves should be on everyone's must-have list. This is the kind of game for which the NDS was made.

Score: 9.2/10


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