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Joystiq presents

Gaming to Go: NEVES


Tired of blocks yet?

Thinking of expanding your horizons a little? Perhaps you need more from the gaming life than just a few simple squares. Perhaps you want...shapes?

Good news! NEVES has them. Seven of them, in fact, which is enough to create like a jabillion 500 different puzzles. You, dear reader, can have these pointy shapes too. There's this demo thing freely available on the net, or you can dig a little deeper in your pockets and shell out two tens for the real deal.

Yuke's puzzler takes classic Chinese tangrams into the modern realm with great success. Solving one of the many short brain teasers in NEVES is an experience decidedly different from a typical video game, emphasizing peaceful thinking over sweaty palms and razor-sharp reflexes.

Sound appealing? If gaming breaks are the only way you stay sane, NEVES might be just what you need to unwind. Come along with Gaming to Go and see for yourself why a relatively unknown title in the DS library is one worth checking out!

Gallery: NEVES

Let me preface this with some good old-fashioned honesty: NEVES can get boring. Should you sit down and blaze through a set of fifty puzzles in one go, you'll likely come away wondering why I'm devoting an entire column to a game with such cut-and-dry gameplay.

But here's the thing -- NEVES isn't meant to be quickly consumed. The nature of the puzzles are better suited for working through just a handful at a time, leading directly to the kind of short-burst gaming I get so antsy about every Thursday morning. Only have a few minutes to spare? Take stylus in hand and knock out a few puzzles before real life sucks you back in. Close the lid, step away from the handheld, and come back later -- strange advice for a game column, but it'll make sense in a moment, I promise.

The main reason for such a lengthy disclaimer also happens to be the entire reason to play the game: the puzzles. NEVES gives you seven pointy shapes and a strange silhouette to work with, relying on that mysterious space between your ears to figure out the rest. You'll rotate and flip those shapes and try to shove them together until they recreate the shadowy image, feeling no small amount of satisfaction when the last piece falls into place.

At times you'll sit back and wonder how you're supposed to make a bamboo-copter with so few pieces. At other times you'll wonder what the hell a bamboo-copter even is. Some of the figures you'll be recreating in NEVES are borderline deranged, though one could argue that makes the process all the more appealing.

And that's it! No wordy explanation is required, as NEVES is in its heart a pretty simple affair. Keener eyes might notice that description carries over to the game's interface, which defines functional the best way it can. I'm not going to talk about the lackluster soundtrack. Don't ask about it.

But don't let the negativity deter you, gentle reader. I'm not here to talk aesthetics -- I'm here to tell you NEVES is worth your time, particularly if you're looking for an addictive way to relax. There's something so simple -- so pleasant -- about solving a tangram. Some of the latter puzzles grow mind-numbingly difficult, sure, and at times I resorted to trial and error until by some miraculous chance I found the right solution. But I did so with a smile, as NEVES's charm is easy to miss until you're pumping a fist in the air after a particularly stubborn puzzle.

It isn't an intense process. There's no timer ticking ominously overhead and no pressure to top a previous high score. You have seven pieces, one elusive shadow, and nothing more -- nothing to think about save for the puzzle waiting patiently on your screen. NEVES is at its best when it's just challenging you to think, to realize you can rig your pieces together in ways you hadn't previously considered.

Here's a tip. Those two isosceles triangles? Rotate them, shove them together, and you can make a square. Don't ask how long it took me to realize that.

Little tricks like that are the only thing you'll need to work your way through a few puzzles over lunch. NEVES demands little more than patience, as you'll get the most out of the experience if you take your time and avoid the insatiable desire to plow through as many puzzles you can. It's not easy, man. Tangrams are surprisingly addictive once you get the hang of them, but trust me when I say it's easy to get burned out by taking too many in one go.

Still, not everyone wants to relax when they game, and NEVES does it best to accommodate those who might be looking for a little intensity in their puzzle-solving. In addition to the normal silhouettes, NEVES comes with the aptly-named Time Pressure and 7steps modes. The former takes the typical tangram and throws a clock up on the top screen, pressuring you into solving it in the shortest time possible. 7steps, I've decided, is for the masochists among us, as it lets you move your pieces exactly seven times before the familiar Game Over screen pops up. What's that? The stylus slipped? Too bad.

Whether your tastes lean towards calm or manic, however, the basic tangram formula stays the same. It's simple, pleasurable, and a fantastic alternative to the high-adrenaline approach other games require. And with NEVES running around $20 online, you won't be stretching your wallet too far to get in on the puzzle goodness. Still not convinced? Check the demo and see for yourself if NEVES is a worthy addition to your library. If you're looking to relax during your next gaming break, I'd definitely recommend it. Just remember to take your time with the massive puzzle bank, and I'm sure you'll come away satisfied.

But let's not forget the stats!

Sleep time: NEVES doesn't pause the game whenever you close the lid, but it, uh, doesn't really need to. You're not racing the clock here, so don't fret about pausing a puzzle and coming back to it later. The pieces are patient. They'll be waiting for when you get back.

Load time: My ever-accurate phone stopwatch says 22 seconds to get through the UI and into a puzzle. You trust it, right? Right?

Play time: This one's all on you. If you consider yourself a geometry master, you shouldn't spend more than a few minutes on each puzzle. The rest of us? I still can't figure out some of these damn things.

Tick tock of the clock ringing in your ears? Tell your timepiece to shove it! We live busy lives, but remember this: there's always time to game. Check back with Gaming to Go every Thursday for the latest and greatest titles you should spend your precious few minutes with.

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