Review: Art Style: CODE (DSiWare)

An Art Style game based on boring old maths – could it be any good?

If you've been following WiiWare and DSiWare releases closely, you should know all about the Art Style series – loosely based on the Japan-only bit Generations titles for Game Boy Advance (with two of the WiiWare games borne as remakes of these) – the games all feature very simplistic graphics and sound, but offer some fairly deep gameplay. CODE is no exception to this rule!

CODE is all about numbers; the game offers four modes of play revolving around this central theme: Target, Endless, Puzzle, and Versus. All modes are played while holding the DSi on its side and using the stylus – much like the Brain Training series.

In Target mode, you will have a field of play covering both screens. Digital numbers – like those on an alarm clock or VCR – continually scroll in from the left and will come to a halt once they reach the far right of the screen or another number. Your objective is to combine these numbers (horizontally and vertically) and have their total add up to 10, which will clear them from the field. You can select any amount of numbers, as long as they're adjacent to each other and add up to 10 – so a 5 and 5 would work; and a 3, three 2s and a 1 would also work.

When numbers are combined to get a 10, the game will slow down for a few seconds – if you can quickly find a nearby number that can be used with one from the previous 10's sum to create 10 again, you can tap it to create a combo and extend this slowdown slightly, which is quite handy. If both screens ever fill up with numbers completely, then it's game over. In contrast to this, if you can remove a certain amount of numbers before getting overwhelmed, then you will have cleared the stage. These stages become progressively more difficult in Target mode: the first only has 1s and 2s, but the final stage will have every single one-digit number, including 0!

The game's main gimmick is that all of the numbers can be switched with those adjacent to them. Doing this will also flip them over – for example, swapping a 2 in any direction will force it to become a 5! Likewise, a 6 can be turned into a 9 (with two swaps, however). If you move any other number, such as a 3 or 4, they will become non-existent numbers that cannot be used until flipped back into their correct positions. Occasionally a red number will also appear: these can't be flipped, but if you use them to create a 10, all other identical numbers will disappear – this can be a nice way to clear a large amount of the screen.

The next variation of Code is Endless mode, which is very similar to Target mode – the difference being that it isn't divided into stages, and instead, as the name implies, goes on endlessly.

Puzzle mode has a bit of twist, however: there are a total of 27 puzzles, in which you have to clear the screen of every number – you can flip them around and add them up in whichever way you want, just as long as they're all gone at the end! Like Target mode this has progressively difficult levels of play: the first 3 puzzles only have 1s and 2s, the next ones add 3s to the number-crunching mix, and so on.

Finally, there is the VS. mode. If you have a friend who has a DS as well (it doesn't matter what type – even a regular old DS will do!) you can compete head to head in Endless mode to see who's the better mathematician. It's certainly fun to see which of your friends will crack under the pressure of some of the more fiendish number onslaughts!


On paper, maths might seem like a boring idea for a game, but this instalment of the Art Style series has proved the sceptics wrong – it's just as good as Skip's previous efforts. It may be a little hard to get into at first, since you'll need to get used to fast flipping and combining of numbers, but when it clicks you will be entertained for quite a while. Yet another success for the Art Style games!

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