Review: NEVES Plus (WiiWare)

Does this age-old puzzler still have what it takes?

Silhouette puzzles have been around since the early 18th century, and chances are if you're old enough to read this article, you're likely to have played one at some point in your life. The original Neves, which built an entire retail title around these silhouette puzzles, was released on the Nintendo DS system almost two years ago. Unfortunately, the high price tag for such a simple puzzle game proved to be a huge obstacle for the title at retail, but now the developers of the game have put together a WiiWare version and priced it at a much more reasonable 600 Nintendo Points. But does this centuries-old puzzle game still have enough gas left in the tank to make it worth your while on the WiiWare service?

While there are quite a few variations on the silhouette puzzle available in Neves Plus, it's the Puzzle mode that will feel the most familiar to fans of the classic game. You're presented with a silhouette shape and you must then somehow fit all seven polygonal tiles into the silhouette. You can move the tiles around freely using the Wii Remote pointer and you can even flip and rotate them using the D-pad. You'll have to put on your thinking cap if you're going to figure out how to accurately squeeze all seven tiles into each silhouette puzzle, and to make things even more challenging, the game even tosses some good old-fashioned dust into the equation. As you move tiles over the silhouette itself, this will kick up dust which can make it tough to see how the tile will fit. This will require you to slow down your movements a bit in order to kick up less dust, but will ultimately save you some time if you make the effort.

As you complete the puzzles, you'll be allowed to move on the next one or head back to the main puzzle menu and select a specific puzzle from the list of around 50 silhouettes, each of which has its own unique name. You can even choose from four different rooms each containing three different difficulty levels, if you're finding the puzzles too easy or too difficult to complete, offering up more than 600 different silhouette puzzles to take on in total. You'll be timed on each puzzle and awarded a specific medal based on how quickly you're able to complete the puzzle, which provides a nice incentive to go back and try to achieve a faster time and even better medal.

The next variation is the Speed mode. This mode is almost identical to the Puzzle mode except this time you're timed on your choice of 10, 20, or even 50 levels in a row, instead of each level individually. You're also given a bit of a headstart on each puzzle as a portion of the puzzle will already be completed for you when you begin the level. This is more of a speed rally to see how quickly you can solve a select number of puzzles. The game even keeps track of your best time in each difficulty.

Party Trivia mode is where the game begins to mix things up a bit by presenting you and up to three other players with a hidden silhouette and four multiple choice answers. The hidden silhouette will slowly be unveiled one piece at a time and the first player that's able to correctly identify the item and select it from the set of multiple choice answers wins the game. The faster you're able to locate the correct answer, the more points you'll be awarded. While this mode is very different from the other silhouette challenges, it's every bit as much fun.

The Lucky Number mode is basically just another play on the main Puzzle mode, only this time you've got a time limit and each polygonal tile has a specific number inscribed on it. Each time you pick up a tile, the number on the tile decreases by one. What this means is that you need to try to pick up and place the tile in as few moves as possible in order to score the highest number of points left on the tile as you can. When the puzzle is completed, you're given points based on the sum of all numbers left on each tile. This is a great mode of play for those who find the main game a bit too slow-paced for their liking as the time limit and tallied tile moves can make for a much more intense experience overall.

Last but not least is the Versus mode, and what is truthfully the highlight of the entire package. As much fun as the relaxing Puzzle mode can be as a single-player experience, there's nothing quite like going head to head with other players in Versus mode. In this mode, 2-4 players can play the game together, with four players being split into two teams. The screen is then split right down the middle and the same basic silhouette is given to each player or team. It's then a race to see who can finish their puzzle first, and if you have four players on hand going at it, the two of you can work together in an attempt to beat the other team. Not only is this mode extremely hectic, but it's a lot of fun trying to outrace each other.

The simple Wii Remote pointer makes controlling the game very intuitive and easy to pick up, and while this particular puzzle game isn't going to win many points for originality, the age-old puzzles are still quite fun to play and with the additional gameplay modes, it adds even more variety to the overall package. The multiplayer modes add even more fun to the mix if you can round up an extra player or two to go at it in the Versus mode. At the very least it's proof that you can use a tried-and-true puzzle formula and still manage to keep the experience engaging with the right style and presentation.

The Egyptian theme makes for a great visual presentation in the game and it's clear that the developers went the extra mile to give the game a very polished look. While the main game play area itself is mostly made up of stone polygonal tiles and a silhouette, the backdrops feature beautifully drawn sarcophagi and even a few oddball characters who stand and watch you play. These characters even feature some peculiar animations every so often as you play, with the cobra being the one that's particularly funny to watch. It's just nice to see a developer put in the extra time to give the game a high visual production value, despite the fact that it's just a simple WiiWare puzzle release.

There's no denying that the Egyptian-style soundtrack is catchy and does fit in perfectly with the theme of the game, but the individual music tracks have a tendency to be repeated quite often on the default setting, which can make them a bit tiresome during long playing sessions. Luckily, the developers have included an option in the settings menu that will allow you to change the default music to random, which will give you a good variety of musical tracks during the puzzle levels. It will even change songs in mid-puzzle, if you find yourself taking a bit of extra time on any given challenge. It might seem like a small touch, but it turns out to really save what is initially a fairly repetitive musical presentation.

Conclusion

It would be easy to dismiss Neves Plus as nothing more than another feeble attempt to cash in on an age-old puzzle idea, but if you approach it with that attitude, you're likely to miss out on what is ultimately a very charming puzzle experience. It might not be the most original gaming experience out there, but it's got enough style and versatility to make it worth your 600 Nintendo Points. It's certainly a lot better than some of the more original puzzle releases we've seen on the service so far.