Simple puzzle games have a certain beauty in that while they are often easy to grasp, they can be so difficult to master, This is all very well of course, but their simplicity also makes it incredibly hard to say any more than a few words when reviewing - a cause for more reviewers' hair loss than cheap dye.
Tangram is one such game, designed by those masters of fiendish puzzles, the inscrutable Chinese. Apparently it is a national pastime of our Oriental friends, who have been playing it for over 4,000 years now - quite a recommendation!
The idea is to place seven grey geometric tiles on to a brown figure in the middle of the screen, covering it totally. Some of the figures depict animals, some buildings, people and other shapes that defy description - contortionists, maybe?
Your playing pieces are displayed on the right of the playing area, being picked up and moved using the mouse. Pressing the right mouse button turns the pieces a la Tetris, and a press of the left button places the piece on the board, hopefully in the right place.
You can choose from two difficulty levels from the pre-game menu, either Novice or Expert. Choosing novice mode gives you more time because the timer ticks away every two seconds and the levels are presented with a progressive difficulty.
Expert mode gives only one second every count and presents levels in no set order. A two player option is included on the menu which allows you to compete with a friend - or just show off when you get good at the game. In this mode each player plays separately, one after the other.
Playing the game is a cinch. The control method is very smooth and the first few figures are easy enough to get you off to a good start. After that, things begin to get difficult.
Just as you think you've cracked it, the pieces run out. You really start to wonder how on earth those shapes are going to fit. They will fit, of course, but not until you've done a lot of swearing and head scratching.
Points are awarded for completing puzzles in the time given. Any time left over is converted into bonus points, and these are marked separately on the right of the screen.
If you can't complete a puzzle in the allotted time, the bonus points you have earned so far act as extra seconds and these will start to count down to zero. Once these expire, all is not lost as there is the option of buying "continues" from your standard points - get the idea?
To prevent mental breakdown occurring from too much non-stop cerebral gymnastics, there is a very welcome pause facility. This allows a short break to ease weary brain cells, have a cup of coffee or just get on with the rest of your life. The game can be rather addictive.
Cheats beware however, as the playing area is obscured during this time, so puzzles can't be worked out without the timer ticking away. Bah!
If difficult puzzle games are your bag, you can't go wrong with this one. There are 200 levels supplied, so it is likely to take some beating - not to mention a lot of your time.
I've been playing it for quite a while now and still can't get past level 16. Mind you, I was never any good at knocking those shaped pegs through the holes as a kid, so maybe that accounts for something.