iPhone Game Review: Spin Star
*UPDATE* (07/26/09): The hitchiness in the controls I allude to in this review was remedied with the already live v1.1 patch! I'm not just taking the developer's word on this but have verified it myself over multiple games.
Sure, you've played this type of game before, fire a random colored ball against a wall of many different colored balls hoping to get three or more of the same colored balls to connect and make them blow up. They call this whole genre of games bubble shooters with Snood and Bust-A-Move being two of the more famous examples. Spin Star has decided to leave that nonsense behind to make something really new and innovative.
In Spin Star you don?t even move or fire your cannon. Instead you?ll need to spin the encroaching ring of stars round ?like a record, Baby, round round? with your finger by swiping left and right on a strip below the game?s playfield. All of those darned stars (although they look a lot like balls) are slowly closing in on your from all sides. You?re constantly auto-firing various colored balls into the encroaching rings. If you manage to get 4 or more same colored balls connected together they?ll blow up and you?ll score points. After making a successful scoring move you?ll increase the score multiplier so that if you immediately make another scoring move the very next move the earned points are doubled and so. This scoring party ends the moment you fire and it doesn?t connect over four same colored stars at which point the scoring goes back to normal.
If you missed shots weren?t already a big enough nuisance piling up on you, every once in a while more stars will suddenly appear within the rings of balls (sometimes even creating a scoring grouping but more likely just more debris). Once the rings completely fill up your star will go nova and the game is over. This pretty much sums up the gameplay in Easy difficulty except for the two very handy power-ups. These two power-ups are Score Multiplier (it will multiply the score of that grouping by the amount indicated) and the Fling power-up (it gives you an additional use of the Fling effect which pushes all of the enclosing rings out of your face for a brief moment). Just match the ball with the power-up symbol on it in an appropriately colored match to gain its effect. Don?t let the term ?Easy? fool you , however, as this will eventually get pretty crazy in the later levels. Perhaps a better way to describe this mode is as the basic game. Once you move up to the Medium difficulty things aren?t just getting a little more hectic but the game throws in an additional seven types of power-up stars (actually a few are more hazards than power-ups in the true sense). Finally the Hard difficulty is just a much more difficult version of the Medium game (more colors and a faster firing star cannon).
This game must be intentionally going for a bit of a retro feel as the graphics, while rotatable and 3D, are very non descript colored orbs. The sounds are also pretty basic but functional complete with a techno soundtrack and a nasty sounding klaxon as an incoming batch of stars is dropping in on you. This game doesn?t support any sort of global scoring (at least not yet) but includes a very detailed help, your best score in each of the three difficulties, and will save your game state if interrupted.
So now that I?ve described the game and you?ve even seen it in action, is it any good? I think so. It isn?t going to win any awards for presentation, but if a fan of the ?bubble shooter? genre of games, I think you?ll enjoy it. The game?s main gimmicks of not having you aim or even fire the cannon but rotate the playfield itself around as the cannon auto-fires took a little getting used to at first. In some ways this makes things easier as you can still spin the rings after the cannon has fired and make sure the star hits exactly where you need it to even if in some remote little spot a few rings deep. My only nitpick, and for all I know it could be me and my pudgy fingers, but there were a few times while I thought I was smoothly rotating the rings that they would suddenly skip ahead a quarter rotation or more. The developers let us know that they?ve already submitted an update with more OS 3.0 optimizations so this might just be a soon to be resolved OS compatibility issue regarding the jumping controls. Lastly I found myself, especially when things were getting intense and I needed to quickly rotate the rings, accidentally hitting the pause button located right next to the main slider. This, however, I think is more due to my pudgy fingers than a real design fault.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -3- Rotatable 3D with some neat particle effects, but the pieces themselves were non-descript colored balls.
Sound: -3- Techno music and some basic sound effects.
Controls: -3.5- I loved the simplicity of only having the one control to worry about but swear it jumped ahead on me a few times. The upcoming update might help this.
Gameplay: -4.5- As harsh as I may have been on this in the other ratings, this game is addictive and with the large variety of power-ups, it never plays out the same way twice.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Learn to use your Flings! The Fling power-ups (those are the star icon you see on some pieces) are life savers by pushing everything back and giving you a few moments to recover. While you definitely don?t want to waste them unnecessarily, nothing is more pathetic than being overrun when you still had a few Flings left in your arsenal.
-Learn how to work the multipliers in this game. Making a couple of groups in a row and then clearing a group with multiple Multiplier power-ups can send your score through the roof!
-Read the Help section to get to know how the various power-ups work as a few of them aren?t that clear if just going by their icons on the pieces.
Developer: Six by Nine
Release Date: July 1st 2009
Genre: Casual Puzzle/Bubble Shooter
Buy Game: iTunes App Store
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