SPiN, from Finnish developer Secret Exit, hasn’t received much fanfare in the short time it’s been out. We have no idea why, because this is easily one of the best iPhone games we’re aware of. It plugs right into a simple act that most humans perform instinctively–mentally rotating an object in three dimensions–and builds an amazingly fun game around it, complete with all the trappings that you would expect from a top-shelf production. SPiN simply seizes your attention and doesn’t let go, whether you play it in bite-sized chunks or for hours on end.
SPiN’s gameplay rests on two basic components. One is a three-dimensional object, which you can rotate along the three major axes, 90 degrees at a time. The other is a silhouette representing the outline of that object viewed from a certain perspective. Your job is to match the object to the outline by spinning it in the right direction, as if you were trying to push the thing through a hole traced in a wall directly behind it. In the basic Arcade Mode, you only get a short amount of time to figure out the right position for each object, which will disappear and damage your constantly dropping time bar if not matched quickly enough. On the other hand, if you manage to find the right orientation in the least possible number of moves, a combo meter starts running, and the game will keep feeding you new silhouettes for that same object, boosting your score and your time bar exponentially. If the time bar drops to zero, you lose, but if you fill it all the way up, you move onto the next level. There are two other modes as well: Frantic Mode, where you continue until you lose your first object, and Minute Rush, where you match as many shapes as you can in 60 seconds.
The iPhone’s touch controls make SPiN’s gameplay feel perfectly natural, as if you were holding these things and turning them around in your hands. Swipes back, forth, up, and down spin the object in that direction; to twist, you pinch and twist clockwise or counterclockwise. That’s all there is to it. The fun comes from the game’s quick pacing and huge assortment of objects. You are constantly pressured to visualize the correct perspective–not always an easy task, especially when the target shadow is a big, featureless blob–and then figure out how to get there as fast as you can. The lineup of bugs, mammals, power tools, vehicles, plants, food, and other weird stuff is practically endless. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, the game throws something like a diving mask-snorkel combo at you, forcing you to fumble with its unfamiliar contours. It’s like being a quality control inspector, grabbing things off a conveyor belt in an insane toy factory.
That said, we do have a few small tiffs with the gameplay. The object needs to remain stationary in the correct position for a moment to register, so it’s possible to fly right past it if you’re moving quickly; we’d prefer it if the match happened instantly. Also, the pinch movement sometimes seems to produce rotation in the opposite direction from what you intended. This is a bummer when you’re in the middle of a big combo.
The funny thing about SPiN’s graphics is that Secret Exit spent a ton of effort on the game’s backgrounds and special effects… even though you are too busy staring at the stuff in front of you to actually look at them! If you do happen to have a spare moment to glance at the rest of the game, you’ll like what you see: big, bold colors, animated backgrounds, and whimsical animal characters abound. The game has some nice effects, too, like producing motion lines when you’re in the middle of a combo. Meanwhile, the sound effects are unorthodox, but interesting: a chorus of children cheer or groan your every move, and a little girl starts sobbing when you lose. I’m so sorry, honey! Don’t cry!
SPiN rates as one of our favorite iPhone games yet. Between its awesome gameplay, excellent presentation, and tons of content–the many unlockable trophies and difficulty levels will keep you busy for a good long while–it’s worth every penny of the $4.99 asking price, and then some. It gets our highest recommendation.