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If you’re like me, you aren’t good at puzzle games, but they’re still fun to play. Back in my flash gaming days I would usually look up guides if I was stuck, and I still can’t play Zelda games today because the Water Temple is, quite frankly, insurmountable. At least there’s Spinning Around, a simple, short puzzle game that makes you feel at least a little clever at the end.
Developed by mhgamework, Spinning Around is the product of Ludum Dare 43, a game jam that’s been in existence since 2002. There’s quite a legacy there, and so there’s also plenty of games to pick from — some Ludum Dare games can even be found on Steam. When I saw Spinning Around, what made it stand out among other entries was its art style. It reminded me of M. C. Escher’s famous painting Relativity. It’s the one with the crazy stairs going all different ways.
Indeed, while Spinning Around certainly has an Escher feel, none of the stairs go in any awkward way, but there’s a good amount of depth to it, like the painting. It’s also a colorful game, with a palette I would consider similar to Monument Valley (which is the ultimate Escher-inspired game).
But on to the gameplay. Spinning Around is a puzzle game that involves climbing stairs. These stairs usually wind around as you gradually get closer to the top. The goal is to collect orbs in the level and get to the princess who is, like you, a robot. The puzzles are not very complex but are satisfying to complete. To get higher, there are boxes that you have to put on switches, and teleporters that you can take to move around the level. Levitating lifts can take you higher in order to continue collecting orbs and getting to the top.
The challenge only lies in moving boxes. Sometimes you’ll have to take a lift or teleporter to move the box on the right switch. Switches can manipulate stairs, and it’s really cool to see them connect to other pieces of the game’s level to open up new pathways. I didn’t really run into any problems and only had one sequence near the end that made me think for a few minutes. Still, Spinning Around was such a pleasure to look at that I didn’t mind. The way everything was connected was gratifying, and it’s just a testament to the developer’s expertise in planning this level.
There are only two complaints that I have. One is that, although beating this short game is satisfying, there was no real reward for the ending. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I think it would have been better to see the robot you control and the princess interact a bit more with each other. Secondly, I didn’t like the music. I think this is just personal taste. I am not sure how to describe it other than a very subtle jazzy tune. I think it fits the game well, but I wasn’t a fan.
Despite those two setbacks, I think that Spinning Around is a satisfying little adventure. If anything, you can enjoy the beautiful, minimalist 3D visuals and beat the game knowing that you overcame a few puzzles. Spinning Around is also a great introduction to the quality of games you might expect from Ludum Dare game jams, which I recommend you take a look at.
You can get Spinning Around for free on itch.io.