Friday, December 11, 2009

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Spin Pair

This week, we take a language-impaired look at Spin Pair, a Japanese puzzle game for the PC Engine published in 1990 by Media Rings Corporation.  I'm saddened that the era of the cute game appears to have passed for the moment -- today's hard-edged hardcore style misses out on the lighter side of videogames, and has no room for cute little blonde witches obsessed with matching up shapes to produce charming little agricultural products and birds.

As near as I can make out from the case art and sparsely illustrated manual, our little friend's quest to match up shapes has something to do with a full-grown, evil-looking witch.  But I can't tell if she's a threat, or a mentor; at least such knowledge isn't required for playing the game.

The game has a Normal mode that jumps straight into puzzling; a Story mode, where levels progress in a specific order, though there's no discernible plotline; and a two-player Battle mode.  There's also a notable special feature in the Vs. Mode, indicating that Spin Pair was aimed squarely at the PC Engine GT portable market, supporting two players linked with a cable.  There's not much in the way of introduction for this HuCard-based game, and the graphics are large and simple, well-suited to the portable handheld version of NEC's classic Japanese console.

Spin Pair is a conventional puzzle game, with the added aggravation that it's not a matter of simply matching up like colors in groups.  Complementary shapes must also be aligned, and a shape's mirror image must be dropped directly on top of it, causing the shapes to merge, turn into something cute, and wipe out any shapes of the same color on the same row.  New shapes arrive in pairs -- the player can switch their places left-to-right, or rotate BOTH of the pieces, to arrive at a workable fit.  When the required number of pairs of each color has been matched, the stage is clear.

Spin Pair is a simple game -- the music is pleasant, with several tuneful options to choose from, and the gameplay is addictive in the traditional puzzle game fashion.  And it's largely in English, which makes it a decent import candidate at the right price.  But it does become repetitive, and as the shapes become more complex it becomes more difficult to avoid the inevitable.

I spent a few hours with it -- it's not a must-play, but a fun little semi-addictive puzzler, and anyone with a PC Engine GT portable should definitely consider this one -- it's well-suited to the small screen.

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