[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]
Imagine someone hands you a small puzzle game. You twist and turn it this way and that way, trying to line up all the different colored components so that they match, spinning and manipulating it so that one particular piece falls into place, but by doing so, three others end up somewhere else, and now you have to chase them down.
It probably sounds like I’m describing solving a Rubik’s Cube, but the same description fits cracking the latest puzzle game from ThinkFun: Back Spin.
And you know what? Back Spin is the younger sibling of the Rubik’s Cube that I wish I could’ve tried out first.
[Both sides of Back Spin, with the spheres all mixed up between the two.]
Designed for solvers aged 8 and up, Back Spin only features two sides (front and back) to Rubik’s six, but each of those sides has six small colored chambers, intended to hold matching colored spheres. Rotating the front or the back allows you to line up these chambers and swap spheres between them.
As for the spheres, there are nine different colors to sort; red, yellow, and orange are on both sides, but each side has a different shade of blue, green, and pink/purple, meaning some spheres can go on either side, but some are only meant for the front or the back.
Whether you’re moving colored spheres from back to front or rotating them in overlapping chambers to shift the spheres’ positions within the chamber — a la the sliding tiles in one of those picture puzzles — this is an introduction to chain-thinking and solving, a step up from simpler mechanical brain teasers, but not nearly as daunting as Rubik’s infamous cube.
[Alright, it’s solved! Oh, no, wait, this is only one side. Darn.
There are still spheres misplaced on the other side of the puzzle.]
And although the game is marketed as a single-solver puzzle, you really need two: one to mix all of the spheres up, and the other to unravel it. It’s much more satisfying to conquer the challenge someone else sets out for you than one you set for yourself, because you can’t help but retain some of the steps involved in mixing up the puzzle.
Having someone else mix up the spheres not only allows for a tougher solve, but the process of mixing them up for another solver is just as valuable a puzzling experience as solving it.
[Okay, this time I’ve got it. All the spheres properly placed on both sides. Phew!
(You can also see that there are only two purple spheres, since one chamber
has to allow a sphere to pass from back to front for the puzzle to be solvable.)]
Back Spin is a wonderfully vivid variation on a classic style of puzzle solving, one whose simple mechanics — a wheel that goes back and forth and holes that line up — allow for deep, meaningful, logic-based puzzling.
It encourages exploration and experimentation, staving off both the boredom and the frustration that more difficult brain teasers often spark. It’s a terrific addition to the ThinkFun line-up of puzzle games that teach while you play.
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