Ever since Tetris, the great granddaddy of all puzzle games, hit the Game Boy 11 years ago, there has been a parade of puzzle games looking to suck up your time, block by block. While the mechanics and the presentation vary, all puzzle games are by nature imitative - if not directly inspired by Tetris, then by another of its countless stepchildren. Spin Jam has both the aspiration to eat away at your daylight hours with its puzzling meddling, as well as a conspicuous resemblance to one of its block-dropping brethren.
In Spin Jam you're given a circular playing field - in the middle is a spinning gear, which you control, that is surrounded by multicolored petals. As you spit assorted colored bubbles from the bottom of the field at the gear, you must get three or more identically colored bubbles to touch, which in turn will cause any bubbles resting on the opposing side of the gear to launch outward toward the petals. Your goal is to fill each colored petal with bubbles of a matching color before the playing field is overrun with bubbles. If this sounds a bit confusing, it's with good reason. Instead of sticking with unspeakably simple game mechanics, Spin Jam takes the road less traveled by puzzle games. By opting for a more complex puzzle system, the developers have created what is arguably one of the more unique puzzle gameplay concepts seen in a while, but in doing so they have sacrificed a good deal of the flexibility that is inherent to the genre. While Spin Jam attempts to mix it up with moving petals and different power-ups, such as bubble-bursting bombs and color-changing bubbles, the inflexibility of the game mechanics is apparent. The three modes of play - story, arcade, and versus - are all virtually identical, offering zero variety.
The same can be said for the game's appearance. Fortunately this is a good thing, as Spin Jam is teeming with sharp, brightly colored backgrounds and characters. Uniformly cheery, bizarre, and, oddly enough, British, the characters range from a baby-controlled robot to a girl made of lemons. Like most puzzle games, Spin Jam is no technological marvel, but all in all, it manages to supply a sufficient amount of eye candy. The music is sugary soundtrack filler, neither overtly offensive, nor remotely engaging.
Spin Jam, with its bubble-shuffling game mechanics, light-hearted theme music, and brightly colored cartoon setting, is less directly inspired by Tetris, and it instead borrows heavily from the puzzle series that wouldn't die: Bust-A-Move. Spin Jam uses a circular puzzle environment as an alternative to the rectangular alleyways of Bust-A-Move, but the similarities flourish. Though derivative in style, Spin Jam is decidedly unique, and it may make a good purchase for puzzle fans looking for something fresh.