Release Date:February 20, 2010
Price:$0.99 (currently on sale)
Summary:Remember spirographs? I sure do. Try it out on the iPhone and see how the classic fares.
If there was one toy that defined my childhood, it was the stuffed animal, big and small, from dogs to mythical creatures. Okay, so that has nothing to do with this review, but the other game that I absolutely coveted, despite never touching with my grubby, jam-riddled paws, was LiteBrite. Okay, once again, another toy that has absolutely nothing to do with this review. But the Spirograph, now there’s a game that has everything to do with this review, and I even played once or twice. Okay, maybe just once.
I once had a Spirograph as a kid. It’s a strange-looking contraption, of the plastic and rotor kind that with its bright colors is meant to attract children, but really, is just a toy conceived and appreciated by adults. Any inherent mathematical properties to the Spirograph is appreciated only by the most astute adult, and even then that’s a rare appreciation – most people enjoy the Spirograph for its seeming whimsical wizardy, the ability to churn out impeccably arranged lines in one spiral after another, an overlapping pattern continuum ad infinitum. I enjoyed using the Spirograph, seeing the same patterns emerge, unidentifiable from each other in their perfection save for a different use of color, and I remember keeping an ever-growing pile of my spiro drawings. But relying on a mechanism to produce drawings proved limiting for me – as I’m sure it did for many kids – and my interest quickly waned in favor of coloring books, whose blank pages and free reign of crayons seemed liberating by comparison. Just like the hypotrochoids and epitrochoids a Spirograph produces, the Spirograph is a rigid, unwavering setting for a game.
I suppose this is why when I discovered Finger Spiro+ by Chlova, I had some reservations. Do not misinterpret – I think the Spirograph is a fantastic tool, that produces beautiful curves and lines in an increasingly circular shape, but its novelty lasts for a few hours, and then it’s over. There is a slight hypnotic quality to Finger Spiro, and other spirographs, in just tracing a line over and over and over, while watching this wheel move around within a larger wheel, your pencil wedged in one of the holes drilled into the rotor’s plastic side. As with physical Spirographs, in Finger Spiro+ you have a choice between different sized rotors, each of which, based on its size, produces lines of a different curve and degree (you may download more rotors (or gears) for a price if you desire). Each rotor also has a few holes that you may select with a tap, to change the degree of the line produced. There are 7 colors to choose from, 4 background canvases – of which each may be moved around a bit to allow for more drawings -, and you may choose to roll your spirograph in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion. Should you particularly proud of any one creation, you may take a picture of it using the app, and save it to an album, perhaps email to a friend.
The whole app is laid out very well, with pleasant graphics, but there are a few shortcomings. The 7 colors are what you’d find in a basic crayon deck, with the odd gray included, as well. Every kid loves gray… right? The background canvases are nothing spectacular, but given the surface is hardly as important at the drawing, this is a minor quibble. The background surfaces range from different woods to what look to be handpressed, custom papers, with dark blotches of the kind you’d find at Papyrus or some other high-end letterpress store.There are only 4, and there’s no option to upgrade the amount of canvasses you can have, so this feature remains pretty limited.
Finger Spiro+, itself, is very smooth, and the results fantastic, but once again there’s that debacle of longevity – seeing the designs emerge is fun for a few minutes, but after that it’s not terribly tempting to download more rotors to keep the idea fresh. Maybe if Finger Spiro+ strayed from the usual circular design and included rotors within stencils of different shapes, something more elliptical or bean-shaped (it can be done), just any other shape, then perhaps the game could hold a user’s interest more.