At first Stickets feels too simple for its own good. As if the bright primary color blocks and round typography weren’t enough, the game itself looks and plays like a pack of Legos on the surface. But don’t let that fool you—Stickets is a merciless puzzle game whose friendly presentation intentionally distracts from the strategically dense game underneath.
Stickets’ setup is immediately familiar if you’ve played last year’s popular word-making iOS game Letterpress. You are given the task of placing three-block Tetris shapes on a 5×5 board to match colors. You get a point every time you place a shape and once you line up at least three blocks of the same color, you can make room for more. The catch? You are given four “L”-shaped corner pieces to choose from at a time—and that’s it. Blocks don’t fall from the sky—nor can you rotate them. In Stickets, every move truly counts and you’ve got to do what you can with the limited selection of shapes you’ve got.
When you open up Stickets for the first time, you’re given just one game mode: “space”. No timer—just the tension that comes with deliberately plotting your moves one by one. When you get fifty points—which will take many, many tries—you’ll unlock “time” mode, which flips the game’s concept on its head, turning your blocks into timebombs and forcing you to build larger chunks of color to survive. If your unhealthy desire to challenge yourself remains unquenched, the final mode—“puzzle”—gives you specific challenges and achievements to go after. Both additional modes add a ton of depth to the game and are a smart way of giving more serious players something to come back to.
Stickets’ perky presentation and aesthetics still feel a bit incongruous, considering the cold and calculated outlook on life the game will give you. An ambient soundtrack fills the background, which is strange enough for a puzzle game of this kind. Similarly, every time you place a block, reverberating sound effects color the music with even more atmosphere. It’s all pretty coo, but the floaty, laidback vibe doesn’t exactly fit the experience of playing a mind wracking puzzle game (especially since puzzle games are more suited for shorter, less immersive play sessions).
Stickets’ learning curve can be pretty staggering—many will undoubtedly try a couple of times and then quit in frustration. At most points in the game, you are only a few misguided moves from losing, and there is no undo button for when you make silly mistakes. But it’s clear that Stickets wasn’t really made for people looking for a casual time-waster. Once you get familiar with the game, begin to try out different strategies, and even start to recognize larger patterns, you’ll find one of the best iOS puzzle games this year so far—a rewarding experience that won’t stop challenging you to improve.
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