A genie, a load of balls, and an ancient labyrinth come together to create a frustrating, but fun, puzzler.
One of the big boys in the movie biz, Warner Bros., has been solidly churning out iPhone apps for the past few months. Most of these apps have been global franchises, though, including Terminator Salvation, Watchmen and — the double whammy of brand-names — LEGO Batman.
Without a movie, cartoon series, or line of toys, Stuck Genie is an entirely original game. Containing 73 puzzles, the game challenges you to complete each one and earn the highest score.
You Look Like You’re Stuck
It’s immediately clear that the game is worthy of the Warner Bros. name. It’s bright and colorful, instantly pleasing to the eye and, although it’s not an established brand, the game has an artwork style that is very much its own.
The attention to detail, especially important from such a big publisher, pervades almost every aspect of the game. Even the name-entry screen is fun, finding you spinning an alphabet wheel, and dragging letters around to spell your name.
Musically, the game features a chill-out soundtrack pinched straight from the beaches of Ibiza. It’s absolutely out of character for a puzzle game — especially one featuring a mischievous cartoon genie.
And yet it works: When the puzzles get tougher, the mellow background music makes it feel more like you’re chillaxing, as opposed to seriously flexing your cognitive problem-solving muscles.
Control Your Inner Genie
Before jumping into the first level proper, there’s a tutorial section. The tutorial explains the basics: By tapping and dragging, you control an orange ball moving through a labyrinth.
Your aim, in each level, is to collect the other balls dotted around the maze. The mazes are incredibly simple, and collecting the balls is achieved simply by colliding with them.
The real challenge is that the balls stick to your orange ball as you collect them; your shape grows and changes with each added ball. Maneuvering through the maze becomes tougher as you collect each ball, and forward planning is key to solving each puzzle.
Misadventures in the Maze
My sojourn through the freaky genie’s labyrinth hit a major roadblock, though. Closing the app to take a break, due to a tough level, I returned hours later to be sent back to the start of level one.
Apparently, Stuck Genie features no auto-save functionality. This means that to save, you have to exit the game by first pausing it and then clicking exit (which instigates a save). Simply tapping the iPhone’s Home button will exit, but it won’t save.
Furthermore, after working my way back to the tough level I’d been stuck on, I discovered that there’s no rest or rewind button. This is an all but essential feature for this genre of puzzle game.
To reset the level, you have to open the menu and select rewind; it doesn’t ruin the game, but it’s an oversight nonetheless. Far more preferable would be, say, tapping the genie to use a magical time-reversing crystal, or even just a plain old rewind/reset button.
There’s something about the cartoony yet ornate artwork, which, when melded with the Café del Mar-esque chill-out soundtrack make for a very mellow but challenging puzzler.
This mellow vibe is immensely important in Stuck Genie’s case, because some of the puzzles had me literally roaring with frustration — the good kind of frustration, though, when you know you’re being beat by a devious puzzle and you’ve just got to solve it.
Despite being so much fun from the off, the difficulty curve was unexpectedly steep. Nevertheless, fans of challenging puzzlers should download Stuck Genie and get stuck in immediately.