appicon_stuck_genie1Stuck Genie (Warner Bros., 2009)
purchase this iPod app (iTunes)

There’s a seemingly limitless number of them, but the rules for most iPod game apps are essentially the same: they have to be affordable enough to trigger a regret-free impulse buy, they need to be colorful enough to grab our attention, and they have to be simple enough to get the hang of in a few minutes (or less). Warner Bros.’ latest entry into the app arena, the intriguingly titled Stuck Genie, goes three for three; it sells for $1.99, boasts the sort of bright, cartoony graphics that iPod game developers (and consumers) seem to love, and its mechanics are simple enough for anyone with one finger and two minutes to master.

stuckgenie_031-266x4001The premise is simple too, pitting the player against the mischevious Puzzle Genie, who has challenged you to free his captives by pushing a ball through a series of mazes via click and drag. In each maze, you need to collect a handful of other balls, which is accomplished by simply bumping up against them. Get them all before your time runs out, and you’ve completed the level. Repeat as necessary.

If this sounds like a premise in need of a twist, don’t worry — Stuck Genie gives you one, in the form of a series of mazes that require you to pick up the balls in a certain order, then rotate the shapes you create in order to get around corners and through passages. The developers did a fine job of ramping up the difficulty at odd intervals, too, allowing the game to lull you into a pattern of gameplay before delivering an unexpected jolt that inevitably produces colorful bursts of profanity. I picked it up quickly, and so did my 10-year-old nephew; like any good iPod game, it’s great for short bursts of concentration when you’re stuck without anything else to do, difficult to put down and easy to resume. (Word of warning, though — simply hitting the home button on your iPod and leaving the game won’t save it; you need to exit and save manually if you want to retain your progress.)

For fans of colorful puzzle games with deceptively simple mechanics, Stuck Genie delivers 73 increasingly infuriating levels of action for under two bucks. What else do you want?

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