Stickets is the puzzle game boiled down to its most rudimentary form, but it’s a reduction that only intensifies the taste. The presentation is minimalist, artfully disguising the astonishing depth of flavour: rarely have such familiar ingredients been so expertly combined.
It begins with an empty 5×6 grid on which to place L-shaped pieces comprising three blocks in different colours – one each of red, yellow and blue. Points are awarded for each piece you successfully lay, while three or more adjacent blocks of the same colour can be tapped away to create more space until there’s no more room.
There’s nothing more to it, but that’s all Stickets needs to exert a muscular grip on your time. It demands a cautious, unhurried approach, yet the game over screen always arrives alarmingly quickly. You’ll formulate strategies and abandon them within seconds. Such limited space means a wonderfully uneasy tension hangs over every move, the knowledge that you’re only ever a step or two away from failure forcing an almost comical level of deliberation.
Then, just as it begins to yield, another mode unlocks and changes the rules – not that it’s required in a game that so elegantly demonstrates less really can be more. Like all great puzzle games, you’re beholden to the whims of fortune, forcing you into leaps of faith that often prove frustratingly fatal. But like all great puzzle games, Stickets’ surface simplicity is merely a cover for mechanics of astonishing purity and longevity.
Stickets is out now on iOS for £1.99 / $2.99.