Have you ever played a game where you have no idea what you are doing, but somehow you get to level 20 without missing a beat? That’s what happened when I first tried Sticky Linky. But after taking the 30 seconds to look at the instructions I realized that, yes, random tapping may get you entirely too far, too fast, but the game is actually a really interesting strategic take on the color-matching motif.
The levels start with globs of gooey color attached to one another. It’s an aesthetic that resembles a rainbow World of Goo, but the gameplay is completely different. Here players are tasked with tapping any groupings of two or more like-colored globs when they connect. But just doing so would turn this level-based physics puzzler into an endless affair. The real object here it to set it up so at least five goo balls of one color are linked. Tapping that chain turns it into a face. Once you have the creature’s mug a second match removes it from the playing field. You can keep track of how many you’ve released in the upper right hand corner. When you’ve caught the all the heads, the round ends.
It sounds both overly complicated and too simple, but it’s that very combination that makes it so enjoyable. Even on the most basic levels, a fair amount of thought can go into making the stack fall just right so you get lots of faces and set up big combos, or you can tap away and still move forward. But that only goes so far.
Many levels have more than just gravity to consider. New faces don’t bloom in the dark so on some boards you may have only four faces, all visible from the start, but obstacles blocking your way from connecting them to anything else. Those levels require advance planning. On other levels bubbles surrounding the globs have them rise rather than fall, and as the game ramps up there are lots of blocked routes.
Occasionally there are power ups hiding in the bits of goo, the most important of which is manna – some sort of blue potion. If you run out, it’s game over. The game puts a reasonable amount out there, but if you want to go for the huge scores, you can also purchase it in-app.
Sticky Linky has the misfortune of having an overly literal and uninspiring name. But it has the good fortune of being a rarity in the App Store: a matching game with its own distinct personality and a great mix of luck and skill.