The Mother-and-Alien-Child Reunion is a Couple of Motions Away in Stick To It

Whenever I feel like the physics puzzle format is completely played out, Fahey slides me another download code, and the thing turns out to be pretty good. Stick To It, ahem, adheres to the basic principles of the genre, but shows there are still clever ways to challenge players to finish a puzzle with an economy of moves.

Magic Pixel Games' Stick To It (iOS, $1.99) puts you in charge of an alien baby blob trying to roll back to his mother. I'm not sure how to describe the species except they look like something from The Far Side's bestiary. Junior has no locomotive powers. He gets back to Mom by gravity, or by being pushed by sliding blocks or bouncing off the environment.

He can, however, stick fast to any surface, which is accomplished by holding down anywhere on the touchscreen. Each level in Stick To It starts with the baby blob on one end of the board (typically the top), and Mom at another. You're supposed to get him back to his mother using as few sticks as possible. Beat the number budgeted at the top of the screen, and you'll get a star. Stars, of course, unlock future groups of puzzles. You may only receive one star per level.

Tapping the screen sets the alien baby in motion (I was disappointed to find this counts against your stick total, but it's manageable). He builds up a lot of momentum very fast. Many of the levels in the first grouping of 20 look like you can just drop him and he'll bounce, Pachinko-style, down to mommy with no additional work. Nope. You learn early on that climbing down involves sticking either at the bottom of a ramp or at the top of the next one.

Moving obstacles also require some thought before rolling into them. Some overlap, providing a scraper-like push sending you where you want to go (or not) while using only one stick. Most will require you to time your initial drop just right if you're going to land where you want in one move. You may use as many sticks as you like to complete a puzzle, you just won't get the star if you go over the total.

Stick To It's one drawback is, like many in the genre, it can hit some inscrutable difficulty spikes in the middle of a puzzle series, not necessarily always building up to a tough challenge. There were a couple of boards in the first 20 that seemed, again, to have been designed with a single solution that wasn't at all apparent to me. It didn't prevent me from unlocking the next grouping of 20. The game offers 80 puzzles in all and more are planned.

Layered on this is a charming visual style, cute characters and a shrewd motivation for getting you to complete a level. Who wouldn't want to reunite a mom and her baby—even if they're weird, cyclopean aliens?

Stick To It [iOS, $1.99]