We have this little game we play at our house. My kids like to sneak up and surprise me with a “boo” or some other abrupt noise, just to see the look on my face. Apparently, my facial expressions are an endless source of humor for them. Of course, sometimes I return the favor – but they don't always laugh when I startle them. So, what has this got to do with Stuck Genie by Cobra Mobile (published by Warner Brothers). Well . . . it is one of those games that kind of sneaks up on you, and before you know it, “bam!” you're hooked (facial expression not included).

The objective of the game is clever and original in its premise. Players who have “failed” before you are trapped within the labyrinth itself – and you must free them with your sticky gold bubble. An interesting way of enticing the player to “prove” she is better than the players who have gone before her. Even though you don't really buy this line of reasoning, it is fun to imagine that you, the last competent Stuck Genie player in the universe, have the ability and the technical skill required to free all of the past players whose tragic attempts lay in waste on the maze board.

Learning to play is a snap. You simply move your ball around in each maze/labyrinth and try to stick your ball (differentiated by its gold color) to the other balls (light blue) in the level. Getting “stuck” happens frequently as there is often not enough space to allow for you and your friends who are stuck with you until you reach freedom.If there is space, you are able to rotate your ball “group” clockwise to allow you to pass through more easily if necessary.You get more points if you finish a level faster (the bar at the bottom of the screen shows how much time you have to get 4x your points, 3x your points, or 2x your points), but you never run out of time. Stuck Genie is generous that way. You are given plenty of time to finish, and you can start over at any time if you get stuck and need to begin again.

Though learning to play the game is easy, increasingly challenging levels and brain-teasing mazes keep your interest. In fact, it takes about 12-15 levels before you're really challenged. But when I reached that point, I have to admit I was scratching my head quite a bit to figure out how to get out the sticky situations presented by the seemingly impossible mazes. Even though it takes a awhile to experience these more challenging obstacles, you're given 73 levels in total to play, so it is definitely possible to play for hours.

Stuck Genie is a forgiving game for puzzle players who play in short sessions. If you get “stuck” on a level (your balls can't rotate and you can't get through a passageway to finish the level) you are free to begin the level again, with your only penalty being that your time doesn't start over.So you might not get your points multiplied for doing the level fast, but that's not a big problem.I appreciated being able to start each level again if I needed to (it happened a few times).

When you begin the game, there is a helpful tutorial that walks you through the mechanics so you won't get frustrated trying to figure out how to play. The tutorial paints a little of the background picture for you(previous players being “stuck” in the labyrinth waiting to be freed), and the method of gameplay.This method allows you to practice before you jump in and submit yourself to being timed. I also enjoyed the personalization feature. Multiple players can sign in to play on one phone. This allows me and my kids to play the same game – and compete for the best single game score.

The sound design supports the graphics and gameplay very well. The music is kind unique and rather unexpected in its style. It does grow a bit tiresome after playing many levels, however. The sounds are pure fun and appropriate additions to this fun little game.

As you might expect, there is a quirky 'genie' is perfect for the style of the game. The graphics are bright, clever and engaging.I especially like the silly little “hand dance” that the genie does every time you complete a level. But then again, maybe I am easily amused.

At $1.99, I would recommend Stuck Genie for all ages and all genders. With loads of puzzling fun, brain-teasing puzzles, and engaging graphics, it's sure to bring a smile to your face.