At first glance, Stubies may appear to be nothing more than a simple app that people of all ages can play on their mobile device, quickly discarding it a short while after. Once you march your way through the first couple levels, Stubies reels you in with its sleek graphics, almost hypnotic little jingle and increasing amount of difficulty, continually testing the player.

The main goal of Stubies is to bring two matching sets of these square-headed creatures together. In each level there are a certain number of points you have to achieve, and the only way you can do that is by continually matching these guys together. In the first couple levels, it proves to be fairly simple, but then they raise up the number of points you need in order to pass a stage. The struggle to leap from one level to the other may increase over a fairly short amount of time, but little bonuses and clever planning can help out each player in the long run.

A plus for this app are the constant tutorials that are popping up in each level. If you’re not entirely sure where two matching creatures could be, one of them will wave at you. When you begin to encounter little square creatures who look like they’re ready to explode, the game briefly pauses to explain to you how to deal with them in order to increase the points you can earn. If you’re not entirely sure how to handle certain creatures, you’re always able to go back to the particular world and replay the level, getting the tutorial once more. The ability to hop back and forth between the levels you’ve previously played is definitely useful for those who want to continually build up their experience, or just wish to play a simpler part of the app.

The overall presentation in Stubies is nothing short of impressive, especially considering that this is a completely independently-made game. Instead of smothering the player with lackluster graphics, you’re showered with soft, colorful creatures as the carefree music is plucking away out of the speakers of your iPhone. It brings you into this adorable little world, making it that much harder to pry yourself away from the game even when you find yourself at odds with a level. There is one little bug that stands out when you’re in the higher levels. If you try to click on multiple creatures, one at a time, there will be an instance or two where it doesn’t register and you may lose your hold on one. A double-click can help out, helping you not only plant one creature in the ground, but giving you the temporary freedom to deal with another that you wish to combine with it’s twin.

There tends to be a considerable amount of trouble with a game when it’s stuck on only one side of the screen. While it’s not entirely difficult to play an app that’s meant to be played horizontally when your phone is flipped to one side, it’s nice to have a pinch of variety. It’s a blessing to uncover this, but slightly infuriating at the same time. Once you gradually make your way into the higher levels, make sure you don’t move your phone around too much or you may find the screen turned to the other side. When you’ve got a bunch of little Stubies running around at a quick speed, the last thing you need is to have your screen flip to the side and screw up your strategy.

Stubies appears to be a sweet, light hearted game on the surface, but don’t let that fool you. The soft and brightly lit world is just a cover for what is one of the more difficult games I’ve played in a good long while. The speed of these cuddly little creatures amps up once you pass the 10th level in any world, along with how many pop up. The player is also dealing with the difficult tasks of bringing more of these creatures together to gather up points. When you put all of those obstacles together, it transforms Stubies into this nail-biter of a app. There may be a few moments when you end up messing up on a level, letting too many of the creatures fall into the blue water in front of them, but all that does is hone your skill at meshing these colorful guys together.

After playing with Stubies for the past couple of days, I find it incredibly tough being able to swipe the app away from my collection of games. There may be instances where I’m at odds with the game and want to throw my phone on the ground, but the challenge of the higher levels kept me increasingly interested in this app.

App Store Link: Stubies for iPhone & iPad | By Creatiu Lab | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.0 | 73.4 MB | Rating: 4+

8.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating