Pickin' Stix - I can truly appreciate a modern adaptation of a classic game as much as the next person. Sure, sometimes a modern take defiles its classic inspiration and other times it improves it. Pickin’ Stix is a recently released iPhone app that celebrates the classic game of pick-up-sticks. I didn’t really like this game when I was a kid playing with real sticks, so I may not be the right person to gauge the fun and excitement of picking virtual sticks out of a pile, but in Pickin’ Stix, that’s what you do.
For a buck, you can add a virtual pile of colorful sticks to your iPhone or iPod touch and race against a timer to see how fast you can pick through the pile one top stick at a time. Your score increases with each correct pick and you lose a point if you pick the wrong stick. Pickin’ Stix uses the simple touch screen interface to tap sticks and remove them from the pile. It also utilizes the accelerometer feature and will give you a new pile of sticks if you shake your device.
If you liked playing pick-up-sticks for real, then maybe Pickin’ Stix has something to offer you. I’m trying to decide the best audience for Pickin’ Stix and maybe to young kids it might be entertaining as it’s one of the simplest games in the world to play. Of course my kids think pick-up-sticks is not a game, but a chore you complete after a wind storm and even if I try to call it a game, they're not buying it.
I suppose Pickin’ Stix could also be considered a simple time-killer. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with any options to play multi-player pick-up-sticks where you could take turns trying to pick the top stick because it only keeps track of one score. Sure you can take turns picking through a complete pile of sticks or try to beat your own best score, but since the pile of sticks is different every time, there’s really no competition.
I have to give some appreciation for having picked a classic game to adapt to the iPhone, but I’m not sure it was the best game to pick. You can’t even see the ends of all the sticks, where there could be overlap, because they are off-screen and the timer and score button slightly obscures the sticks in the upper right corner. There are also occasional sticks that seem to skewer the end of another stick making it difficult to discern which one is on top. Though the “tap-to-select-stick” interface is so obviously simple anyone can play, the longevity of play will depend largely on how entertaining the user finds tapping sticks to be.
Given that I’ve never liked any version of pick-up-sticks, I will refrain from commenting on the entertainment aspect of Pickin’ Sticks and simply state: it is super quick to pick up and play with absolutely no instructions necessary and there is no learning curve, no increasingly difficult challenges, no control issues, and literally anyone can play it. I hesitate to say it, but it would be better served as a free app. OK, I lied...I believe it would be a stretch to say Pickin’ Stix is entertaining, but then given its inspiration, maybe it wasn’t intended to be.