Angry Birds, Lookout
Cut the Rope caught my eye when it dethroned Angry Birds as the number one game on the iPhone app store. It's a simple but addicting physics based puzzle game. There are tons of physics based puzzle games on the app store, so what's different about this one? In short, Cut the Rope oozes with personality, looks good, has responsive controls, and offers 100 different puzzles for the low price of ninety-nine cents (plus free updates are in the works with the promise of new stages).
Conceptually, Cut the Rope is as minimalist as an iPhone game can be; the goal is to get a piece of candy into the monster's mouth by--you guessed it--cutting ropes. The twist is that there are three stars to collect in each level. To collect the stars, the player must manipulate the candy so that it touches each star before falling into the monster's mouth. These stars must be collected to unlock each of the three other stages in the game and they increase the player's overall score.
The game starts off fairly easy by slowly introducing the player to the basics. Most players will cruise through the first six or seven puzzles. The game will quickly ramp up the difficulty, which is when things start to get awesome in Cut the Rope. Early puzzles require the player to cut multiple ropes in different orders, which is often simply trial and error. Just when the player becomes acutely aware of the order of ropes to be cut, the game adds speed and precision into the mix. Instead of just cutting one rope, many puzzles often require that two or three ropes be cut simultaneously or in quick succession.
As the game progresses, new twists are added. For example, the player learns that bubbles can lift the candy and can be popped when touched. Also, spikes are placed in inconvenient places. In later stages, spiders will crawl down the rope trying to snatch the monster's candy. These mechanics tweak the game and force the player to act quickly or to rethink what route must be taken. All of these mechanics are used well, and luckily they are never over used. Cut the Rope biggest strength is its pacing. The game does a great job of mixing up the game play, but it never overwhelms by adding on too many mechanics.
There are a few puzzles in Cut the Rope that are frustrating, but the puzzle isn't ever the problem. Cut the Rope is always fair. Whenever I found myself stuck, I just had to try new routes or cut different ropes. Eventually the path became clear and I wondered why I hadn't noticed the solution earlier. The game's difficulty was just right. I rarely ever solved a puzzle in one try, but I rarely spent more than ten or fifteen minutes on a single puzzle. Cut the Rope always felt fun, never punishing.
If there is a problem with the game, it is that there are not normally multiple ways to solve a puzzle. It feels like the developers had a very definitive route in mind when they designed each puzzle. This isn't really weakness because level design feels thought-out, but the impression that there is only one solution prevents players from replaying a puzzle after it has been solved and the three stars collected.
Cut the Rope looks great, plays well, promises add-on content, and is cheap. What more do you want from a dollar iPhone game?