'Cut the Rope' Satisfies the Casual Gamer's Sweet Tooth
Like "Angry Birds," "Cut the Rope" requires just the right mix of puzzle-solving skills and dexterity. Its many levels and boards are perfectly designed for casual, bite-sized rounds, and the designs are just difficult enough to keep you guessing for a few minutes. If "Cut the Rope" stays at its currently $1 price, publisher Chillingo may have another platinum-level hit on its hands.
Has "Angry Birds" become the "Super Mario Bros." of the iPhone platform? I guess we'll have to see at least 20 "Birds" sequels before we'll know for sure. But based on how many weeks in a row I've seen it at the top of the App Store's Most Popular Paid Apps list, I'd hazard a guess that it's the single best-selling iPhone game of all time.
It's not a peaceful game. To avenge the kidnapping of their children, livid birds with a singular goal in mind -- all pigs must die -- launch a series of suicide attacks against an entrenched, porcine bourgeoisie. This game has turned into a runaway hit, and I don't know what exactly that says about the times in which we live. Maybe nothing. Maybe the game's just fun.
But the reign of the "Angry Birds" has drawn to a close, or at least a stall. Another game has arrived to claim the top spot. Like it did with "Angry Birds," game publisher Chillingo has pushed "Cut the Rope" to the No. 1 position with a level layout perfect for casual, bite-sized rounds; colorful design; and simple gameplay that still manages to mix a bit of dexterity in with puzzle-solving.
Delivering a Candygram
"Cut the Rope" is based on a very mellow concept: feeding your pet. No, it's not a Tamagotchi rip-off.
You are presented with a small, green ... thing. Maybe it's an iguana, maybe a frog, maybe a mutant dog. It sits on a ledge inside a box, and your job is to guide pieces of candy to its mouth.
Doing so is not an especially easy job, though. Working in a 2D space, you have to move the candy toward the critter by way of swinging ropes, bubbles, rubber bands, hooks and whoopie cushions, among many other tools. Gravity, spikes and spiders are some of your enemies -- they will steal or destroy your candy, causing your beloved pet to issue a heartbreaking little whine.
Your main element of control is to, yes, cut the rope. Depending on how your candy is situated, swiping your finger over the screen to sever the cord it's attached to will let the morsel fall, send it swinging to another position, or fling it to the other side of the box. Like in "Angry Birds," the simulated gravity in "Cut the Rope" seems fairly accurate.
Successfully feeding the green guy means you've technically passed the board, but often the more difficult challenge lies in collecting the stars that appear in various places inside the box. If you can guide the candy over the stars and feed it to your little mutant, the stars will count toward you total, which determines which new levels you can unlock.
Each level consists of 25 boards. Some are quite easy, others will take several tries before you can figure them out. Often it's not just a matter of knowing which ropes to cut, but also when -- at what point in the swing or bounce -- to cut them. And if you run into a board that's just not working out for you, you can skip it.
Maybe games like "Cut the Rope" and "Angry Birds" are so successful in part because they're priced so low. "Rope" goes for only a buck, and it's well worth it.
The only frustration I encountered was based on my reliance on the iPhone's accelerometer. It looks a lot like the kind of game that would let you swing the candy around by changing the position of the actual phone. After an hour of playing time, I'd still catch myself rocking the handset back and forth to get a better swing going. But it's not that kind of game, and it probably shouldn't be. It's fine the way it is.
Although "Angry Birds" centers on destruction and chaos and "Cut the Rope" is all about serving lunch, both deliver the sort of gaming that's pitch-perfect for a platform like the iPhone. It's incredibly easy to learn, most puzzles are just difficult enough to make you go "hmmmm" for a few minutes at most, and it can be started up and put away at a moment's notice.