The mark of a good puzzle game is in how it balances the entertainment value with the challenge… a fine-line if you will between fun and frustration.
‘Cut the Rope’ is one such game where its devilish puzzles won’t see you reaching for the sleep button in a fit of rage. It’s this ‘one more go’ lure that makes it an instant classic, up there with Angry Birds.
I’m not sure why you must feed him the candy via rope, but I can only assume his cuteness hides some finger biting tendancies.
Each level requires you to get the piece of succulent candy to the mouth of Om Nom (the critters name based no-doubt on the sound he makes when he eats) by strategically making cuts to the rope using your finger. With this being a physics based puzzler, cutting the ‘right’ rope at the ‘right’ time will ensure it swings and drops into his mouth, where you are then whisked off to the next challenge.
There are four types of box, featuring 25 levels, with each box offering new challenges and obstacles. While any level in a box can be skipped, new boxes must be unlocked by collecting stars within any given level. There are three stars to collect by touching them with the candy, and while all levels can be completed in various ways, only one solution will allow you to collect all the stars and get the candy to Om Nom.
The early levels require nothing more than a few select cuts of the rope, but soon you’ll come across other objects/tools you must use. The first of these is the bubble. This encases your candy and causes it to floats upwards. That is of course unless it’s attached to a rope, in which case it becomes a matter of timing when to cut the ropes and when to pop the bubble. Air pumps also come into play, these are fixed to the box walls, and when tapped, can be used to affect the path of the candy in a bubble, or to swing the candy when dangling from a rope.
Generally the rope is tied to a fixed position, but later levels include sliders, allowing you to slide the hanging ropes into positions. When floating in a bubble and tied to a slider, you can influence the candy in a balloon-like fashion by moving the sliders quickly, much like if you suddenly run with a balloon in hand where the balloon will float lower, which in this case allows you to float the candy under spiked obstacles. Wheels become available in the last box, which really push the physics engine, and reward you with the best challenges in the game. By spinning these with your finger you can tighten or loosen rope which, when used in tandem with other rope, allows you to flick the candy in various directions, move it accurately around spiked obstacles, or control the ascent of candy in a bubble.
Just as you thought the challenge couldn’t ramp up, the game throws timed stars at you. These have timers around them which tick down until the timer ends and the star disappears. So where once you could casually mull a levels solution over, here you must work quickly with your rope cuts or risk missing those valuable stars.
Om nom isn’t the only creature eyeing the candy, there are spiders too. In some levels if you attach the candy to a rope with a spider on it, it will crawl down the rope and steal the candy. Again, this comes down to timing your rope cuts before the spider gets close.
As you can imagine, the final levels become a beautiful mess of objects and obstacles as you frantically cut, blow, swing and pop, to get that damn candy to the critter.
The game has a wonderful illustrative art style, featuring a loveable creature in bright cartoon environments. The version tested here is the HD version and the visuals really pop off the screen. I particularly like the small details such as the loading transitions where a large Stanley knife cuts open the box to reveal the level, and once a box has been competed it is taped back up.
The sound effects in the game add greatly to the cartoon feel. The fart style sound for the air pumps is a particulary highlight (at least for a Brit like me), as are both the sounds of a spider when it nabs your candy, and when poor little Om Nom goes without. The soundtrack fits the game well too, however I have since turned it off due to a few restless nights with it looping over and over in my head.
All these elements come together to create an incredibly polished game that is addictive, fun and features just the right amount of learning curve before ramping up the challenge. But, it is the physics that is the real star of the show here, working invisibly in the background. It’s a testament to Zeptolab that this underlying physics engine allows all these elements to perform so realistically that you intuitively perform the actions required without question.