Among people who like playing games, I think that there are a few types. There are those who play massive, epic three-dimensional games with dedicated consoles, and then there are the rest of us who become casually addicted to gems like Rolando, Topple 2, Doodle Jump, and my new favorite, Cut the Rope, by Chillingo in conjunction with ZeptoLab.
As you have probably guessed, this review is going to be about Cut the Rope. Keep reading after the fold to see what I think of this truly charming App Store phenomenon.
When you open Cut the Rope for the first time, an adorable animation of a package (containing your new and adorable friend, Om Nom) arriving sets the tone for the entire game.
When you go to the App Store to download Cut the Rope, you’ll see that there are two versions: Cut the Rope for iPhone, and Cut the Rope HD for iPad. Note that this is not a universal app; you have to buy both if you want to play on iPhone and iPad.
You can also buy Cut the Rope HD, the high-definition iPad-optimized version!
Once you have made your choice and opened it, the app will ask you whether you want to enable Crystal. Crystal is a social gaming experience similar to Apple’s Game Center, ngmoco’s Plus+, or Aurora Feint’s OpenFeint; in fact, since Cut the Rope comes with Game Center support built-in, I am a little baffled by the inclusion of Crystal (more on that later).
After you have made a decision on enabling Crystal, the begins with an breathtaking animation of a package arriving at your front door, labeled “Feed with Candy”, with a breathing-hole cut in it. Inside is your new little friend, the adorable green, frog-like monster Om Nom.
Om Nom is hungry for candy, which hangs from a rope where he can’t reach it; it’s your job to cut the rope by passing your finger through it, and give your tiny green friend the treats he requires. In the process, you try to get the little wheel of candy to pass through as many out of three glowing stars as possible; this is how you earn points.
With the help of Cut the Rope’s quick instructions, you’ll be up and running in no time!
Cut the Rope also features fantastic background music (of the classical sort), which is very reminiscent of that used by Topple and Topple2 from ngmoco.
All this is realized using a fantastically smooth and realistic physics engine; it truly feels like the real world, but better for Om Nom’s company. When the candy nears the little monster, he opens his mouth wide, and if he catches it, you’ll hear a satisfying crunch-crunch as he gobbles it up. But if you miss, Om Nom will emit a small, disappointed whine, and frown at you. Time to try again!
Try to collect as many stars as possible in order to unlock the next world!
Cut the Rope currently features four worlds (Cardboard Box, Fabric Box, Foil Box, and Gift Box); within each, there are fifty levels which vary from incredibly difficult to pretty easy. As you advance through the worlds, you encounter new challenges and control structures (spikes, spiders, elastic ropes, etc.). More worlds are planned for future updates.
Flick to the right and to the left to choose on of currently four worlds; within each world, you get an ample number of levels. Once you have collected enough stars, new the next world is unlocked!
Artwork: A 2D Renaissance
My friends have all heard my spiel on games. I’m often disturbed and disappointed by the trend toward three-dimensional gaming, because it seems to put glitz and short-term impression in front of great art; for how many 3D games look truly smooth? The test on game artwork for me is whether I’d most expect to see it in a frame at an exhibition, or in the hands of a poorly-socialized fourteen-year-old boy; unfortunately, even the very best 3D games seem to fall into the latter category, whereas the best 2D games feel at home in the former.
When ngmoco pulled the plug on the Rolando franchise and began expanding their empire of cynical, kitschy social games, my greatest fears for mobile gaming were realized. For the greatest while, it seemed as though the future would comprise pretend farms, pretend cities, pretend kingdoms, and all-too-real money.
Charm wins out in the end! I’m easily won over by nice touches like taping and untaping the box as you exit and enter worlds.
But the massively positive response to Cut the Rope has given me hope again that beautiful, charming graphics and no-nonsense, healthy fun can succeed on the App Store. There will always be a market for addicting users to growing fake crops with real money, but it seems that the charm of adorable games like Cut the Rope is not lost on consumers.
Cut the Rope performs perfectly on both my iPhone 4 and iPad. It seems to be the norm for most iOS games to crash frequently, but I’m elated to say that Cut the Rope has not even crashed once for me.
Cut the Rope is an impressive masterpiece of careful memory-management.
Room for Improvement
I touched earlier on the confusion caused by the inclusion of the Crystal gaming network; I’d like to fill out my thoughts on that a little.
In the days before Game Center and iOS 4.1, it made sense to have many competing gaming networks; each had its own culture and following, and pool of conforming games. But now what we really want is consistency. The differences between the various networks, be they superficial or philosophical, are largely irrelevant to normal users. That’s why when my mother downloaded Cut the Rope at my recommendation, she delayed playing it for several days, because she was afraid to make the wrong decision in choosing whether to enable Crystal; it doesn’t matter to people like her that any such decision can easily be undone. To them, the friction of uncertainty is enough to frighten them away from a great game.
It is imperative that developers rally around Game Center, if only to provide a unified experience for people like my mother. And if you must include a third-party network with your game, don’t confuse new users by making them opt in or out on first launch.
Another area for potential improvement I’d like to mention is crispness of graphics on the iPhone version of Cut the Rope. It truly looks great, but with the Retina Display, it is common to see some spots where things are a little blurry. In Cut the Rope HD on my iPad, however, the graphics are outstandingly crisp.
Cut the Rope gets a clean 10/10 from me! With its outstanding physics, charming graphics, and endearing theme, it’s impossible not to love. In fact, if you listen to App Store reviews (I rarely do, but that’s another story), you’ll be glad to know that Cut the Rope has received nearly 54,000 five-star ratings.
Let us know what you think of Cut the Rope in the comments below!