Cut The Rope 2 iPhone puzzle game review
You've played Cut The Rope, right? No? Have you been living on the planet Glong?
Fine. For the six people and a cat who’ve not played it, Cut The Rope is (was?) one of the most successful iPhone games ever; a cheery, simple but perfectly crafted physics puzzle game where you have to feed a series of sweets to a cute monster called Om Nom.
Om Nom sits placidly but hungrily in one part of each level, and the sweet hangs in another. By slicing through ropes, plumping air cushions, popping balloons and generally harnessing the implacable laws of physics (all via beautifully intuitive and responsive touchscreen gestures) you manoeuvre one into the other, preferably collecting three stars along the way.
Now, after a few cautious semi-sequels (which some cynics had claimed were more accurately described as paid-for level packs than genuinely new games in their own right), ZeptoLabs has finally launched the official second instalment in the franchise. Once you've sold 128 trillion downloads of a game, admittedly, the temptation must be to build a follow-up that’s exactly the same. But instead of following that path… okay, ZeptoLabs has done pretty much that.
Cut The Rope 2, like Time Travel, is a lot like the original Cut The Rope, with just a few new gameplay mechanics to play with and some minor cosmetic tweaks. In fact, Time Travel's big feature - that each level featured two Om Noms, both of which wanted feeding - actually had a bigger effect on the way the puzzles shook out than what we’ve got here.
Cut The Rope 2 review: What’s new?
The biggest change to gameplay is the addition of new helper monsters that vary according to the worlds you've completed. In the Sandy Dam world, for instance, you get a chubby lizard who sticks his tongue out to form a bridge; in the Junkyard the game adds a sort of sad gelatinous cube who multiplies when tapped and can thus be used to raise platforms. And so on.
This is all very nice - and these 'Nommies' are pleasingly drawn and characterful - but it takes a while for the more interesting ones to appear. For the entire first world you just get the little hovering helicopter chaps, and there's a lot of levels to get through in each world. (For some that will be a plus, of course. You certainly get volume in this game, and you shouldn’t need to worry about longevity.)
And even with these new characters, the way the levels work is very much the same. You work out the route the sweet (or occasionally Om Nom himself) needs to take, then have a few goes until you get the timing right. Then you focus on getting all three sweets.
However - and this is the other big upgrade - there is now one more stage after that. Each level offers a medal for accomplishing a set of objectives: sometimes just to beat a specified score, but often to get a certain number of stars without using particular items of equipment. Sometimes it's harder to get two stars, say, than to get all three. If you get all the medals in a world, the game unlocks four new levels, which in turn unlock a victory video - so you have plenty of incentive to go for the medals.
It's certainly a more varied and entertaining task going for these medals than the old completist quest of getting all the stars, since the objectives vary. But it's noticeable that getting all the stars itself has got noticeably easier; on most levels you'll manage this almost at once, before moving on to the medal. The medals are often extremely tricky, though. Which is nice.
Cut The Rope 2 review: In-app purchases
There's one more difference between the first Cut The Rope and this game, and sadly it's not something to celebrate. Cut The Rope 2 has plenty of optional in-app payments (IAPs), and while that's not in itself necessarily a terrible thing, it is when they intrude so much into the game.
If you complete a level in Cut The Rope 2 with fewer than three stars, a flashy message appears at the top asking if you'd like to know how to get all of them - the first time, too, not after you've been floundering for dozens of attempts. If you agree, you can use up one of your limited number of 'solutions', whereby a glowing flame thing zips around the level showing you what you ought to be doing.
Naturally you can top up your supply of solutions in the shop: 6 for £1.49, 12 for £2.49, 25 for £2.99 or an infinite supply for £17.49. For those who just spat out their tea, yes you did read that right: £17.49. It beats me why anyone would pay so much not to play a game they've paid for, but there you go. (For more ranting on that subject, see 'Freemium is the worst thing in the history of gaming' and 'Flappy Bird review'.)
Cut The Rope 2 in-app purchases. Left to right: 'Want to collect all stars?'; prices for 'power-up packs' (which contain solutions and other items); prices for hats and other cosmetic enhancements
There are also, inevitably, hats and other cosmetic upgrades to buy, and the game again does it best to push these in your face (or on your head) by ostentatiously giving you the first set for free and arm-twisting you through the process of installing them.
It's a shame, really, that the designers feel the need to tout for extra revenue so shamelessly, especially given that the game itself is paid for and looks sure to net huge profits from downloads alone. But as long as we pay for these things, and as long as we refuse to countenance games that charge more than a few quid for the initial download, devs will keep including them.
If you’ve never played a Cut The Rope game before - and despite my facetiousness before, there are plenty of people in this group - then you won’t go far wrong with this one; the puzzles are neat, expertly crafted and satisfying to work out, it looks lovely, and the new medal aspect gives the puzzles a more varied depth that’s fun to explore. Veterans of the series, however, should be warned not to expect anything radically new here: lots more levels, admittedly, but lots of pushy IAPs too. And the latter point makes us wonder if newcomers might not be better off downloading one of the earlier games first.