Cut the Rope 2 review: Polished but uninspired physics puzzle game for iOS
You’ve played Cut The Rope, right? No? Have you been living on the planet Glong? For the six people and a cat who’ve not played it, Cut The Rope is 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 maneuver one into the other, preferably collecting three stars along the way.
Now, after a few cautious semi-sequels (which some cynics claim were more accurately described as paid-for level packs than genuinely new games in their own right), ZeptoLabs has finally launched Cut the Rope 2, the official second instalment in the franchise.
Cut the Rope 2, like Cut the Rope: Time Travel, is a lot like the original Cut the Rope, with just a few new gameplay mechanics and some minor cosmetic tweaks. In fact, Time Travel’s big feature—that each level featured two Om Noms to feed—actually had a bigger effect on the way the puzzles shook out than what we’ve got with Cut the Rope 2.
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, you get a chubby lizard who sticks his tongue out to form a bridge. In the Junkyard, the game adds a 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.
Going for these medals is certainly a more varied and entertaining task 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.
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, 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 off your supply of solutions in the shop. 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 developers 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 support games that charge more than a few dollars 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 Cut the Rope 2. 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 but lots of pushy offers for in-app purchases, too. And the latter point makes me wonder if newcomers might not be better off downloading one of the earlier games first.