One of my favorite puzzle games of last year was ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope. At the risk of ruffling a few feathers I’d argue that Cut the Rope (which was published by Chillingo) was actually a more challenging and less random luck-based physics puzzle game than Chillingo’s more popular chart topper Angry Birds. Cut the Rope has unfortunately spent a good deal of time in the shadow of its rainbow fowl competition, but the fact that it requires a combination of skill, logical thinking and yeah I suppose even a little luck to be successful, just makes it a much more compelling game for me. Fortunately Cut the Rope did have its moment to really shine when it temporarily ousted Angry Birds from its perch atop the App Store charts, but like many apps before it, it was quickly dethroned by those pig-hating birds once again. (Although I suspect it will claim victory again with Experiments!)

The latest title in the Cut the Rope franchise, Cut the Rope: Experiments, sees Om Nom arriving at a new home, belonging to an inquisitive scientist. It’s a theme which almost seems to mirror ZeptoLab’s own real life experience as they embark on a new adventure, taking on full ownership of the phen-Om-e-Nom that they’ve created, leaving behind the relative safety of Chillingo’s publishing team for a “new home”. The game is the third title in the franchise, but the first of which ZeptoLab will be self-publishing. It features the same overall gameplay that you no doubt enjoyed from the first two tiles, but with several all new gameplay mechanics (in the form of the game’s second two boxes, “Shooting the Candy” and “Sticky Steps”). The basic goal of each level being to get the pieac of candy into adorable little Om Nom’s waiting mouth and collecting the three stars along the way if possible.

One thing that I have always loved about this franchise is how it is constantly recreating itself with each new box of 25 levels, keeping enough familiar to make you comfortable, but tossing in an all new gameplay mechanic to make things compelling, challenging and fresh. This is the main reason why I insist that Cut the Rope is a far superior physics-based puzzle game than the entertaining, but often over-hyped Angry Birds franchise which may have reinvented this genre when it launched, but has seen very little innovation in gameplay since, adding only the occasional new bird type.

Since I think most people are already familiar with the basic gameplay of Cut the Rope by now, I’m going to instead focus on what’s new in Experiments. The first box of 25 levels, titled ‘Getting Started’ does a great job of getting players back into the swing of things and features many of your favorite gameplay mechanics from the previous Cut the Rope games and adds the element of “moving stars” to change things up a bit. The second box, ‘Shooting the Candy’, adds a really cool new mechanic where you have rope cannons, that you can tap on to fire a single rope toward the piece of candy to catch it mid-air via a plunger and anchor it to a new pivot point (the cannon). It is an excellent new gameplay element which makes for some tricky, skill-based puzzles requiring precise timing. The third box, ‘Sticky Steps’, adds a new suction-cup element, which you can tap on to release and tap again to stick to the current spot on the wall. When the candy is in a bubble the suction-cups will drift upward when released and you can even use them in pairs to do some neat wall walks utilizing the momentum provided by the falling candy. Once again the fun and richness of the puzzles that this new element helps create is quite fantastic.

Om Nom’s latest outing looks and sounds great, our protagonist has even gotten some cute new expressions and this time around there are also a few hidden photographs for you to find throughout the levels which will earn you a Game Center achievement. It’s hard to know for sure if this game was just easier than the first two or if I’ve become so accustom to the gameplay that I am better at it because I understand the logic involved in solving the puzzles and what I need to do to get the candy where it needs to go. That being said, I was able to finish the entire game with 3 stars on all 75 levels in around 3 hours with some going back and trying to improve my scores. I’d say that there were only a handful of levels that were really truly challenging for me when it came to getting 3 stars. On the previous Cut the Rope games there were definitely more levels that required multiple play-throughs to get all 3 stars. That being said, I definitely felt like I easily got my 99¢ worth and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new gameplay elements. I’m certain that new 25-level boxes will be added to the game in future updates and I can’t wait to see what the guys at ZeptoLab come up with next.

In Conclusion

ZeptoLab has produced a worthy sequel to their Cut the Rope franchise that is both familiar and fresh. I wish ZeptoLab all the best with this inaugural self-publishing venture and hope they see huge (well-deserved) success with Cut the Rope: Experiments. If you enjoyed the first two Cut the Rope games, then the new rope cannon and suction-cup gameplay elements will certainly entertain you. Cut the Rope: Experiments is available on the App Store for 99¢ for the iPhone/iPod Touch and $1.99 for the iPad.