Cut-The-Rope-HD-10 We’re kicking off a new regular feature here on the O2 Blog with an in-depth look at the most successful apps and games around. We’ve spoken to the developers, and stacked up the competition. Step into the App Spotlight, Cut The Rope.

The adorable physics puzzler and its star, Om Nom, are almost as well known as the irate avian cast of Angry Birds. How did it happen? We go behind the scenes to find out how its makers ZeptoLab made it all come together. 

You know the game: for whatever reason, Om Nom the little green critter, is inside a box. He wants a piece of candy. By cutting ropes, pushing whoopee cushions and popping bubbles, it’s your task to guide it into his awaiting gob. 

But did you know that the game had an iPhone predecessor? Cut The Rope was crafted by a pair of Russian twins, Semyon and Efin Voinov, who originally cut their teeth developing games for the ancient ZX Spectrum, and later Palm OS mobiles.  

From his Moscow offices, Semyon recalls one early effort: “Spychase 3D was a remake of one of the Spectrum games where you ride a motorbike through a forest and you have to avoid the trees, and you had to chase some guy’s motorcycle and fire a rocket launcher at him.” 

ZeptoLab chairman Misha Lyalin is an old friend of the twins, and recognised the pair’s talent early on. He jumped at the chance to work with them again on iPhone games. “Semyon is probably one of the best game [developers], if not best people to do games that I know, so it was really a no brainer,” he says. 

The twin’s first iOS game, Parachute Ninja, introduced some of the touchscreen physics Cut The Rope later made famous, and met with modest acclaim. “Parachute Ninja was quite successful, not as successful as Cut the Rope of course, but it was quite inspiring to see it chart,” Semyon says. 

Overnight hit 

WIth the same rope gameplay, simplified controls and the magic ingredient of a colourful central character, Cut The Rope went viral. 

Almost without trying, the game stormed the charts. The game “was actually released earlier than it was supposed to and it shot up to first place by itself,” Lyalin says. It quickly overtook Angry Birds on the iTunes charts. Cut The Rope and its free demo version have now been downloaded almost 40 million times.

The secret to its success? Charm factor, and a cunning assault on the market. “It was deliberately made to have wide appeal to the widest possible audience. The main character was designed to be cute,” Lyalin confesses. 

Cut the cultural impact

Om Nom doesn’t appear to have legs, but that hasn’t stopped him from crawling into popular consciousness. A range of plush toys of the game’s mascot are due to go on sale in September, while a web comic revealing his story is in the pipeline too. Lyalin says things won’t stop there either: if Angry Birds can have its own board game, why not Cut The Rope too? 

“The numbers that we’ve seen, and the potential for the market are scary, but in a good way,” he says. 

“If the Rovio guys have put the game in the hands of 250 million downloaders, that’s amazing, and I think we have a good chance to be in the same league.” Assuming Om Nom doesn’t put on too many pounds from all those candies, we’re inclined to agree. 

What the critics say 

“Cut the Rope is an expertly balanced mix of new and familiar, accessibility and challenge. All of which deserves to propel it – via a well timed swing and release – firmly into the territory of the casual greats.”

“Cut the Rope sits in the perfect middle ground of action and strategy, with some levels acting as puzzles, others speed-reaction challenges, and most sitting somewhere in the middle, where pulling off a three-star victory requires wits, skill and sometimes a little luck, too.”

“Beautifully simple touchscreen controls keep gameplay frenetic but intuitive as you slice through ropes with a one-fingered swipe and pop bubbles with the merest tap of your screen…It’s a supremely judged gameplay experience, made all the more enjoyable by Om Nom’s gesticulating as he becomes increasingly frustrated with the treat’s lack of progress toward his gaping cake-hole.” Life Of Android

Like Cut The Rope? You’ll love these… 

Slice It!

£0.69 on iPhone, free on AndroidIt’s trigonometry war, as you attempt to carve shapes up into the required number of pieces using all the lines you’re given. It’s cute, it’s clever, and almost makes maths fun. 

Advanced Roller Coaster Builder

£1.49 on iPhone

Build a coaster that snakes its way across the screen, collecting all the stars as you go. It lacks the Hello Kitty cute factor of Cut The Rope, but it’s just as smart. 

Tiny Wings

£0.69 on iPhone

Timing is everything here, as you help a chicken use the terrain to give it momentum and propel it into the sky. Simple, one button controls will have you picking it up in an instant, but you won’t be putting it down again any time soon…

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