Burn the Rope Review: Hot Puzzler
Puzzle apps have become big business in the App Store, with everything from Angry Birds to Tiki Towers racking up sales and endearing players with their substantive free updates. One recent entry into this rather crowded corner of the market is Burn the Rope from Big Blue Bubble, a game that distinguishes itself with a clever core mechanic and great kinetic gameplay.
The basic idea of Burn the Rope is simple: light a rope design on fire, and then try to keep it burning until the rope is gone. In order to keep the fire burning, you have to keep it burning up — that is, you have to keep twisting and turning your iOS device, as the flame orients via the accelerometer. It’s as simple as it sounds, but that simplicity is part of the reason it works.
There’s a lot to like about Burn the Rope. It’s a clever gimmick, for one. I’m a sucker for games that have me tilting my device this way and that, and Burn the Rope has that in spades. Because, in order to keep the flame alive, you have to keep the flame burning *up*, you’re constantly tilting and rotating your device this way and that, sometimes frantically back and forth and upside down to keep multiple flames alive. This is where Burn the Rope is at its best: in the kinetic fun of the moment. [Word of warning, though: I nearly dropped my iPod a couple times in a frantic effort to keep the flames alive.]
There’s an element of strategy, too, as, after the first few levels, a color challenge is introduced. It takes on two forms. First, and more complex, is colored rope, which must be burned by flame of the appropriate color; and flame earns color by burning colored ants that walk the rope (no, the ants don’t survive). There’s also colored beetles to catch that also require colored flames and spiders that allow you to jump from one rope to another [no color required]. This whole element reminded me of another great puzzle game, Helsing’s Fire, which was also about colored flames affecting target bad guys. It certainly makes the game more challenging and enjoyable.
Once the bugs come into play, though, there’s a certain repetitiveness that overtakes the game. It’s absolutely fun to burn various different, more complex shapes and deal with the challenge of getting the red flame on the red rope, etc. But perhaps other puzzle games have spoiled me, in that I kept hoping for more variety as the game went along — maybe a way to speed up (or slow down) a flame for a few seconds, or a way to reignite a spark that’s gone out, or let a flame burn sideways, or something to add variety to the burning. Not that what’s here isn’t fun, but I kept expecting new elements to show up, and didn’t get them. And since each level has a bit of a “slow burn” quality anyway — there’s no way to speed up the game, and sometimes you’re just waiting for the flame to move along — it does lead to less of a “one more level” reflex then some other puzzle games.
On a design level, too, the game is good looking but not as notable as, say, On Nom from Cut the Rope or the distinctive red Angry Bird is. The color palette and design is rather dark and shadowy; all the level backgrounds are basically variations on dark wood patterns; all the ropes are, well, ropes; and the sound effects are ignorable (the incidental music on the menu screen is really repetitive and annoying). Luckily, the newest update has introduced iPod compatibility. [It also added Game Center support, something every iOS game should come with from the very first.]
All in all, though, for 99 cents, Burn the Rope is a great, successful puzzle game, worth the time of anyone who enjoyed some of the other great iOS puzzle games mentioned in this review. And the promise of more levels from the devs means that, like many other popular puzzle games, Burn the Rope should be residing on your iOS device for some time to come.
Our Score: 4 out of 5