Step one: create a simple, fun and addictive activity. Step two: throw in an interesting twist. Step three: build on that foundation with something that adds variation and challenge while channelling the essence of what makes it fun. These are the steps to making a great puzzle game, and it's that first task at which many developers fail, making new, original ones appear so rarely. But sometimes, someone gets it just right. Enter Burn the Rope.
It starts out simple: you click a shape made of rope with the Wii Remote, setting fire to that one spot, and then must continuously turn the shape itself with the Nunchuk as a flame will only burn upwards. As the shapes become more complex, involving diverging paths and resembling spaceships, royal crests and so on, another factor enters the mix, crawling all over the structure – bugs. These come in a variety of colours as do segments of rope, and you must work hard to coordinate your flame; burning a blue bug will turn your flame blue and only blue flame can burn blue rope, and so on for every hue. Other insects come into the fray as you play, including those that duplicate your flame – and its colour – at a different point along the rope, those that explode and those that stop your fire in its tracks. You can imagine what a mental work-out this can quickly become with multiple sparks of various colours racing in different directions toward different bugs and colour barriers.
The combination is an addictive one. Thinking on your feet to direct the many-divided fire into the right spots, making sure you hit the correct insects at the correct times, and all while twisting the shape around to keep your flames from pointing downward and slowly dying out is just about the perfect mix of physical and mental challenge. It's the type of thing that will keep you coming back level after level, and while many of the first ones are on the simple side, there are over 100 here, so you won't want for more for some time.
Bonus stages help keep things interesting, and you can earn bronze, silver and gold medals in each area depending on how much of the rope you're able to burn. It's great for all skill levels as you only have to earn the lowest of these three rankings to progress, while those who want an extra challenge can come back to achieve a perfect game. Unfortunately there is only one save file and no leaderboards, the game only keeping track of your top score.
The music is quite good and includes a small variety of nicely composed, simple songs as well as a goofy theme, and the bugs make cute sound effects as you play. Overall the presentation is clean and attractive, though you'll hardly find yourself blown away by its somewhat sparse vibrancy. Still, you can barely tell from a visual standpoint that this was originally an iOS game. You can, however, on a gameplay level, as clearly this was originally intended for a handheld, gyrometer-equipped device. We look forward, then, to the planned 3DS port, but until then this will do nicely.
Burn the Rope achieves the right combination of elements to make a very simple, addictive, fun and unique puzzler with a lot of replay value. It's let down, however, by its lack of leaderboards and the unshakable feeling that it would be a lot more fun in its originally intended handheld format. It also unfortunately carries the curse of so many iOS ports – it's extremely hard to justify the high price point, especially as you can download it on iPhone for under a dollar.