On the Rope Again

Big Blue Bubble’s fiery mascot has just hopped on the phone with his multicolored friends and they’ve decided it’s high time to start burning stuff again. You can’t very well blame these mini pyromaniacs; what else is there to do on a Saturday night when you’re a little flamelet?

Fans of Big Blue Bubble’s Burn the Rope can rest assured they’ll find exactly the same experience in Burn the Rope: Worlds (Out Now, $0.99). If you haven’t jumped on the original’s In-App Purchase level expansion pack yet, this follow-up is an astounding alternative considering just how much burn for the buck you’ll get. Likewise, the few action puzzle fans who passed up the original will find this a fine entry point into the franchise.

As with its predecessor, it’s easy to think of Worlds as being geared toward casual players, but its tilt interface isn’t necessarily pick-up-and-play. Rather, the player has to develop an intuition for it, lest the fire literally burn out. The player’s job is to set ablaze as much of each puzzle’s rope formation as possible, with 60% being a minimum for progressing to the next puzzle. Once the player has tapped anywhere on a rope to light it, his or her time is spent madly tilting the iDevice to keep the resulting flames traveling “up” with respect to the tilt axis. Flames that travel “down” the tilt axis quickly self-extinguish.

It takes a few minutes to really get the hang of how this works, but once the player does, it’s extremely smooth sailing from that point on. Burn the Rope‘s fun factor lies in the quick decision- making needed to keep multiple flames alive once the original has spawned clones along the rope’s branching paths. The tilt control is well calibrated for carefully guiding the flame through kinks and curving arcs.

The franchise formula stirs in plenty of nuance to keep things fresh and challenging once the player’s picked up the basics. Colored ropes are susceptible only to flames of their own shade, and the player has to pass his or her starting flames over colored bugs to switch as needed. Other bugs trigger bonus effects like area-wide explosions and sparks that light up distant ropes the player’s flame wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise. The player can speed his or her flames along by holding at the touchscreen, which serves as a convenience and a strategic option for catching up with bugs; time spent solving a puzzle normally isn’t a concern. Time attack bonus levels do pop up regularly to mix up the player’s experience, however.

Burn the Rope fans are already well accustomed to all this, which begs the question as to what’s new in Worlds. This title introduces an “Endless Burn” mode, which is a nice little breather from the traditional formula. It lets the player guide a free-floating flame that grows, centipede-style, as it consumes bugs that appear onscreen. It’s time for a Game Over and OpenFeint or Game Center leaderboard tallying once the flame runs into itself or hits a block of ice, which becomes ever more likely the longer the player holds out.

Good thing Endless Burn is both fun and fluid, because the second addition – a set of extra challenging puzzles that accumulates day by day – is less impressive for being supported by ads. A thirty second promotional clip is to be expected on mega-popular YouTube videos perhaps, but this is the last thing you want popping up before starting a level in a videogame. A $0.99 IAP can be traded for the privilege of playing these without the popup ads, which might not be such a bad deal for diehard fans interested in getting a daily dose of rope burning from here on out.

Whether you consider Worlds at its listed price of $0.99 or the total $1.99 it would take to experience its full potential without a hassle, the game’s aesthetic presentation and amount of content are a match. The player can clear its four titular worlds in whatever order he or she pleases – in an interesting change of pace compared to most genre fare, worlds aren’t unlocked through performance – and each has a very different atmosphere. Weighing in at 100 levels in addition to the extra content, Worlds should be good for three to four hours’ worth of pyromaniacal entertainment.

iFanzine Verdict: Just about the only thing you can hold against Burn the Rope: Worlds is that it’s so similar to the initial title — but when the gameplay formula is this good, that’s no bad thing. The new endless mode is a nice little treat, but over all this one’s best enjoyed by franchise veterans who could go for what is essentially a gigantic level expansion pack, and also by any action puzzle fans who haven’t experienced the original yet.

[xrr rating=4.5/5]