The most interesting mobile games are often the ones that simply cannot, by nature of their mechanics, exist on any other platform. Shoddy Nintendo Wii or 3DS ports -- the ones with awkward waggle or touchscreen controls shoehorned in, when you just know that a standard pad-and-buttons scheme would work much better -- aptly demonstrate what happens when developers go wrong for gimmicks' sake. Conversely, ZeptoLab's fantastic Cut the Rope shows what happens when nonstandard controls go horribly right. It's the type of game that consumers would enthusiastically pay $15 for on Xbox Live Arcade... but it simply can't exist on anything without an HD touchscreen.
And, like any cheap, unassuming phone game, it's simple. Or, at least, that's what it fools you into believing. Your objective: swipe the screen to cut the ropes suspending a delicious morsel of candy, so that it falls into the waiting, watering mouth of Om Nom -- Cut the Rope's monstrous lil' mascot. This premise persists through a staggering 250 levels, split among 10 waves. The first few are easy... then the game starts throwing multiple ropes in. And swinging physics that demand precise timing. And burstable bubbles that carry your confections skyward. And spikes that instantly shatter an ill-directed delicacy. And... you get the picture. Don't forget to plan a route that snags each level's three bonus stars, either; you need those to unlock more waves!
It's like a pared down, puzzle-centric answer to the most convoluted Mario levels Nintendo's ever designed -- every bit as insidious, easy-as-hell to botch, and fraught with a cartoonish array of fatal obstacles. This is a game made for casual players who don't want to think too much about what they're using to kill some time at the airport? No; Cut the Rope is Nintendo Hard. This is a gateway drug. And the sequel, Cut the Rope: Experiments, ups this ante with another 125 levels and moving targets. All told, these are games you could pour hours upon hours into before you master them.
As-is, no one on a "real" gaming platform (outside of Nintendo's 3DS, anyway) gets to see what all this fuss is about. Cut the Rope is an intense, smartphone-endemic game for the casuals -- the people who play games on their phones, and who hardcore gaming circles love to stereotype as "not real gamers." The truth is, the gap between those two camps is closing at a breakneck pace, and we have unique games like Cut the Rope to thank for it.