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Cut the Rope
Pros: Well-designed, creative, and challenging levels are fun and endlessly addicting.
Cons: Ads and in-app purchases abound, and learning potential is limited.
Bottom Line: Clever games will capture kids' attention and engage their critical thinking skills, but kids will only find a superficial look at physics concepts.
Use Cut the Rope as a fun way to engage critical-thinking skills, logic, planning, and trial and error. Progress can be tracked through points and number of levels unlocked and number of stars collected. There's no way to have multiple accounts on one device, so kids will need to play on separate devices to keep track of their personal progress. Kids can play individually, or, even better, play in groups, devising action plans together. Kids can practice explaining how and why they think their action plan will collect stars and deliver candy to Om Nom. Kids can compete to see whose plan gets a higher score, or which group can collect more stars. Teachers need to be aware, however, that there are ads and in-app purchases that are annoying and hard to ignore (even more so in the free version), so option to buy will need to be disabled to prevent students from making accidental (or intentional) purchases.
The goal in Cut the Rope seems simple: Cut the rope holding a piece of candy so that the candy will drop into a cute little monster named Om Nom's waiting mouth. It starts out easy, with one rope and a straight drop, but each level presents new challenges like multiple ropes, bubbles, air blowers, hungry spiders, sharp spikes, and more. In each level there are also three stars to collect, which adds to the challenge. There are three "seasons," each with multiple "boxes" that present multiple levels for a total of more than 375 levels. Kids need to earn a certain number of stars to unlock higher levels within boxes and higher boxes within seasons.
Keep in mind that there are many in-app purchases: Kids can pay to unlock higher levels or buy superpowers to make completing the levels easier. There is also a completely free version that offers a limited number of levels and a lot of intrusive ads, making it less well-suited for classroom use.
Cut the Rope is a well-designed game that challenges kids' critical-thinking skills, often pushing them to seek a less-than-obvious solution to a seemingly straightforward problem. Kids must be clever and quick, using properties of physics (such as motion trajectories) and logic to solve each new puzzle. This is by no means a substitute for real physics experimentation; watching things happen in 2-D is not the same as experimenting with motion or gravity in real life. However, it's still fun and somewhat informative to watch and learn about motion trajectories and basic properties of objects like floating bubbles. Kids will also experiment a bit with the trial and error of the scientific method through planning, trying, and retrying based on results of each attempt. But watch out! Cut the Rope is addictive for kids and adults alike, and anyone can easily pass hours trying to complete levels and collect as many stars as possible.