This isn't the case with Cut the Rope 2. On several occasions a level has been so challenging that it forced me to put my iPhone or iPad down, and just walk away from the game for a bit. I'm not a stickler for getting three stars on every level, either (while stars are important and having a certain number of stars obtained is required to advance in the game, I usually try to achieve a perfect score on every level after having played through the entire game). My frustration wasn't rooted in grasping for that last star, but grasping for getting any star on some levels and simply figuring out how to get the piece of candy into Om Nom's mouth.
The game gets particularly interesting after Boo is introduced. Boo is a Nommie (one of five new friends) who scares Om Nom and makes him jump in one direction or another, depending on what direction he scares Om Nom from. Speaking of Om Nom moving, this is the first time the main character of the game has been moveable. In the past you were required to get the candy to where he was located, with no option to relocate Om Nom to make finishing a level easier. It's a nice addition that adds yet another dynamic to the puzzle solving required to complete levels.
The real cost to play
By default, this 99-cent (read: not free) game comes with some tools you unlock along the way, such as the ability to add a balloon, make it rain candy (typically a free pass on the level) or follow along as a little firefly animal floats around the level showing you the proper steps to complete it with all three stars. After using up the allotted inventory for each category, you're urged to buy more via an in-app purchase. I realize there is a trend for monetizing games by making in-app purchases that help users complete levels, but I'd rather pay you in stars or some other digital (read: fake) currency. What would be better is to leave the real cash spending to the super-fans of the game who want to customize the look of their characters, but leave the greed out of the gameplay.
Cut the Rope 2 already offers these kind of customization options as well, letting you purchase various looks for the candy and Om Nom. There are currently Valentine's Day, Superhero, Royal, and Christmas sets of candy and clothing for Om Nom available for purchase starting at $1.99 and going up to $4.99. I think these customization options are fine to charge for because they're not completely necessary, and big fans of the game will ultimately pay to customize and personalize it to fit who they are. I already bought the game as a casual player. Let the biggest fans shoulder the extra profits.
Then there's the notifications. Again, I understand why games are using notifications to bring users back into the apps, but it can get downright annoying. The notifications weren't overwhelming by any means -- only one per day -- but they just seemed unnecessary. An alert to let me know "the spiders took more candy" isn't going to push me to start playing; it's just going to annoy me. I left notifications enabled for the duration of the review to get a feel for them, but will be revoking any notification permissions to Cut the Rope 2 as soon as I'm finished. I'll play when I want to play, thank you very much.
Cut the Rope 2 is far more entertaining and challenging than the original game (full disclosure: I never played any of the spin-off releases). The ability to sync your game progress via iCloud across multiple iOS devices makes it extremely easy to play on the iPad, set it down when it's time to leave home, and pick up right where you left off on your iPhone as you make your commute to work or stand in line for lunch. Just make sure you enable it in the settings because it's not turned on by default and there's no indication anywhere else that it's included within the game.
The in-app purchases aren't required to play or even complete the game, they just help speed up the process. I think the better plan when you start playing this game is to forgo the in-app purchases early on when the game is easy instead of cruising through challenging levels with the extra help. Doing it this way, you'll not only feel better about your wallet, but you'll be able to take pride in your gaming skills.