Untangling a complicated knot of cords is bad enough, but what if instead of wires you had to deal with writing worms? That is the premise for Knotmania, a game that challenges you to separate tangled clusters of worms. Well the game refers to them as “Strings” but they definitely look like worms to us. Of course the worms are perfectly happy in their tangled state and will actively try to thwart your efforts, which makes things even more complicated. While it might sometimes feel like your iPhone EarPod cords have a will of their own when knotted, the worms in Knotmania are the real deal and will test your skills as well as your patience with their writhing.
If you struggle long and hard enough, it is usually possible to untangle almost any knot, but Knotmania does not provide you with such luxuries. Instead, you have a strict timer counting down and must figure out how to disentangle the worms before it reaches zero. Having a worm squirm itself back into a knot when you were on the verge of separating it from its brethren can make the blood boil, especially if the time runs out shortly afterwards. Nevertheless it is part of the challenge and with 76 levels to complete you’ll have plenty of practice. Update: A Zen Mode was recently added to the game, which removes the time constraints and allows you to focus purely on the puzzles.
Manipulating the worms is as easy as tapping a point anywhere on their bodies and then pulling or swiping. Visual cues indicate the direction you are trying to move the worm and thanks to multitouch support, you can even focus on multiple worms. Using short swipes you can slide worms in a certain direction or using longer swipes to drag them. An important tactic to learn early on is that you can use one finger to pin down a worm while using another to drag or pull. Swiping along the bottom of the screen rotates your view around the worms, allowing you to either shake them loose or search for a better angle.
While worms aren’t exactly the most appealing creatures the ones in Knotmania definitely lean more towards the peculiar side of the spectrum. The all have what looks like glowing bulbs at the ends of their bodies and show up in a multitude of different colors.
The level backgrounds are a bit on the garish side as well, but fits in with the weird theme of the game. The highlight is definitely the way that the worms are animated as it really makes them seem like living creatures. Having never messed around with tangled knots of worms in real life we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the physics engine, but it certainly looks believable. The worms float around in the middle of the screen and the way the move is actually quite hypnotic. Each level features a different amount of worms, arranged in different patterns, so there is always a fresh challenge. The game also keeps track of the amount of moves you make to untangle the worms, so you can always go back and try to improve your score while competing against friends on GameCenter.
Musician and sound designer Rob Fenn, better known as Fractures, created the soundscape for the game and definitely managed to generate audio that matches the visuals. The controls for the game are responsive enough, but it is obviously a title that works better on bigger screens. On smaller screens it can be tricky to manipulate the action without obscuring the worms with your fingers.
With the crowded iOS market, it takes something special to stand out and Knotmania definitely delivers. There is probably not a person alive who haven’t dealt with untying knots before, so it is a concept that is very easy to grasp. Due to the fact that the worms are “alive” there is a bit of a learning curve to manipulating them, but once you get the hang of it the game becomes very addictive. Puzzle fans on the lookout for something different and unique should definitely give Knotmania a try.