REVIEWS -- World of Goo -- PC
Should you take these Goos home?
by Nicholas James West
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
Quirkiness alone isn't enough to make a puzzle game memorable, but it can’t hurt... can it?
Released this year World of Goo is a puzzle game available on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Wii. There has been a good amount of hype and previews leading up to its official release. The marketing campaign has been effective in brewing anticipation among many types of gamers. So, does this new puzzler deliver on its promised innovative and addictive gameplay? It certainly hooked this cynical author and gamer almost immediately.
The small developer 2D Boy has created an entirely new universe for their game to take place in. Gameplay is well thought out and is our main draw to playing, as it should be. However, there are some interesting design choices backing that gameplay. In this “world” of “goo” existentialism reigns supreme. The music is moody, the design choices are dark, the story is ambiguous, and everything is imbued with a large dose of quirkiness.
The Gameplay is new
The premise is simple. Little balls of goo connect to each other to build structures. The player moves these goo balls to achieve an objective, usually getting as many goos as possible sucked into a pipe strategically located on each level.
Like any good puzzler the learning curve is concise. The first few levels are misleadingly simple. In fact, some initial reactions may be that the game is too easy. Eventually, however, the layouts become more complex.
As the challenges become increasingly elaborate players are also introduced to different types of goo-balls and structures. There are more than a dozen goos in attendance, such as regular, re-usable, and explosive types. There are also objects that affect physics and structures, like attachable balloons, bombs, and moveable roadblocks.
The physics engine is the real genius in World of Goo, utilizing gravity and connecting the main components of structures. For example, one standout level uses orbital gravity and has the player slinging goos like satellites. Other elements such as wind, water, and giant goo-smashing gears add to the challenge. Finding out how far you can push the structures and different capabilities of goos can yield a mixture of joy and frustration. Because solutions aren’t always obvious, experimentation in World of Goo is key.
I found three types of levels: some look complex but can be solved easily; some appear simplistic but require deceptively complicated structure or physics manipulation and there are levels which look tricky and don’t disappoint in being just that.
Because there are different approaches to completing most objectives, the game seems to allow freedom of experimentation. However, once you’ve figured out a level, there’s no real reason to go back and try it again, making replay value severely limited. For those completion-ist types World of Goo does have perfection challenges called “OCD” or “Obsessive Completion Distinction” criteria.
Though I was pleased by the levels presented, World of Goo isn’t that difficult by puzzling game standards. I was expecting more extreme challenges and was surprised at the game’s abrupt ending.
Controlling the Goos
When moving goos, there are mechanics in the form of white lines that let you know if a certain move is possible for the existing structure. If you can’t see white lines between your selected goo and the frame you want to attach it to, it won’t attach. This is helpful as well as frustrating. When I first began playing I wished I could somehow stretch my goos further. Some levels even have bright backgrounds which completely mask the lines and their function. It’s possible the developers did this on purpose to increase the level of difficulty, but it just seemed like an irritation to me.
Whether completing a precarious structure or causing complicated chain reactions, getting your goos into the end-level pipes is a satisfying experience.
They’re way existential
World of Goo has more of a plot than is usually found in a puzzle game. The in-game Helps take the form of vibrating posts, created by “The Sign Painter.” They speak to you in an existential tongue and mostly hint at the plot. There are also confusing little narratives involving ancient information highways and an ominous large corporation, among other things. The story appears to be linear and pokes fun at consumerism and perceptions of beauty. Perhaps those more intelligent than I will connect the dots and find hidden meanings in the narrative, but it didn’t reverberate with me at all.
The expertly arranged and composed music sets different moods ranging from playful to anxiety-filled. If the music of World of Goo were to be labeled, it would be in the genre of Danny Elfman (composer of such films as “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, and “Beetlejuice”, whose music has become a genre). Somehow I didn’t care for it. It seemed out of place and made the game more dreadful than playful. On the surface it seems like the music should work well with the other elements of gameplay and design, but like the storyline it just didn’t click with me.
Though I wasn’t impressed with the sound effects, they did their job. Like the music, they felt a little out of place too. Perhaps this was intended, as they are meant to accentuate the quirky factor.
Graphically World of Goo is simplistic but powerful. The levels are presented as serene, threatening, or mythic. I was struck by the shadow and silhouette stages as they were the closest I came to feeling escapism. Goos bounce and wiggle with just the right amount of charm. Water and wind are presented with symbolic perfection.
World of Goo is innovative because it presents a new take on video-game physics. It is a fascinating puzzler intertwined with a mysterious story. Despite my distaste for the music and narrative elements, I enjoyed playing through the game. Even if you don’t like the story, it doesn’t affect the gameplay much because the puzzle elements are worth the effort. In the end, most gamers don’t buy puzzle games for their compelling stories anyway.
If you’re clever enough, the game is brief and can be beat in one sitting. I got stuck a few times, but was happy to throw Goos around the screen to figure out solutions. On top of great gameplay, you can be proud of downloading an independent creation in order to support these talented developers and their (hopefully) future endeavors.
Publisher: 2D Boy
Developer: Brighter Minds Media
Release Date: October 17, 2008
Review Date: 23-12-2008
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: ---
Notes: Available for Mac, Available for Linux, Available on Steam, Leaderboards, Min Req: Win XP/Vista, 1 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, 32 MB Video Card
These aren’t next-gen quality, but they get the job done.
There are some frustrations but stick around for the innovation.
A well crafted game, a simple user interface, and some big ideas.
This reviewer was mostly annoyed by the choice in music, but I’m sure some will love it.
The replay value is low, but the game scores points for being unforgettable.