World of Goo

World of Goo
World of goo Cover
Platforms Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS
Genre Gooey Puzzler
Score 8  Clock score of 8
Buy from Amazon

As one of the forerunners of the modern indie game movement (along with Braid), World of Goo demands to be played.  Created almost entirely by two individuals on a miniscule budget (2D Boy), it has since gone on to spawn several ports while receiving numerous accolades.  I'm a bit late to this party, but its resumé speaks for itself.  With incredibly high 90%+ aggregate scores, it has been universally praised as a near-flawless game.  Greg has given it a similarly stellar 9/10.  PC and Wii first claimed the game in October 2008, followed by OSX in November, Linux in early 2009 and iOS in 2010.

All that's left to do is try it out for myself, two-plus years after the fact.  Could my personal thoughts and feelings for the game live up to its lofty accolades?

First, it would be best to explain the base gameplay.  It could be somewhat difficult to understand through text, and that would hurt the rest of your perceptions.  World of Goo is certainly not a traditional puzzle game or platformer, but it contains some elements of both.  Each stage generally starts with the player in control of goo-balls, initially moving around on a stationary object.  The goal, then, is to create a structure linking the primary object and the goo-balls together to reach a vacuum tube and continue to the next level.  The problems are that 1. you are given a limited amount of goo-balls to use and 2. the goo-balls are affected by the laws of physics.  Essentially, linking goo-balls creates joints, not unlike engineering the framework of a building.  Players need to link together these joints into structures that are strong enough to stay erect while simultaneously edging closer to your main goal, which is generally the vacuum (you'll also have sub-goals, for example reaching nascent goo-balls for expanding your structure).  Here's a random demonstration I found on youtube to help visually explain:

So, as one may expect, the WORLD of Goo is somewhat vast, consisting of five chapters/zones and a fun little bonus free-form zone, which encourages you to make as high a building as possible with the extra goo-balls you've obtained going through the game.  As you traverse the worlds, you encounter various types of goo-balls (sticky, multi-use, exploding...) along with progressively crazier challenges to overcome.  This is supplemented by a simple plot with short interspersed cutscenes and regular messages/help dialogue from the mysterious "Sign-Painter."  The plot has some significant worldly happenings on the game and its own dose of intrigue, but it is clearly meant not to be taken seriously.  I had no problems with this and welcome at least some attempt of a story to break up the monotony and create a world, but apparently some (*cough* Greg) would rather have no story at all, and just stick to the puzzling.

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As far as presentation, World of Goo is a mixed bag.  It basically looks and feels like a flash game on a budget, and in a way, it is.  It didn't seem to have too much creativity involved as far as the visuals, but the sound (for better or worse) stood out more often.  Most of the chapters are roughly based on a season, starting in summer and ending back at spring.  One chapter does have an entirely different visual style, which is appreciated, but the rest seemed like more of the same.  I would have liked to see some better visuals or even any graphical options at all after the fact (since of course, it's been massively successful).  But it is not detrimental to the gameplay and works fine with what it has in an ancient 800x600 window.

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The game is fairly easy to pick up and play, but also has its due frustrations.  Many times, you'll know exactly what to do and build a structure to form, but by the laws of goo-physics, it'll collapse and become unsustainable, even with the repeatable undo function.  After some thinking about the matter, I don't know how much else the developers could have done to avoid this.  Many of the puzzles were simply created to need a bit of luck/creative mechanics to successfully clear.  Little is more frustrating than having your entire structure collapse and need to spend another 10 minutes creating it (only to have it potentially randomly collapse again), but thus is the nature of this game.  For most puzzle games or puzzles in general, if you know the solution, you win.  With wobbly goo-ball physics, it can be a bit testing.  The controls are fairly good on the PC, but it also has oddities which can aid this frustration.  One example is that it was often very difficult to get the exact joint I wanted on wobbling structures.  Oftentimes you'll have various joint spots available, and the wobbling essentially rapidly switched between the joint previews.  They could have given us a joint-preview-scroll method for this.  Also, needing to click on little undo fairies to undo your last move can also cause issues, as they rapidly move around when the camera moves.  And while the undo removes your latest joint, it does not reverse the full physics wobbling of your structure, so rapidly collapsing or falling structures can still collapse even once you hit undo, which makes those more difficult large-structure puzzles very frustrating with the above luck 'requirement.'

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As far as longevity, the main game will probably take players between 6-12 hours on the initial playthrough, entirely depending on how fast they're trying to move and how skillful/lucky they are.  At this point in time, World of Goo has quite a bit of extras to keep you playing, whether for time attack (connected to online leaderboards), or to collect as many goo-balls as possible for your giant building, or just to complete all the "ocd" challenges for each level.  Steam has additional achievements.  If these were all in place at the time of release, I'd be very impressed on how much work they put in to keep the game going and fun long after game completion.  I have a feeling that some was added after the fact, which is definitely a good thing but not quite as impressive in hindsight.

Despite my complaints, I did enjoy the game quite a bit, and it's certainly good enough and easy enough to play to recommend to nearly anyone.  2D Boy did a very nice job in their first official game as independent developers (the two having previously worked at Electronic Arts).  Now I just wish they would either continue improving this concept and making a near-perfect sequel or go on to create other innovative games.  Unfortunately, it seems that they are currently content with milking World of Goo to death, recently releasing it on iPhone and continuing to focus on the same goo-related things.  I can't blame them for wantingto make as much money as possible for their product, especially as they're also taking on tasks like the Indie Fund, but I'm left feeling a bit unfulfilled.  None of this takes away from the well-deserved respect of this product though.  If you haven't played World of Goo, it's worth trying.  It's now available to almost everyone and can certainly be found for reasonable prices.  The most you'd realistically spend is probably $10, and iOS versions start at even less.

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