Here is a song from the game. Listen while you read if you like.
World of Goo
Brighter Minds Media
October 13, 2008
1 (Wii version includes cooperative play)
Let’s go ahead and get something straight right now. World of Goo is the best video game of the year. Sound like hyperbole? Sound like jumping on the bandwagon of the little indie game that could? Sure, it sounds like that. There may even be some great merit to that school of thought. In a day and age when it’s cool to be a little offbeat and original, World of Goo in many ways looks like the official game of the hipsters. A totally independent developer comprised of a couple ex-Electronic Arts employees (one of the biggest third parties in existence mind you), the unanimous priase of critics left and right, the apparently contrived decision to break away from design and execution norms… yeah, the pretentious bullshit alarm might go off once or twice. I admit I was skeptical at first. Every other critically acclaimed game of the year I absolutley hated (the respective fourth installments of two popular series that shall remain nameless come to mind), so I had good reason to be wary of yet another critical darling, no less one from an indie developer. Still, I couldn’t shake my interest in the game, and one day there it was staring at me from my Wii dashboard, 1500 Wii points freshly spent on this gamble of goo. Eventually I moved my cursor over its icon and tentatively pressed the A button. What was soon to follow was one of the best structured, exquisitlely designed, and most fun
gaming journeys of not only this year, but of this console generation.
Now I really hate to give the wrong impression here. Though you might hear otherwise, and even this review might sound like it at times, World of Goo is not the religious experience that games like Resident Evil 4 or Metroid Prime or any other revolutionaries offered upon first playing. Not to undermine World of Goo’s quality, but its brilliance is not as obvious. It is not a game of instant gratification. You will never while playing be amazed at the ungodly amounts of sheer joy your are having, unlike say Super Mario Galaxy, a game that immediately overloads your fun sensors. I hate to have to defend the game, which is the last thing I want to do, and I guess that is pretty much what I’m doing, but if you go looking for an experience akin to some of your fond favorites, you will most likely be disappointed because World of Goo is simply unlike other games.
A puzzle game with an involving, if reserved, story is a rare thing indeed. World of Goo’s premise concerns a race of “goo balls” making their way through a surprisingly hazardous world out of their childlike curiosity. Along the way they discover some disturbing information regarding their existence and the mysterious “World of Goo Corporation.”
Guiding them on their journey is of course the player, whose control of the game and the goo balls is attributed to an on-screen cursor. The cursor is controlled by your Wii Remote, and its functions are picking up and strategically placing the goos in order to create architectural sctructures so that the remaining goos can access a pipe that is located at, and which designates, the end of the level. Each level requires a certain number of goos to enter the pipe. If this number is not met, due to either losing the goo balls or using to many in construction, the level must be repeated.
This is a standard level. At the top of the screen (you can't quite see it here) there is a pipe that the goo balls are trying to reach. This tower will get them there.
Apparently the goo balls are natural adhesives; when three or more are placed in proximity of one another a triangle is formed. These triangles are the basic building blocks of your often elaborate structures, and the game’s physics impressivley take a toll on just how you go about constructing them. When structures with weak support get too large or if too many of the goos weigh down a certain side, the whole thing will collapse, quite amusingly, into a messy pile of splattering goo. I really admire games that are still fun even when you fail, and World of Goo is one of them. Its not like you’ll be going out of your way to creatively murder your loyal goos (actually that sounds kind of fun), but the goos’ undeniably charming personalities, expressed through incoherent, high pitched squeels, will allevieate a great deal of frustration when you simply aren’t sure what to do. However, the aforementioned control method, while working very well for the most part, more often than not leaves you struggling to find the exact goo you want, only to pick up the wrong one. This can get extremely annoying especially in the later levels where precision is key.
Here these green, sticky goos are banding together to reach the pipe. They are hanging from the dangling water dew goos, who make great tethers.
A very large part of my appreciation for this game comes from the variety in the objectives and the levels. There are even several different types of goo balls, all with a specific ability that must be learned and mastered in order to complete the game. But the really impressive thing is not necessarily the eclecticnes of the gameplay, but how smartly it’s put together. Every technique the game teaches you, whether it be a specific repeating form of goo architecture, the different abilites of the goos, or the steps necessary to complete a level that will later be expanded upon, feels absolutely necessary to the overall gameplay. There are no underdeveloped ideas. There is no filler. Every facet of each goal has its purpose, and the game will call upon you to use these regularly to advance, and even when you think you’ve gotten a hold on the game’s mechanics, it throws a brand new, exciting way to play right in your face.
The one that immediatley comes to mind is at the end of a chapter after a large plot twist. I won’t spoil it, but the sudden turn in narrative made such a spot-on critique of modern video games that I couldn’t help but laugh at the game’s cleverness. To my wonderful surprise this revelation also had a huge effect on gameplay, and changed the very nature of the levels and how they were played for the rest of the game.
The levels are all extremely eye catching and feature a variety of locales.
The levels themselves look fantastic, and are bursting with style, humor, and charm … all in the second dimension. I am of the few that believe cosmetic aspects of a game, such as graphics, are as important as gameplay. This doesn’t mean that the graphics be “good” in the sense that they look photorealistic and are shinier than freshly polished dress shoe, but that they compliment and represent the game appropriately, a perfect marriage of art and gameplay. World of Goo does this very well. The visuals are creative and a joy to look at, and add a lot to the fun of the game. Many levels would not have the same feeling if the visuals weren’t so polished. The music is also excellent, sounding like a lost Danny Elfman score that somehow made it into a video game about tiny black blobs, and managed to not only work extremely well, but sound freakin awesome. The music is in fact one of my favorite parts of the game, setting the tone masterfully for many of the game’s most memorable moments.
Some of these moments will be engraved into the gaming lobe of my brain forever, but others were sadly demoted from sublime to second-rate when the story began to lose its focus in the final acts. It builds into an ending that doesn’t really satisfy the questions it previously rose, almost nullifying those electric moments when you began to wrap your head around what was at stake. There is also a point near the end of the game where gameplay and narrative come to a grinding halt for the most awkward and out of place dialogue tree in the history of video games. That’s not exactly good storytelling. It may seem strange that I’m complaining about story in a puzzle game, but it’s only because of how invested the game makes you in it. The world is just so impeccably well designed (its amazing presentation owing thanks to the incredible art direction and music), that when the game barely pays you off for caring so much, it’s a real disappoinment. The finer moments of the tale do actually get your brain working though, and the game’s ideas and themes stay with you long after you’ve stopped playing. Which is not something I can say about too many games and is always the mark of a good one.
2D Boy has created something not only original and inspired, but genuinely fun to play. The kind of simple and pure fun that is usually only found in simple and pure games, but now with the level of interest and fascination that mostly stays within the realms of complex, narrative-driven RPGs. World of Goo is a shining light of hope in an industry that has decayed into an uncreative mess, and if more titles like it come along the world of gaming will only be a better place.
A grand achievement in design and execution, from the least likely of places. Buy this game. I know you have 15 dollars to spare.