Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World of Goo Review

World of Goo, developed and published by 2D Boy.
The Good: Numerous components make for some interesting designs, great weird theme, innovative online high score list
The Not So Good: Can be frustrating, hard to quickly select puzzle elements since they are constantly moving, no level editor and its relatively short
What say you? A very unique physics-based construction puzzle game that’s considerably difficult: 7/8

I found out after posting this review from the developer that you actually can skip levels, so I am dumb. But it still gets a 7.

With as strong as the casual PC gaming market is, taking into account online sales of these titles, there is still not much innovation in the genre. You have your match-three games, your Breakout clones, and countless other trends that are just rehashes of existing games with enhanced graphics or a new minor change in the formula. What we need is a fresh take, and that may come in the form of World of Goo. This is a construction game gone weird: goo can be connected to existing goo to form structures like bridges and towers. Sounds unique enough to me!

A 2-D game, World of Goo looks fantastic. The style of the game is great: a fanciful world of outstanding animations, interesting residents, and a fine sense of humor. World of Goo does a lot with only two dimensions to work with. I would say that a 3-D version of World of Goo would end up looking much less impressive, as two dimensions open up the door for more spectacular art (paintings look better than sculptures, right?). It’s very reminiscent of Eets in terms of a cartoon atmosphere. While screenshots do illustrate the style of the game, seeing World of Goo in motion is awesome. The sound isn’t too shabby, either: the goo screams and reactions are appropriate and the music is enjoyable. A high level of quality is what World of Goo brings to the table.

World of Goo comes with around fifty levels spread across five chapters. You can’t skip past hard levels, even though the map for each chapter seems to indicate that you can. While this is enough content to satisfy for a budget price, thanks to the grand variety of elements, puzzle games such as this scream for an editor, and the lack of one is, well, puzzling. It would seem to be fairly easy to make levels for the game, so I’m not sure why World of Goo doesn’t let you. In addition to coming out for Windows and something called a “Wii,” World of Goo will also (shortly) run on Linux and Macintosh computers. Bonus! There isn’t online play per se, but there is the World of Goo Corporation, a high score minigame of sorts. Goo collected above and beyond the requirements of each level can be used to construct the tallest tower ever, and your height is compared against all others as data are automatically uploaded and downloaded in the background. Take that, Spore. This is a fantastic way of merging the core game concept into something as seemingly trivial as a high score list. Bravo!

Your goal in each level of World of Goo is to reach the pipe, which will suck up your goo (yes, that sounds as gross as I intended) and send it off to the corporation. This is done by connecting goo to construct towers/bridges/whatever from your starting point up/down/sideways. World of Goo has a lot of goo types that behave differently. The “classic” black goo must connect to at least two other goo balls and cannot be moved once placed. Other examples include static white goo, green springy goo, red flying goo, watery chained goo, some fire goo, and a bunch of others. These are used in some very smart designs; just when the game seems to get repetitive, a new element that significantly changes the gameplay is introduced. You may also need to construct your tower quickly, since the physics react to new components in real time and stuff tends to fall over if you are not careful. You are never at a loss on how to solve a puzzle; it’s just a matter of successfully executing your plan which can be quite difficult. World of Goo lays down the gauntlet early and often, offering up challenging levels in the first chapter that required several tries to perfect. Progress is hindered somewhat by the goo selection method: since goo is moving along your structure, it’s difficult to select with precision what you want, and existing tower elements can be removed by mistake. There are flies you can click on to go back a move, but these are rare and you can still ruin minutes of hard work with one errant click.

World of Goo is a fantastic game for several reasons: simple mouse selection, plentiful goo types, varied puzzles, a great theme, and an interactive high score list. World of Goo is also one of the most frustrating games I’ve played in quite a while due to its unflinching difficulty from the world “go.” Still, World of Goo is mesmerizing and quite addictive: the flexible construction gameplay means that, while your goal will be the same in each level, the method of success will change, even in the same level. It’s engineering gone insane (in the membrane). Despite the fact that I grew irritated by a particular puzzle (much) more than once, I still came back after a cool-down period to try it again. It’s a testament of good game design that World of Goo can piss you off but still make you want to play more. I would love to see a puzzle editor, but World of Goo still offers enough puzzling bang for your twenty bucks.