Review by Mwulf

"Gooey, Wobbly and Utterly Charming"

Overview:

By accident I found an early gameplay video of 2D Boy's "World of Goo" last year. I immediately bookmarked the video and would frequently check in on the World of Goo website to see just how much longer I would have to wait before I could play the quirky little game for myself. When I finally got my hands on the title, I was quite pleased with what I saw.

World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game where we get to mess around with silly sentient spheres of ooze. The object of any level is pretty simple—move as many Goo-balls from point A to point B as quickly as you can. You can build towers and bridges, break down your towers or bridges, or hoist gooey-pink balloons on top of other, denser oozing inkblots to lift your structures into the air.

Though most of the levels are fairly simple, World of Goo offers some refreshingly quirky, downright silly art, with highly addictive gameplay. It's been a long time since I've been so engrossed in playing a game that I lose track of time, so when I looked up from my screen to see three hours passed since I first clicked on the icon, I realized I was playing a classic.

World of Goo is an utterly charming adventure that any gamer, or lover-of-fun would be severely remiss in avoiding. It's not quite perfect, but it manages to capture an element not-often seen in more modern games: it's a helluva lot of fun.

Gameplay:

World of Goo is a one button game. Because you only need to know how to click and drag the left mouse button, it's incredibly easy for anyone to jump into a level and figure out the controls. Each level starts with a certain number of Goo-balls forming a shape—they link to each other by rigid goo lines that can bend under too much weight—and a pipe somewhere off in the distance. The object of the game is to move the Goo-balls into the pipe so they can be sucked to freedom. Or a lifetime of indentured servitude. Or really big bottle—the game isn't too clear on what, exactly, is happening, but that's okay.

To build a shape you click on a moving Goo-ball (they rove about the rigid goo-lines with floppy goggle-eyes and foppish grins plastered on their oopy-faces and drag it to a point outside of the structure where, if you place it correctly, it will shoot out a few lines of goo-stalk to the nearest Goo-balls. The kicker is that when you place a Goo-ball as part of a structure, that Goo-ball becomes locked in place. When you reach the pipe, only Goo-balls that are NOT part of the structure will be sucked away. To clear each level players need to suck-up a certain number of Goo-balls, with point bonuses awarded for sucking up larger quantities of Goo-balls. For the hyper-competitive, 2D Boy maintains an online leaderboard to display just who in the world has the best score at each particular level.

As you move your Goo-ladies and Goo-gents around the levels, you'll be building towers and bridges, which sounds fairly mundane and simple, right? This is where the excellently-implemented physics engine comes into play. Towers will droop to the side. Bridges will sag down the middle. Add too much weight, and your structures will collapse into chaotic heaps of confused Goo-lings. Often, you'll find yourself in a situation where you'll need to tear down parts of your structure to build new elements in order to reach the finish-pipe.

There are different types and colors of Goo-ball that act differently on the environment. The typical black Goo-ball is the simplest form of ooze. These normal Goo-balls can breath in clean water—but if they fall into dirty water they'll drown. Then there are the pink balloon-balls that are lighter than air: attach a balloon to your structure and the balloon-ball will pull everything skyward. There are green Goo-balls, close cousins of the inky-black Goo-balls, that are more resilient and can be plucked up from anywhere in the level to be placed anywhere on a goo-structure. There's a certain degree of strategy involved in choosing which type of Goo-ball to put where, which adds a pleasing bit of variety to the gameplay.

Some levels can even be manipulated by moving certain elements of the terrain—and certain elements of terrain (like spiked wheels of spinning death) will explode any Goo-ball that gets too close. Other levels will see you trying to build a tower on top of a circular platform that will fall to either side if it's not perfect balanced—and the more weight you add to the top, the faster it will wobble from side to side. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of different elements that effect gameplay, mostly based on the physics engine, that make playing the game a real joy.

The physics are a lot of fun to watch in action—there's little cooler than hooking a bunch of inflated-pink goo-balloons to the top of a bridge and raising the hapless Goo-balls up to a ceiling of stalactites: the poor Goo-balloons pop and the bridge will wobble up and down. If the bridge wobbles too much, one end may douse itself in dirty swampwater, and all of the dampened Goo-balls will drown. And, yes, you can hear their icky little screams.

Rating: 18/20

Difficulty & Replay Content:

It's virtually impossible to rate the difficulty of a puzzle game because so much depends on the capabilities of the individual player. If you have a strong grasp of basic physics, you'll likely have an easier time than a person with only a rudimentary knowledge of gravity or inertia. But even if the physical-construction elements are easy for you, there's plenty of challenge to be had in obtaining a high score—here, you're reflexes and speed with the mouse, as well as your efficiency with the construction will earn you the most points. There are a great deal of levels, all charmingly designed, that offer a good deal of variety.

The only downside to World of Goo is that 2D Boy only gives us a smattering of levels. There could be more, there should be more. If we're lucky, maybe we'll see some user-created content or modifications to the game with new levels. It's a shame there's no level-editor included, because I have a feeling the average consumer could create some wickedly-cool obstacles for the cheery Goo-balls to traverse.

After you clear each level, the extra Goo-balls you collected are ferried off to the World of Goo Corporation—an edgy dystopian cityscape, where you're free to use you're excess of Goo-balls to create whatever kind of structure you want. It's kind of like a free-play area, where you're able to do whatever you want—build as far as you want in any direction—but the World of Goo Corporation area is limited to only 300 Goo-balls.

I would recommend that anyone, before making a purchase, check out the gameplay preview at 2D Boy's website to get an idea of how the game looks and feels. If you don't think you'll be entertained by building floppy spires of goo, this isn't the game for you. But, hell, who isn't thrilled at the idea of building sloppy towers of oozing goo wobble under its own weight? World of Goo is the game the term, "Crazy-Awesome," was born to describe.

Rating: 15/20

Audio:

World of Goo sounds awesome. No, I'm not talking about the title—which is, indeed, quite the classy title—I'm talking about the music. And not just the music, but the little stuff too. The sound effects for stretching and tearing that you hear when your slimy goo-towers collapse, or the splashes and screams when you're Goo-balls dive head... er, sphere-first into a pool of blackened water. The gleeful laughter of the Goo-balls as they merrily march along the Goo-lines.

The music fits in with the game perfectly. There are several different, strong tracks that do well to set the mood for each level. The little Goo-balls pulsate with the same rhythm of the music, and the music itself has a fast enough pace to warrant some unconscious neck-bobbing. Everything feels incredibly natural and seamless. Some of the music will even force you to crack as smile simply out of the irony of the epic-sounding notes. World of Goo would only be half a game without the soundtrack, which really is quite flawless.

Rating: 20/20

Graphics & Presentation:

One of the more irritating things about World of Goo is that it fails to offer any sort of general configuration settings, for players to tweak how the game looks on their computers. You can play World of Goo in either fullscreen, or in a window by pressing Alt + Enter. There is no options menu in World of Goo, but when the game starts at fullscreen, it will automatically adapt to your monitor's native resolution. Personally, I played World of Goo on a 16:10 widescreen monitor set to a resolution of 1680x1050, and the game looked fantastic. I have no doubt that whatever your PC set-up is, World of Goo will look incredible. The bright, crisp 2D images move around with an impressive degree of fluidity—and even little things, like the smearing-goo trail of the mouse, can be captivating to watch.

The initial menus and World of Goo Corporation area take on a kind of edgy, dark, dystopian feel—think 1930's detective movies, with lots of shadow—which looks really cool, but could easily become tired and boring. Luckily, the different levels of the game are vibrantly colorful and fantastic to look at. The graphics are nothing spectacular—World of Goo is a game built on only two dimensions, after all—but they are quite impressive nonetheless. The images are crisp and smooth and move around almost as though they were part of a living, breathing world. It's quite clear than an incredible amount of time, effort and care went into the the design of World of Goo, and the artists responsible deserve some honest accolades.

I'm sure many of us have heard, at least in passing, of the, "Are games art?" debate. Personally, I don't think so. I'll never call World of Goo a work of art--but I have to admit, it's the closest I've ever seen. There were levels where I just sat, gaping at the background. World of Goo is beautiful. It's a game that's crazy-fun to play, and just as crazy-fun to watch.

Rating: 20/20

Final Comments:

The only thing that really matters about a game is whether or not the game is fun. This is an aspect a solid number of reviewers have forgotten recently as the gaming industry evolved into a mainstream entertainment media. It would be easy to call World of Goo a "brilliant," game. It would be equally easy to call World of Goo a "revolutionary" game, but neither word quite does the game justice. At it's heart, World of Goo isn't about bringing anything new to the gaming medium—it's about bringing us back to something very important, that we forgot about long, long ago.

Raw, unadulterated, unfiltered fun. Quirky, zany charm. You're helped on your quest to move Goo by an anonymous, super-mysterious creature known only as, "your friend, the sign painter." The Sign Painter paints signs that dot the landscape of each level, offering wry commentary on the world of Goo itself, as well as offering advice and tips for completing the level. When you first boot up the game, try reading the little bits of text that brighten the lower corner of the dark screen: "Constructing emotional depth," "Debating games as art," and more. Each time you load the game, you'll see a different set of dry little jokes appear as the World of Goo initializes. The humor in the game is omnipresent, from the Grandiloquent music tracks, to the background and loading text, to the bizarre cut-scenes. It's virtually impossible to do anything in World of Goo—even navigate the menu—without having your face contort into a happy grin.

World of Goo is an absurdly fun, engaging and charming title. It's a fantastic game that everyone ought to play at least once, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Rating: 20/20

Final Score: 93/100


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/21/08, Updated 10/23/08


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