World of Goo
If a game's title was in any way linked to its quality then World of Goo was always destined for greatness. There's something delightfully innocent and silly about the idea of goo that raises a smile in these dark, depressing times so show me a game that promises to provide a world full of the stuff and I'm on board right from the off.
Developed by 2D Boy, one of the new wave of indie developers who've managed to push their games into the mainstream over the last twelve months, WoG is a physics-based puzzle game built around use of the titular goo. By its very nature goo is, ummm, gooey and your job is to use the wonderfully realised physics to turn friendly little blobs of goo into level spanning structures, thus enabling any unused blobs to find their way to the escape pipe and freedom. To provide an old school comparison for you to hang the idea onto it pushes a lot of the same puzzler buttons that Lemmings did back in the day, which can only be a good thing.
Levels start with a small existing base structure onto which nearby blobs of goo will start to clamber. These can be stretched and pulled into place in order to provide new extensions to the existing structure, or to create additional supporting beams in any areas that need it. There are a finite number of goo blobs on each level and some are dormant in remote areas requiring you to build towards them to wake them up and allow them to join in.
Its not all just about getting your goo from A to B however. To gain full completion of each level you need to comply with specific OCD clauses. These are things like completing the level within a certain time limit or, much like Lemmings again, requiring that you ensure a higher than normal number of blobs make it into the escape pipe. These conditions are optional in the sense they won't stop your progress through the game, but as the OCD name suggest you'll soon find yourself not wanting to move on before you've nailed them.
As you play through the levels within each of the game's five chapters you'll be introduced to various new types of goo with which to play. These can vary in size and stickiness as well as allowing varying numbers of connections, too. This constant stream of new ideas and possibilities along with a perfectly balanced learning curve all go towards making WoG a real delight to play. At no point do you feel like the solution to a particular level is completely beyond you and each puzzle is so well designed you never feel a sense of aimless repetition. For a game from such a humble background it's expertly polished with an attention to detail that puts many of the big development houses to shame. It may not be the longest game in the world, but it has been crafted with such love and care that to complain about its length seems more than a mite churlish.
Of course what really makes World of Goo so fresh, and pushes the Lemmings comparisons firmly to the back of the mind, are the goo physics. Your lovingly created structures wibble and wobble all over the place as you attach new blobs, the whole masterpiece reacting to any changes in weight and balance your actions may cause. Put too much weight on an overstretched link and it'll snap suddenly causing everything to topple realistically, although you'll soon learn to use your building's reactions to change and the goo's natural instability to your advantage when trying to lean towards hard to reach areas. The best thing however is that it's all feels so perfectly natural even when you first sit down to play. For a fictional substance the goo reacts exactly how you'd expect it to which means you always feel in complete control and are far happier to blame failure on your own lack of skill than the game, a vital ingredient for any puzzle title.
Glance at any of the screenshots and you'll see that WoG is simply beautiful to look at. The game's lovingly drawn levels and delightfully charismatic goo blobs are a constant delight while the surreal cut-scenes are combined perfectly into the whole to give the game a distinctly Tim Burtonesque flavour. That sense of slightly dark whimsy is continued in the haunting musical score that sweeps through the whole game, I'm not normally one for game soundtracks but this is definitely one I'd happily listen to outside of the game.
There's no multiplayer as such although there is the curiously addictive World of Goo Corporation area. In here you'll find every goo you've rescued over and above each level's basic requirement safe and sound and ready to be played with. Your job is simply to build into the skies the tallest goo tower you can using the goo at your disposal. Complete more levels, or complete older levels more efficiently and you'll find more goo blobs to build with, it's that simple. As you build you'll see clouds float by in the background indicating the height of other players towers giving you a kind of interactive high score board to literally build your way up. It's completely pointless but as with most things in WoG, highly addictive.
So there we have it, not only have 2D Boy provided a world full of goo related fun as promised, they've done so at a bargain basement price of only 16.99 GBP. In a gaming world populated by companies able to throw millions of pounds at tired franchises that sell on their name alone and where genuine innovation and fresh ideas should be welcomed with open arms, there's no better game to throw your weight behind than World of Goo. If more titles were made with this much passion the gaming world would be a much nicer, although possibly gooier, place.