Monday, October 20, 2008

Review: World of Goo

A week ago, World of Goo was released for PC and WiiWare. I will admit that I was just a little bit late to the party. I didn't have any Wii Points handy and I'm not much of a PC gamer. It wasn't until a few days later when a generously-sized demo was released that I paid any attention. 

World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game by indie developers 2D Boy. 2D Boy is basically a two-man team, which makes this game all the more interesting. They have proved that you don't need the budget and manpower of a small country's military to make an amazing game.

I can probably let you stop reading here with this statement. The PC has Portal, the Xbox 360 has Braid, and now the Wii has World of Goo. 

It's a very simple concept that's executed perfectly and constantly expanded upon so that it never gets stale. You can not be bored while playing World of Goo. Every level introduces some new twist or gameplay element. By the end of the game, it still feels like you've just started playing. When simplified, the basic premise of the game is to build a path from your party of goo balls to a pipe for them to escape through. You must get a specific number of balls from the beginning of the level to the pipe in order to clear it. That description doesn't do the game much justice, though. While that basic mechanic is addictive on its own, what really shines is the unique design of each level. There's always some previously-unseen trick or nuance, such as an explosive goo ball that can demolish walls, or a giant head you need to grind down into a pile of smaller balls to fit into the pipe.

The genius level design is complemented by a very unique atmosphere. The whole game feels like it could have been designed by Tim Burton, with its stylized 2D graphics and truly epic musical score. Every world is ended with a story-advancing cutscene that leaves the player with the feeling that the game is on a much, much larger scale than it actually is. While a sense of humour is certainly prevalent from beginning to end, I couldn't help but get chills whenever I watched certain scenes. 

That's not to say the the game is completely flawless, of course. For instance, there's one level where you have to navigate a giant goo head (like the one pictured above) across a line of goo being supported by balloons. I underestimated the weight of the head and it went plummeting into a pit. When I undid my last move, I saw the head flying across the pit, straight into its destination. I suppose little things like that are to be expected when so many gameplay mechanics are present in a game developed by two people.

I know some people will be put off by the $15 price tag (just like Braid) but I hope this game gets the attention and sales it deserves. 2D Boy has set a very high standard for indie developers on major platforms, including themselves. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what else this studio has coming, because their first effort is one of the best games I've ever played.

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