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World of Goo Review
Let’s just get it out there: I’m not a puzzle gamer. They just shit me, I get frustrated and tend to start throwing things; keyboards, tantrums, etc. But after picking up World of Goo as part of the Humble Indie pack, I’ve been secretly playing it whenever I can.
World of Goo is really quite good. The premise is simple: a bunch of goo balls need to get to the pipe leading to the next level. They can do this by building structures (bridges, towers) by joining to each other, and there’s different types of balls to play with (oh grow up!). Some are single-use: they can be placed in a structure, and that’s it. Others let you dismantle the structure at your whim, others stick to surfaces, others are like water and will ‘drip’.
It can be a bloody hard game at points. Unlike other bridge or structure building games, the goo balls have an amount of flexibility, so if the structure isn’t as strong as it needs to be, it will bend, flex and topple. And naturally, some levels have hazards that must be avoided: spikes, blades, and a range of other sharp pointy things. All of which will burst your goo balls, rendering your lovely bridge a little less structurally sound.
The difficulty of levels is a little inconsistent. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the alternating challenge means you get to do simple, fun levels in between the incredibly tricky ones. There are also a good selection of challenges to overcome. Some focus on structural integrity, building a large bridge in as few ‘blobs’ as possible or building a huge tower that, if you don’t place your goo balls properly, will send your tower toppling over. Others require very little building, relying on timing and simple shapes to get through the level.
For example, one level places you at the bottom of a large pit, with a long tunnel leading vertically to the surface.
However you only have a certain number of blobs, not enough to reach the goal in one structure. You’re forced to create a scaffold of sorts: building enough to keep your goo pushing against a wall, keeping itself propped up by it’s angle, and then removing the lower supports to continue the structure’s climb.
It’s this kind of game play that gets me excited again and again about games. The game creators have thought about what is both challenging and fun, then (perhaps more importantly) realised that a simple idea, well executed, is enough. State of the art graphics engines, full motion video cutscenes, destructable environments; these are awesome, but if the game itself isn’t fun then what’s the point?
The art direction is lovely. Simple, childlike animation actually lends itself to the dynamic of the game. The story (it is lightweight, plot-wise, but suitable enough inside the goo world) unfolds via the animations inbetween stages, and the signposts placed in each level.
The signposts also give (albeit cryptic) hints on how to get through a level. Gameplay (where the solution doesn’t come straight to mind) relies on trial and error. But it’s only a tiny bit frustrating. For the most part, it’s tongue-sticking-out-the-side-of-mouth focus and giggles once you get a group of goo balls into the pipe. There are, of course levels that are just too tricky to manage. You get a few free-passes on levels that are too hard for you, which is a nice touch. Of course, the skip button is a little hidden, so I was worried for a while that I’d be stuck on a level with no hope of progressing.
Pros: A super fun puzzle game, with a nice sense of humour and excellent art direction that’s perfectly suited to the game. Controls are a snap, and there’s almost no learning curve.
Cons: Sometimes I’ve gotten a little lost on where I have to get the goo to, as every now and again there’s a level with no exit pipe; I found out by trial and error (and 5 minutes of not being sure where to go), realised I had to take these giant eyes and use them as balloons to float my goo off screen. Yep, it’s fairly obvious, and a rudimentary mistake. Could have had an extra signpost here and there to help guide the way. Also took me a while to find out how to skip levels.
Overall: It’s like a couple of bucks. It’s available readily via Steam (now also on Mac!), or as a part of several indie packs. Seriously, buy it. Play it. A great game. 4 out of 5 stars!
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