Wednesday, January 7, 2009

World of Goo

It's hard to gauge how much my adoration of the prototype game Tower of Goo influenced my opinion of this title. I spent quite a while with Tower, though it offered few challenges it was quite exceptional. Not just the base mechanic of sticking Goo Balls together to create structures, which remains unchanged but expanded on in World, but the style and whimsical presentation of that game stuck with me. I was afraid in its elaboration, World of Goo would lose part of what made Tower so fresh.

World takes such a simple premise and pushes it towards greatness. The manipulation of the Goo Balls to create, experiment, and ultimately reach a goal is always a rewarding experience. Stacking Goo vertically up a chasm in an ever-climbing series of trusses to reach a pipe becomes more fun than you might expect.

The subtle physics of the world create a chaotic and ever changing playfield, where best laid plans are often met with tumbling disaster. You're often sent back to the drawing board to re-imagine your devices, and work out a new solution. The game sets completionist "OCD" goals for each stage, which are optional and oh so devious to accomplish. There is also great variety in the challenges which keeps the game interesting from start to end.

As fun as the gameplay mechanics of World of Goo are, part of the reward for playing this game comes from the World itself. What could easily have been constructed as an entirely abstract and flavorless puzzle exercise has been greatly fleshed out in every direction, which sort of sounds gross. The music is melodramatic and engaging, a metronome to keep your hand moving and your mind thinking towards a solution. Each Goo ball makes a satisfyingly sticky squeak to confirm your placements, or a horrifying squish if you drop a Goo ball into a death trap. Climbing and stretching across windswept countrysides, deep ravines, or even fields of bones, these Goo Balls become your heroes on this journey. Readable signs throughout the journey offer hints and humourous narrative feedback as you progress through the story of the World of Goo Corporation, the entity which is the driving force behind story and cutscenes. The world itself goes through many changes from stage to stage, and the monumental conclusion, however you read into it, is a moment to relish. The game is quite epic for a puzzle title.

The cohesiveness of the gameplay and the fantastic stylings of World of Goo all contribute to a very highly recommended play experience which far surpasses, yet honors, the simple Tower of Goo it succeeds. The Wii version offers multiplayer which can lead to fun brainstorming, or arguing over solutions. Both the PC and Wii version have a few interface issues, but nothing to consider game breaking in either case, though the PC offers up a better presentation of worldwide high scores in the tower building meta-game and slightly sharper visuals, the Wii displaying it's resolute shortcomings.

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