The Sticky Bastard Child of Braid, Portal and Crayon Physics
It's amazing what a little talent and a lot of hard work will get you. Looking at the general quality-to-budget and time-to-staff ratios of games in general and specifically games on Wii it would be easy to assume that the days of the lone coder producing anything of value or interest are far gone. Even first-party titles by the often heralded Nintendo today all too often show low production values (Wii Play), rehashed and tired gameplay and graphics (Mario Kart Wii, Animal Crossing: City Folk) even though they are made by such a large corporation.
But then there's World of Goo, a two-man project (2D Boy's Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel) that's innovative and beautiful, has great Danny Elfman-ish music and sound-design reminiscent of Loco Roco. It's genuinely funny - the humor, a bit dark at times (a la Braid or Psychonauts) and contains many Internet-community and computing references (similar to that in the new Sam & Max episodes and Portal) and - if not braking the 4th wall - then at least tapping it. The level-design brings Lemmings to mind.
The general idea is to use the titular Goo balls to build a physics-enforced structure to a pipe somewhere on the level through which the remaining goo-balls can escape. In standard puzzle-game fashion you are gradually presented with new an varying challenges both in terms of the environments and through new goo-balls with different properties such as those that can jump, are flammable or detachable.
Through-out the game you are accompanied by the mysterious sign-painter. Hints and story elements are presented in a Braid/Portal-esque way, partly through the environments but mainly by the sign-painters posts. These are often funny and much like the levels themselves comments on society and pop-culture, bringing greater depth to the game and making you really feel the plight of the poor goo balls... as strange as it may sound.
However even if you - like my wife - skip the signs all together, there is a fantastically addictive and fun game here that everyone deserves to play. My only gripe with the game is that it was a bit too easy. I burnt through the 50 levels in just five days, about 10-hours. But then there is the Tower of Goo mode in which you build as high as you can and compare your results in real-time to others around the world who's records hover as clouds in the sky, providing constant incentive to manage just a little bit higher. The goo balls you build with in this stage are the excess balls from the main stages, so by going back to improve your results in those stages you can gain more balls to build your tower with.
World of Goo is the best thing to happen to WiiWare and one of the best things on Wii period. For those who don't have a Wii there are also PC and Mac versions and with a Linux version on it's way there is little excuse not to buy this game. Yes, now we come to the darker side of gaming, piracy. This game is DRM-free and while DRM won't stop the determined pirate and I applaud 2D Boy for putting their faith in their audience... unfortunately piracy of World of Goo is a real problem. This is not a game by a large corporation swimming in money, so please try the demo and if you like it, buy it.