lunarbunny's World of Goo (PC) review

Zany, Entertaining Physics Puzzler

The concept is simple. You have a level with a pipe you need to reach in one area, and typically a starting point with a few goo-balls and a starting structure to build off of. The result, however, is zany structures, sometimes built at your leisure, but many times at a frenetic pace trying to balance a structure that's on the verge of collapse, or even to outrun a collapse (hint: this rarely works). Unlike many physics puzzlers, this game makes heavy use of real-time gameplay, and it will force you at times to think on your feet.

Gameplay


You start off with simple tasks: building towers or bridges with a large excess of goo-balls to reach pipes either high up or distant. Later on, you may end up building huge strings suspended by balloons, or quickly disconnecting and reconnecting balloons to a structure to get it to float in a certain direction. Goo balls may be selected, dragged to a position, and connected to the current structure. There are different "species" of goo ball, each with their own properties. Some may be removed and reattached, others are permanent. Each type has its own number of connections each goo ball can make, and must make. The starting black goo balls need exactly two other goo balls to connect to, but reusable green goo balls may make 2 or 3 connections. One connection is off-limits until you reach clear goo-balls later in the game. Not all goo balls require (or can make) connections, and must instead be launched or guided by ones that can.

Excess goo balls will travel around structures, allowing them to be led to the pipe, but they also have a small amount of weight which can throw off the balance of your structure. Nearly every level has a required number of these which must make it to the pipe to pass to the next level.

The difficulty for the most part increased for pretty much the entire game. Some of the later levels were easy, and some levels were rediculously hard for where they were. The nice thing is that if you really want to get further along, there is the option to skip a level if you click on the "retry" button in the lower left. There are a limited number of skips, but you can add to this number if you complete levels normally.

Levels also include an "OCD," or "Obsessive Completion Distinction" goal of finishing the level with either a certain number of goo balls escaping through the pipe, a certain number of moves, or a time limit, which gives completionists an extra-difficult goal to work towards. In my play I only managed to get the OCD once, on a chapter 1 level.

The game includes one open-ended area where the only goal is to build your own tower as high as you possibly can with all the excess goo-balls you collected during the main puzzles. In this mode you'll also see other people represented as clouds, which update in real-time showing how high other randomly selected people near your tower's height have managed to get, as well as statistics showing your standing (pun intended) among everybody currently playing this mode. This does give the game a bit of replay value, but you may find yourself bored of building tower after tower after a while.

Controls and Interface


The game's controls and interface attempt to be user-friendly, and it succeeds for the most part on this front. The issues I had with the game stem from some of these conventions though. Goo balls can easily be grabbed in a large radius; they freeze in place with a crosshair over them. This is good most of the time, but causes problems when trying to remove a reusable goo ball on a heavily trafficked structure. Half the time this leads to frustration as the game prioritizes selecting the unused goo balls first, meaning you must have a large clear area around any you want to remove from the structure; this is sometimes completely impossible and you must use an extra unused goo ball instead. A problem I had less of the time was with "Time Bugs," which let you undo moves. Instead of a button to undo, there are a limited number of these which grow with every few moves, up to six. There are two issues with these. First, undos aren't perfect, and sometimes lead to having to go back a couple of moves to restore the state you need your structure to be in. Second, as they fly around in the level, they sometimes can get in the way and you can accidentally undo something you didn't want to undo.

Style and Graphics


The game has a minimal storyline; the main point of it is completing puzzles, not unraveling a story. It has its own slightly bizarre brand of humor, often poking fun at current popular culture and thinking. There are hint signs around levels that you may click on, but they often contain a lot more than hints, such as minmal backstory or jokes, all attributed to "The Sign Painter." This is supplemented by its art style, which is described aptly by some as "Tim Burton meets LocoRoco." The music is icing on the cake, as it is wonderfully matched to the game, from a polka-esque title music to carnival and even quasi-chiptunes. My only complaint is that the resolution is fixed at 800x600, and any attempt to mess with the config file will cause numerous UI issues (I could not see the Menu button in the level and the Continue button was off the bottom of the screen in 1920x1200). LCD monitor users will have to deal with scaling.

Conclusion


This game is well thought out, with a minimal number of techinical and control issues, and in my book is completely worth the $15 WiiWare or CD or even the $20 Steam price tag.

Pros:
Gameplay is simple to learn but hard to master
Controls and interface are relatively slick
Art direction is wonderfully odd
Humorous storyline and hints
No major technical hitches (bugs/crashes/slowdowns)
Polished indie title

Cons:
Control issues with target lock when trying to target a specific goo ball
Resolution is fixed at 800x600
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