The only reason that you would dislike the award-winning puzzle video game “World of Goo” (2D BOY, $20 for PC/Mac/Wii) is that you loathe fun. Seriously. It’s that good. The premise of the game is both simple and mysterious at the same time: Each level contains a problem that must be solved by building structures out of small living balls of “goo.” These happy and squeaky little amorphous blobs can be moved and stretched and attached to one another to build structures that transport them into a pipe that sucks them up and collects them in a goo-collection tank. There are different sorts of goo that appear as the game progresses, ranging from green goo (rearrangeable) to balloon goo (floats) to drool goo (… acts like drool), all of which must be used in a creative fashion to transport goo.
The ultimate purpose of the goo collection is revealed bit by bit in notes scrawled on signs in each level. As the game progresses, the Sign Painter (that’s his real name) suggests that you are getting closer to the “power source,” and there are occasional hints that perhaps the goo itself is providing the energy. Which makes things sort of macabre, considering they are so happy and squeaky. And you’re the one sucking them up into a pipe each level. But you won’t find any spoilers here.
Part of the reason that “World of Goo” is so fantastic is that it’s a puzzle/physics game (in the vein of the original “Lemmings,” or more recently the “Crayon Physics” series), but it doesn’t feel like just a solve-this-puzzle-move-on-to-the-next-game game.
It’s visually stunning, for one thing. It’s cartoon animation, sure — the goo have little cartoony eyeballs that roll around, and most of the shading is decidedly 2-d — but it’s damned pretty cartoon animation. The levels are set against sunsets, swaying trees that look like they came straight out of “The Lorax,” ominous churning factory machinery, the inside of a gurgling belly … you get the picture.
The other aesthetic factor that makes the game stand out is the music. It gives the game a sense of purpose. It’s cinematic, which for a game that mostly involves dragging and dropping little balls of pus, makes all the difference. The score is by turns playful, exciting and mournful, filling you with the notion that the goo live or die by your hand, and that it is your duty to safely escort them to their fate.
All that being said, the game is truly great because of, well, the gameplay. How you accomplish each task is up to you. You’re constrained by the number of goo available, the law of gravity, and the properties of each type of goo, but beyond that, there’s a great degree of creativity involved. This is something of a recent trend in physics puzzle games, which bodes well for the future of the children. Think Legos for the new generation. And we all know that Legos are the best toy ever, because they exercise the scientific, the creative and the just-wanna-have-fun parts of your mind. So buy World of Goo, and start building!