If there’s anything that games like Angry Birds and Ragdoll Blaster have taught us, it’s that sometimes simplicity is key. A title that pairs a single, streamlined mechanic with smart level design and quirky production values can enthrall us in ways that an overproduced licensed property almost never can. 2D Boy’s World of Goo is just such a title, and its arrival on the iPad is a sheer delight.
World of Goo was crafted almost entirely by two guys who plunked $10,000 of their personal savings into its creation. When it first shipped as a Wiiware title two years ago, it became an unqualified hit, earning numerous accolades and a community of rabid followers and modders. Its success just goes to show you that a game doesn’t need a huge deveIopment team and the resources of a major studio behind it to be outstanding. Plus, if our experience is any indication, its legions of fans are about to get a whole lot bigger.
More stretching than yoga class.
World of Goo’s premise seems basic enough. The world is filled with balls of goo whose only wish is to be sucked through a pipe to goo heaven. Your task is to build bridges, pyramids, and various other structures out of the goo to facilitate its escape. And that’s it.
Don’t be deceived, however. What starts out as a simple idea quickly evolves into an engaging, addictive, and often pleasurably maddening experience.
Over the course of the game’s 48 levels, you’ll face increasingly puzzling challenges, such as building a goo suspension bridge over a pit of spikes, or crafting winding goo scaffolding up through the esophagus of a giant beast. Some levels require relatively straightforward thinking and rudimentary structural engineering, while others will feel like having to climb a mountain after running a marathon.
Despite the occasional frustration, however, you will not be able to stop playing. When your goo invariably falls into an abyss, or your tower collapses under its own weight, the siren’s call to regroup and rebuild is irresistible.
Clamoring for the top.
Along the way, you are largely left on your own to figure out the mechanics of the game. The developers provide no tutorial, and the only in-game instruction comes in the form of enigmatic messages left by a person identified only as ‘The Sign Painter.’ Sometimes, these notes to the user lend a useful clue to the completion of a level, but other times they simply contain a darkly comic complaint. While we sometimes felt that this lack of guidance left us at sea in some of the initial levels, we appreciated that it encouraged us to explore, tinker with, and master the world of the game on our own.
You’ll also face a physics system that is second-to-none. The weight of your goo is palpable as your structures teeter perilously, swaying in the breeze, as you strive to counterbalance the load. Likewise, weather effects and various types of basic machinery will affect your goo in creative ways. In one particularly tricky early level, for example, maddening gusts of wind blow your strand of goo toward a perpetually spinning windmill. If you don’t attach balloons to your chain in just the right places and with just the right timing, your precious goo gets torn to shreds.
To further add to the challenge, you’ll have to master the use of many different, specialized varieties of goo, such as elastic, rigid, reusable, helium-filled, and even flammable. Each type has a use tailored to specific situations throughout the game, and we enjoyed having to use many different kinds of goo in order to solve a complex problem. Look no further than the Chapter Three level ‘The Third Wheel,’ which requires no less than four types of goo in order to scale a mountain and surmount three large cogs that stand in your way.
The huddled masses.
If the situations and environments sound kooky and unpredictable, it’s because they are. The level design feels like a wonderfully twisted combination of Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss’ aesthetic sensibilities, which lends a charming (if sometimes a tad unsettling) visual feel to the proceedings. Prepare to see your goo erupt forth from the mouth of a frog or pass by desolate, windswept, apocalyptic vistas.
Likewise, the background music is cinematic, whimsical, and appropriately varied in tone, depending on the level. Just as the visuals are Burtonesque, the audio feels straight out of the mind of Danny Elfman and often alternates between genres such as off-kilter, chromatic polkas and gently sweeping, atmospheric melodies. In short, World of Goo is fantastic for both the eyes and ears.
Some people will likely object to the game’s $9.99 price tag, but we can assure you that the investment is worth it. In addition to the title’s nearly 50 levels, which took us over eight hours to complete, each level has an ‘OCD’ challenge for completionists, and the game also contains a meta-game wherein you use surplus goo accumulated throughout the levels to build a gigantic tower. This structure acts as an online leaderboard; as you build, you will see (and pass) clouds representing the height of other users.
If we have one complaint about the essentially flawless World of Goo, it’s that the game actually comes to an end, and its creators have stated that there will not be a sequel. In that case, we may have to start a second playthrough, because, frankly, living in a world without goo is a proposition we’re just not ready to face.