World of Goo

This article originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 20, released in February 2008

I must admit: I’ve been a philistine. I played the original Tower of Goo back when it was on Experimental Gameplay and thought that it was entertaining enough. It didn’t blow my mind or anything, but it was worth the time spent playing and I gave it a mental thumbs up before moving on to the next funky prototype in my “To Play” list.

Fire? Fire! FIRE!

A while later, I heard about World of Goo. My friends were going insane about it – the game had gone mainstream, it seemed. They pleaded, cajoled, threatened and wept in their efforts to get me to play it, but I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “It’s another physics game. Maybe I’ll get around to it later. Maybe.”

Today, I shed gooey tears of remorse when I consider my doubting ways, because World of Goo really is one of the best titles I’ve come across recently. This game is raw, sticky delight from beginning to end – a masterpiece consisting of gooballs, wicked humour and some really neat backing music. Combine this with nice physics, inspired level design and a visual identity which looks like Tim Burton’s take on a Worms game and you have a squishy, stretchy masterpiece which towers over the competition.

Throughout the game, the basic premise remains the same – you’re given a bunch of gooballs and your job is to connect them with one another to form a structure that can reach a pipe at the end of the level. Any gooballs that aren’t used in your construction go into the pipe. If you gather enough of the little globs, you win that level.

Ingredients for tower: Goo; lots of it.

World of Goo doesn’t stop there, though. Different species of gooball are introduced as the game progresses, each one with their own particular perks and drawbacks. Some require less bonds to form structures. Others float. Some can even catch fire. And others are … well, others just really need to ease off on the makeup.

Environmental obstacles also play an important role. High barriers, spinning blades and the ever-present Pits of Doom(TM) keep players on their toes, and make for a set of interesting challenges without becoming frustrating. Smooth play is facilitated with the presence of little “time bugs” on some levels. These critters exist in a limited quantity and allow players to go back in time by one move, removing that ever-dreadful experience of, “Oops, I made one bad move after placing hundreds of gooballs, and now I have to start everything all over again!”

Thank you, developers, for this small kindness extended to end users.

If I were to stop slobbering over this game for just one moment to critique it from a game development perpective, the following strong points would show up for me:

  • The feature creep is well-balanced and introduces new concepts to the player at a respectable rate. More importantly, each new perk and improvement actually makes sense in terms of the story and gameplay, and doesn’t make previous abilities or scenarios obsolete.
  • The game focuses on a few base points and polishes them to perfection, rather than trying to overextend itself or throw on fluffy extras that are poorly implemented. Everything in the game feels like it has been very carefully tested. It’s great to see how the developers have expanded upon the original Tower of Goo prototype to create a product that capitalises on the original’s strengths.
  • The metagame elements are superb. Upon finishing a game, the player still has more goals to accomplish – attempts can be made to acquire OCD achievements, for example (finishing levels in a limited number of moves, or saving a certain amount of gooballs). There&#039s also a sandbox mode that utilises all the extra gooballs from the main game mode which allows you to build as high a tower as possible using an open playing field and all the goo you can muster. Basically, anybody playing World of Goo is able to set goals and unlock achievements above and beyond the basic “get to the end of the everything stuff” scenario. And the developers have made this rewarding.

I give this game five gooey stars. It’s a brilliant title which will keep you slushily entertained for hours, and it has a lure that will have you wanting more long after that final gooball has been drained away.

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About Nandrew

Rodain Joubert is a South African game developer based in Cape Town, currently working for QCF Design. He likes his job. He likes being opinionated on the Internet. He likes fighting evil with his heat ray vision. And he also likes cats. [Articles]