World of Goo - game review

Date: 2008-12-09 11:10:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Indie games are doing very well lately. Digital distribution is generally good for everyone, but with the "alternative" it's basically to be or not to be. In the era of Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and Steam, the worldwide availability of a game created in the proverbial garage is no longer surprising. Today we're taking World of Goo as a wallpaper - a title created by two people, and built on creativity that surpasses the effects of multi-decade teams of professionals. I do not know whether the creators of this game are so brilliant, or whether large corporations simply put on such tight muzzles for their employees. Because the fact is that ideas from World of Goo can be divided into several superproductions.

The overall concept of the game, however, does not turn the world upside down: our job is to carry the different colored Goo balls (let me call them "sluts") from start to finish. For this purpose, we have to connect them together so that they form various structures: bridges, towers, weights, ropes. What really grabs the heart of this production is the variety of levels and a cosmic number of interesting ideas. You look at the first stages and you think you already know what it is - and here is a surprise. This pattern of thinking works for almost every (well, every) mainstream game.

If World of Goo was created by Electronic Arts, we would probably have some 50 stages that were variations of the initial ones - everything would get bigger, more difficult, more complicated, but still on the same hoof. And here the rules are changed every now and then. Suddenly, out of nowhere, gluten-matches, gluten-drops of water, gluten-missiles, gluten-bombs, etc. appear - and their presence is perfectly exploited by the level design, which does not go towards unnecessary confusion, but towards constant innovation. Kind of like puzzles from Braid - the next obstacle is not an advanced version of the previous one, but something completely different. Generally all the levels are on different points on the axis, one end of which is an idea and the other end of which is difficult to execute. And although we have to be careful that, for example, our bridge does not overwhelm too quickly, cunning remains a more important component.

This game can be completed quickly - even in one afternoon. Fortunately, the more inquisitive players can then try to get the OCD (Obsessive Completion Distinction) status at each stage - obtained for meeting some very demanding requirements, e.g. saving 45 snots instead of the ones required to pass level 15, doing it in 10 steps or in time less than 30 seconds. The bar is hanging quite high and it must be admitted that by trying to jump over it, we are already playing a completely different game. As if that was not enough, we will find here something like an interactive list of the best players. All the "excess" slimes that we save can be used to build our tower in a separate game mode - and, as you can easily guess, those who have erected the tallest structures are listed in the ranking. Simple and brilliant like everything here.

The last thing to expect from a masterpiece like World of Goo is the story. The surprise is all the greater because the story is not only here, but also great. In such a laid back, casual and slightly intoxicated way. The authors (one author to be exact, Kyle Gabler, responsible for the plot, design, graphics and music [!!!]) weave a pseudo-epic envelope, at times baffling us with a Burtons sense of humor, to end the whole story with a tear-squeezing universal message about nothing . You watch these, nomen omen, nonsense, you feel touched and you have the impression that someone is making an idiot of you - a group of slugs overcomes their own weaknesses, unites beyond divisions and stuff. One big absurdity that completely absorbs. And it's all just ... wisely written. Just like the Portal was wisely written - infantile and effortless, yet.

The controls are extremely simplified, basically everything is done with the left mouse button - we move with slugs on the drag & drop principle. It is enough for us to quickly and accurately sense the properties of the various types of "units". In fact, the only flaw in this game are the problems with targeting a specific snot, when there is a lot of them around the cursor. Fortunately, in most cases we have the option to undo a failed move by clicking on a nearby flying worm.

It has already been mentioned that one person is responsible for the visual and sound setting. I don't know how this is possible, but both of these aspects of the game are just phenomenal and seem to be done with an enormous amount of work. Sure, the music is a bit lo-fi at times, that you can hear the VST instruments instead of the orchestra, but I can't, if it all fits together perfectly! It's scary to think how epic some moments are: ceremonial choirs or powerful drums in the style of Battlestar Galactica only introduce a contrast at first, but ultimately draw the whole atmosphere to their side. It is the same with graphics: simple means of achieving an end, but without any trouble. Many levels have an original design, completely detached from the rest, changed physics (e.g. wind appears) or a background sound that is not found elsewhere. Glamor, in a word.

I try not to add unnecessary ideology to World of Goo. The fact that it is one of those famous "indie" games that is fashionable to promote is of little importance: its advantage is not difference or design courage. Under the colorful, dexterity and logical lining, there is a brilliant design that speaks through the divisive language of gameplay. If such people were designing levels for, for example, Mirror's Edge - the game would probably benefit a lot. In addition, we have a masterful handling of the degree of difficulty, a great plot and artistic background, and diversity in the full sense of the word. Maybe if this were a full-price boxed game I'd be clinging to something, but it's not.

Krzysztof "Lordareon" Gonciarz