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Reviews - World of Goo
 
by Dennis Hancock


World of GooWorld of Goo
Developed by: 2D Boy
Platform: Windows XP or Vista, Mac, Linux, or Wii
Requirements: 1GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c, 100 MB hard drive, recent video card.
Price: $20.00

As I sat pondering my most recent game review, a thought struck me: I hadn't bought or played a new computer game in a while. So, I fired up Steam and began flipping through the store to try to find something fun to play. I browsed various games, which my decrepit computer had no hope of ever running without a major upgrade, and eventually resigned myself to spending the next few days weeping softly to myself in the corner. Before I flipped off the computer and wiped the tears from my eyes, I briefly saw an ad flash across Steam for a weekend special, 80% off or something to that effect. I scrolled back to see what I had missed and found, to my surprise, there were ten indie games being bundled together for the low price of $30. Ten games for $30? Even if they were crap, they only amount to $3 a piece. Though newer games, they still had some pretty low system requirements that even my computer could run.

Truth be told, for a while now I had been eyeballing this game called World of Goo, but had been somewhat hesitant because it was from an independent game developer. Even if it did have good ratings elsewhere, I had played some pretty bad indie games in my time and wasn't sure if I wanted to throw money at a crummy company for another crummy game. Since it was part of this bundle, I figured I would take the chance and see what everybody was raving about. Even if it sucked, I could still play any of the other games in the bundle, at least one of them had to be good.

Enough rambling, lets talk about the game
World of Goo is a physics based puzzle game where the player tries to chain different types of goo together to form towers of wobbly Jell-O (think of it as Lego's with snot balls and you're getting close). On one side of the map you will have several goo balls whose only desire is to get to the other side where a warm and inviting sewer pipe awaits their entry. Each new map poses different challenges and different types of goo to use to reach the other side. Each level has a minimum amount of goo that must make it to the tube before you can advance to the next level.

The first level is fairly easy: the player is presented with a few goo balls, a structure of goo to act as your construction base, and is directed to build a tower to a tube located not far above. The loose goo balls will travel up and down your structure like ants on a log. You can command each goo ball to become a part of the structure wherever you would like it to grow. At that point, the goo balls stretch out some tendrils and combine with the two closest goo balls in that location to form a truss-like structure, with the goo balls themselves acting as the node points between two or more truss-like struts. Once combined as part of the structure, most goo balls cannot be removed. There are some instances where goo can be constantly added and removed from the structure, but these are special green goo balls. Once you have built your jiggly tower close enough to the sewer pipe inlet, a vacuum will start and begin sucking up any loose goo.

World of Goo screenshotJust one level later, the tasks are slightly more difficult: the player must somehow build a bridge across an open chasm where slothful goo lay sleeping on the other side. Thanks to the game's cool physics engine, as you build the bridge out further over the chasm, the end of the bridge sinks lower and lower. If you add too much weight at the end, the bridge will collapse completely and your goo will be sent plummeting to a sticky, messy death. Sounds easy, right? It is at first, in later levels you will have to make towers of goo and attach goo balloons to them to keep certain parts afloat so they don't touch spinning blades or drift down into deadly spike filled pits.

The goo comes in several different varieties, each with specific abilities and behavior patterns. Black goo sticks to things like tar, while green goo readily combines with other goo and willingly breaks apart again to form new Jell-O like towers. White goo is very strong and forms connections with several other goo balls at the same time. Clear goo likes to pair up with other goo but is also the only color that can connect to another goo ball by a single thread and dangle like a rope. There are three types of red goo: one has a stupid looking face and seems to do nothing but wander - it slothfully refuses to build wobbling towers with its kin; the second is fat and bloated, and while it does willingly combine with its kin, it defies the laws of gravity and will float away if you aren't careful; the third has a somewhat explosive personality, so if it catches on fire it will blow up. If other explosive goo is attached to it, this will lead to a chain reaction, which will quickly destroy whatever structures you have carefully planned. Oddly enough, it seems that goo either has a skeleton, or becomes calcified when dead. There is another type of goo, which I refer to as the skeleton, that is calcified and resists all damage. They readily form structures with their living cousins.

World of Goo screenshotThe graphics are nice and simple. They won't be getting any awards for special effects anytime soon, but the graphics definitely fit the game. At various times throughout the story line the graphics will change based upon events in game - to their detriment at one point. Rest easy, my friends - your computer has not been sent back to 1980. Just plow through, and soon your goo balls will be hacking into the video card and restoring order to the universe.

The storyline is pretty amusing. It seems that the World of Goo corporation has discovered goo is good to eat! They have begun a marketing campaign to people all over the world to get them to try their new product. The goo balls are only happy to oblige, as they do not know they are good to eat and the pipe inlets look warm and inviting. The evil World of Goo corporation has placed these pipes into areas which the goo likes to inhabit, in the hopes of enticing them into their factory. What they didn't count on was the response they would get from the goo. Apparently the goo completely backs up their factory and causes a meltdown.

There are also a couple more challenges to the game. Each level has something called OCD. The requirements to achieve OCD vary from level to level but in general they are based around completing the level in so many moves or having a specific number of goo reach the destination. If you can complete any of these, my hat is off to you - they are pretty challenging. There is also another area located at the World of Goo factory where you can attempt to stack all of the goo balls you have collected and try to form as high a tower as possible. World of Goo even keeps track of the height of your tower and compares it to other people who are playing. Supposedly there is something up there but you have to be able to stack your tower to get to it. I haven't been able to get my tower above 20 meters - I'm just too impatient, I guess.

Let's talk specs
With so many new games coming out with ultra high system requirements, it was quite refreshing to see World of Goo's were so low. I look at some of the games today that have worse graphics and game play, and wonder why they require so much more in system resources. I can't imagine a computer built in the last 5 years that wouldn't be able to run World of Goo. The minimum system requirements are as follows:

World of Goo screenshotPlatform: Windows XP or Vista, Mac, Linux, & Wii
Processor: 1GHz
Memory: 512 MB Ram
Video: The website states "Any video card made in the last 5 years"
DirectX: 9.0c
Hard Drive: 100 MB

My system isn't quite as low as these, but it ran perfectly smooth on my machine with nary a slowdown or even a glitch.

Let's take a moment to talk about something that really rankles my hide with games today - DRM, or Digital Rights Management. DRM has been a thorn in the side of many a computer gamer since its inception. Early DRM consisted of code built into the CD that made it difficult to make copies and required the disc to be in the drive. Later variations of DRM included dastardly software programs, which were secretly installed on your computer. Some of these programs were poorly written and interfered with the normal operation of the computer - one in particular messed with the inner workings the CD Rom drive and crippled it, causing it to end up reading discs either very slow or not at all. The latest craze in DRM has been to allow only a handful of installations throughout the lifetime of the software ownership. Did you get a new computer? That uses up one install. Did you have to format your hard drive? That uses up an install too. Did you make a significant change to the hardware in your computer? Oddly enough, that also can use up an install.

The creators of World of Goo have decided to run an experiment regarding DRM. Essentially, 2D Boy released World of Goo DRM free on their website. I did not purchase my software through 2D Boy, so I cannot vouch for it being DRM free if you buy someplace else, but I have a lot of respect for a company that is willing to do something like this and show folks that a software company doesn't have to use DRM to be successful. If you like a game, don't pirate it - support the creators and all the hard work they put into it. This show of faith in us gamers counts as big brownie points in my book.

Conclusions
World of Goo is extremely good fun. I suspect the casual gamer will find it more enjoyable than the hardcore gamer, but I challenge the hardcore gamer to complete all of the OCD levels. The free building area is cool, but I wish they had allowed the different goo color types in that area rather than making them all one generic color. A level editor would also have been an awesome addition to the game. Nevertheless, for those who like puzzle games, World of Goo has a great value-to-fun ratio. It's definitely a keeper.

A final note to the 2D Boy folks: you should make plush goo balls available for purchase. If you guys decide to do this, I want a cut of the action for the idea.

Ratings

  • Difficulty: 4 of 5 - later levels get kind of hard, especially if you try to accomplish the OCD requirements.
  • Fun: 4 out of 5 stars - you'll come back to it and play it again.
  • Graphics: 3 out of 5 stars - they certainly aren't bad, very cartoon-like.
  • System Requirements: 5 out of 5 stars - Super low requirements means almost anyone can play. DRM is either minimal or non-existent. Awesome-town!
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars - It's fun, but I want more! I'll definitely be taking a closer look at anything 2D Boy releases in the future.

   

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