Review: World of Goo (WiiWare)

Will World of Goo leave gamers all warm and gooey inside?

It's certainly no secret to WiiWare fans that World of Goo has seen more hype than just about any other WiiWare title to date. While this generally leads to unrealistic expectations, every so often a game somehow manages to not only fulfil the hype, but exceed it. Say hello to World of Goo. Not only does the game live up to the immense attention that has been heaped upon it over the past few months, but it brings one of the most unique and original gaming experiences to the WiiWare service yet and proves that a WiiWare title done right can be every bit as good, if not better, than an actual Wii retail release.

There's nothing quite like a simple design where everything just seems to click. That's an apt description of the gameplay found in World of Goo. There are no complicated control schemes to learn and no gameplay tutorial is even needed. You basically grab balls of Goo and stick them onto each other to slowly build them into a structure that will reach the drainpipe located somewhere in each level. Each level has a specific Goo requirement that lets you know ahead of time how many Goo Balls you must guide to the drainpipe in order to progress to the next level. Once you complete the level, you're given a report card of your performance, such as how many moves and how much time it took you to complete the level.

Building these structures with the Goo is tough in and of itself, as the game employs astoundingly realistic physics. This means that you have to be careful how and where you attach balls of Goo. If you put too many Goo Balls on one side, the structure will begin to sway and will soon collapse under the strain. You have to carefully balance things out if you're to have any hope of reaching some of the lofty drainpipe locations in each level.

To make matters even more challenging, you'll also have to deal with various other dangers ranging from gusty winds to spike-filled pits, all of which can spell dire consequences to your Goo if you're not careful. Luckily you'll be given access to a variety of different types of Goo to help you out, each with their own unique characteristics. You'll find that some Goo Balls are very flexible and will stretch while other types of Goo are firm. There's also Goo that can be attached and then disconnected whereas other Goo will be permanently locked into place once attached. There are even Matchstick Goo Balls that are highly combustible, which can be used to start a chain reaction of fire. It's up to you to figure out how to use each type of Goo and how to connect them in order to traverse the many challenges in each level. If you find yourself stuck, you can always read the Sign Painter's messages located in various places around each level that will give you a vague hint at what you're objective is in each level. It's not much to go on, but you'll definitely appreciate the help on some of the more intricate levels.

The control method in World of Goo is extremely intuitive given that you basically only use the Wii Remote to move your Goo pointer around the screen and one action button to latch onto a Goo Ball and drag it to where you want to attach it. It's this simple play control coupled with the challenging level designs that make playing the game so challenging and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Nothing sends a wave of panic through your body quite like the sight of your teetering tower of Goo collapsing down around you. Of course the sound of all your Goo Balloons popping won't exactly instil any confidence in your plan either. It's this careful blend of patient Goo construction along with the constantly changing conditions around you that make each level so enthralling. The game just has this uniquely addictive quality where the more you fail the more you'll find yourself going back to try to find a way to complete each level. It can be quite maddening at times, especially when you finally realize that the solution was actually right in front of you the whole time.

World of Goo sports 48 levels to play through, so you'll really have your work cut out for you in order to finish the game. Depending on your skill level, you can expect to spend in excess of 7 hours on the game (even more if you feel the need to go back and try to build up your extra Goo Balls or try to achieve faster completion times on the various levels). You can even select the OCD option (Obsessive Completion Distinction) which ups the amount of Goo Balls you need to rescue to complete the level if you're looking for more of a challenge. About the only downside to the entire package is that it's a bit like an RPG in that once you figure out the puzzles in each level, it's not much fun to go back and play it again, at least not until you're brain has had time to forget most of the solutions to each level. As much fun as the game is, it's a no-brainer that you'll want to come back to the game at some point, just not right away.

While the single player mode is the heart and soul of the game, the developers have included a couple of additional modes to make things a bit more interesting. Multi-player is a nice change of pace in which up to four players can play each level in a co-operative fashion. This can make it a bit easier to tackle some of the tougher levels, since it will make it easier to distribute large numbers of Goo Balls around the structure at once. It can also make it more difficult if you can't find a way to work in synch with one another.

The World of Goo Corporation mode allows you to build your own unique Goo structures with extra Goo balls that you've collected in each level, and have them displayed using the WiiConnect24 setting of your Wii console. Each cloud in the World of Goo Corporation represents a player around the world and how high they've currently built their Goo tower. It serves as basically an online leaderboard of sorts too see who can build their tower the highest.

The visuals in World of Goo often look like they just stepped out of a Dr. Seuss book. The backdrops have a very abstract look to them. Couple this with the amazing use of vibrant and often-contrasting colours and the end result is one of the most unique visual experiences you're likely to see in a video game. There's not only a lot of variety between the different areas of the game, but each individual level generally has its own unique look and feel as well. You'll almost never see the same graphical styling between the different levels and the surroundings seem to get better and better as you progress through the game. Even the Goo Balls themselves show a good amount of detail and variety, so it's never too tough to distinguish between the various types of Goo. It's clear from the moment you begin playing World of Goo that a lot of time and emphasis was placed on making the game not only look outstanding, but to offer up something unique and original as well.

As amazing as the visuals in World of Goo are, it would be a shame not to mention the outstanding musical score and realistic sound effects that go along with it. The music sounds more like it belongs in a Tim Burton movie than a video game, but it somehow fits the overall theme of the game perfectly. And if you're fortunate enough to own a good Dolby Surround Sound system, you're in for a wall-shaking treat with World of Goo. Some of the musical tracks have a softer, more melodic tone to them, whereas other tracks are more up tempo and moody for levels that tend to feature a more frantic atmosphere. The songs are repeated at times, but they're so good you certainly won't mind. To complement this creative musical score are some of the most quirky, yet realistic sound effects you'll ever hear; never before has the sound of Goo splattering into infinity sounded quite so nice. Even the sounds of your Goo balloons popping are very authentic. As easy as it would have been to simply tack on some half-baked sound effects to go along with the impressive visuals, it's nice to see a developer go the extra mile and put some thought into making the game sound as good as it looks.

Conclusion

It's quite amazing that a development team consisting of basically three people has somehow managed to create such a unique and utterly charming gaming experience like the one found in World of Goo. What's also quite amazing is that you can purchase this outstanding title for a mere 1500 Wii Points. Other WiiWare developers out there need to take notice that World of Goo has raised the bar for what a WiiWare title should be, and it's raised it fairly high. Not only is it easily the best WiiWare release to date, it's also proof that you don't need a large development team or millions of dollars to create an outstanding video game. In an era of where style is often emphasized over substance, it's refreshing to see a title like World of Goo that somehow manages to feature an abundance of both.

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