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World of Goo

World of Goo

Platform: PC, WiiWare
Developer: 2D Boy
UK Price (as reviewed): £11 (Direct download)
US Price (as reviewed): $20 (Direct download)

I know what you're thinking.

Artsy, kind of casual sounding and positively reeking of a small development studio – it's another one of those damn indie games that Joe's about to rant on about!

I can see your point, I suppose. With a name like World of Goo this game doesn't exactly sound like a triple-A FPS, RTS, RPG or any other acronym. Nor, with it's predictably eclectic art style and soundtrack which sounds like it was a lovechild of Walt Disney and a devastatingly cute LOLcat, would you expect to find out that World of Goo was a sixty-hour epic.

And the small studio? Well, it was made 2D Boy – a team which sounds so small that it doesn't even reach into the third dimension let alone refer to itself with a plural.

It's at this point in the meandering introduction that I'd usually spring the 'BUT!' on you and explain that World of Goo isn't what you might think it is on first impressions. I can't do that this time though because the game really is what it sounds like; an arty indie game with an easy game mechanic that'll appeal to casual and hardcore gamers alike.

World of Goo

It's also a pretty damn good (and addictive) game, which comes across as a cross between Ravenholme, Braid and Lemmings. That isn't a combination you find very often in a game that actually started out as physics-based freeware in the Experimental Games Project

The Goo has come a long way since then though and while Tower of Goo was simply an aimless building challenge, the full-blown World of Goo is something altogether different – it's got a story and everything! Again, it may not be the epic hardcore fantasy romp that PC gamers are so fond of, but there comes a time when everyone need a chance to calm down and enjoy something a little slower paced.

The story then, which is told through signs dotted around each level by an elusive sign painter with a penchant for breaking the fourth wall, is quite simple. There's this goo, see? And it wants to explore the world and see what it can find – which is where you come in. You'll play the role of whatever architect, deity or hive conciousness is guiding the Goo on its pursuit of knowledge and you'll help it traverse the terrain – hence the Lemmings reference earlier.

The problem of course is, as the sign painter points out, that the cartoon landscape is ridiculously contrived and there's all sorts of munchers, crunchers and punchers between you and the distant horizon you seek. Hell, there are even giant frog things that you'll get eaten by and have to...escape from in one of the most fascinating levels.

World of Goo

Like Lemmings, the game is divided into chapters and each chapter ups the difficulty a bit as well as providing a change of pace and a new set of mechanics. With each new chapter, of which there are five, you'll be introduced to a new type of Goo to interact with and given a new objective to reach. Chapter Two, for example, is all about finding out what force is powering the World of Goo and brings the new people-goo to the table.

Learning how to use and abuse the different types of Goo is essential to success as each one can behave more differently than my multiple personalities. Your basic task in any single level is to guide your Goo-balls to the pipe which will carry them to level, but getting there is never as simple as it sounds and will require a deep knowledge of each Goo type. The standard Black Goo is a great all rounder and can be built upward by forming pyramid shapes, but can't be disconnected once it's positioned – unlike the Green Goo.

As the game goes on, you get more and more types of Goo then and the delivery of each new type is excellently paced too. Just when you're starting to get used to your existing toolset and consider yourself more of a Goo-master than a teenage boy with Internet access in his room, the game goes and delivers a new type – yet you're never overwhelmed either and so the game continues with a perfect learning curve.