Aditya ‘Anorion’ Madanapalle
World of Goo is a small (62 MB) 2D Indie game released by two ex-EA employees under the banner of 2D Boy. The game involves manipulation of small balls of with varying properties into complex structures according to the needs of the level. What seems to be an undemanding and even silly physics-based game to start with, quickly snowballs into a complex cultural commentary on how modern humans use the environment, machines and computers.
World of Goo is a simple enough game to figure out, the first few levels introduce the goo balls and how they interact with each other. As the game progresses, there is an immense learning curve that does not level out till the very last stage of the game. This is because each level forces you to re-think about the entire game, demands a unique approach, and forces you to think out of the box. You have to stick goo balls together, burn them up, use helium filled goo-balls to lighten a structure, shred them, make them cling to moving surfaces, throw them in just the right angle, balance them on a beam, make them float and remove blocks jenga style to get the goo balls to the pipe in every level. There are many controls for the goo balls that are introduced as the game progresses, including linking them, launching them, drawing them to one side by whistling, and time-bugs that turn back the clock. The environment too is designed with extreme care and passion, the spikes, the gears and the gigantic pieces of machinery that you encounter look appealing despite being hurdles. The world of goo corporation gets destroyed in the course of the game, and at the game’s end, you are left with the tower of goo recreational park and entertainment centre. From here, the game pits you against everyone else playing the game on the Internet, to build the largest possible tower of goo after collecting the goo balls across the game. The heights other players have achieved are represented by clouds. Other rewards of connecting to the Internet with the game are player statistics, where the time taken and the number of balls collected in each level can be compared. The game play is addictive — in the sense that you will not have the heart to stop playing the game because of the curiosity that is created by the story. The designers leave messages, hints, misdirections and advice for the player — like the sign painter, an invisible character that leaves signboards for everyone to read.
And what a story they have to tell — from the dark nuances of the corporate world to an elegant and outrageous idea for power generation, the story is an insane and delightful interpretation of the modern world. The game is divided into six chapters. Each chapter has a mysterious artefact or quest — like the product Z or the elusive power source that you must find out about, the aura and the build up around these level endings are so great that you can’t help but keep at the game. When the grand revelation comes, it is an epiphany of sorts, and consistently so, at the end of each chapter. In every chapter, you collect goo balls through a pipe at the end of each level. Every aspect of the game has a story to tell, and it’s these small touches that makes the game so alluring. There is an astounding amount of observations, style and ideas constructed above and built around the basic premise. There is nothing linear about the story or the game play, as players have to work around totally new obstacles, and work with objects that are at times unique to just a single level.
Most of the story is narrated by the captivating sign painter, on small signboards scattered throughout the levels. The sign painter may say nothing helpful, talk about obscure philosophical ideas that seem to have nothing to do with the level, deliberately mislead you, or give you just the inspiration you need to solve the level. Throughout the story, there is a thread of very refined and very subtle humour. There are a few cut scenes and animations that are part of the narrative. Although a few of these are great, some are mediocre and don’t add much to the appeal of the game. On loading, the game claims, among other things to “distilling beauty”, “swapping time and space”, “bending the spoon”, and “deterministically simulating the future” — the game then delivers much more than this.
The graphics are excellent within the premise. It is a game, but it is also a work of art. The levels, the objects and the interface won’t tax your computer too much, but there is still plenty of eye-candy. While the screenshots might make the game look cute, the game is anything but. After a few levels, you really are immersed in the world of goo, and you start to take the goo balls much more seriously. There is a lot of detailing, care is given to the smallest aspects, and all the elements are fresh. The look and feel of the game changes drastically across chapters, sometimes across levels. The sound is made up of ambient loops which set the mood for every level, creating a sense of urgency in one level, and a sense of desolation in the next.
The game is available for PC, Mac and Linux. There is also a Wii version, and there is a healthy community around the game across forums and blogs, not to mention the official website. The developers seem to believe in and trust the gaming community, so the game is without region lock and DRM free. The game has very little replay value, unless you become fixated and want to earn OCDC flags — which are obsessive completion distinction criteria — that is a reward for completing the levels with ridiculously difficult goals. All the balls collected over the game end up in a multiplayer sandbox where players have to build the world’s largest tower of goo. By all means buy it, or at least try it — you will have nothing to complain about. This might claim to be a 2D game, but it is one of the most multi-dimensional games we have ever seen.
Developer: 2D Boy
Price: Rs 1,000