World of Goo is the best game currently available on any tablet or smartphone anywhere.
A bold statement, especially when you consider the many tens of thousands of games out at the moment, not just on Apple’s iOS platform, but also on Android, webOS and more.
It’s also something that I wouldn’t say without good reason, and I say it because, by any way in which you measure it, World of Goo is an outstanding, astonishing game. It would be great on any platform, but it fits the Android format to a tee, although I would suggest trying out the free demo first to ensure your handset can run the game properly.
The game, from independent developer, 2D Boy was originally a PC, WiiWare and eventual iPhone and iPad release has been one that Android owners have wanted to get their hands on for a long time.
The basic premise of the game is that you have to get a set amount of little balls of goo from the starting point of each level to the pipe at the end. You do this by using those goo balls to build structures that other goo balls can travel along until they are near enough to the pipe to be sucked up to the exit.
The structures you build are effected by gravity, the weight of the goo balls and other environmental things such as wind and objects.
Sound like a simple physics based ‘build to the exit’ puzzle game? Well it is; for about three levels. The first few levels require you to build a couple of towers and some bridges, all of which teaches you the fundamentals of the game. Building bridges is hard, as you have to create a solid foundation then have the bridge pointing at the correct angle and keeping the structure sound. It’s not easy, and no doubt the first time you make the gap will be a hurried rush to make the last few inches while your bridge starts to topple just short of the other side.
A few levels in, and things start to change. You begin one level inside an ever tumbling room half filled with water, with just some re-usable green goo balls to try to create a shape that will stick to the top of the level whilst the rest of it is dragged around in circles.
You start to realise just how clever this all is, not to mention how difficult it is, when, after a few failed attempts, you manage to get a foothold at the top of the room. At the top is a tiny corridor pointing upwards, just wide enough to get one goo ball in at a time. How can I keep going upwards when I’ve used all my blobs just getting here? Then it dawns on you to re use the balls you used to create your current shape. So, one by one you pluck balls from the bottom of your shape, still tumbling around where you started, and begin to use them to lengthen your thin structure at the top, thus traveling up the narrow corridor, which you realise is lined with spinning wheels.
Being careful not to take the wrong pieces from your shape so as not to send it all tumbling back to the bottom, your soon reach the top of the corridor, with all the goo balls in one long line from top to bottom of the level, the spinning wheels speeding you to the end. You have reached the top but are stuck under some concrete looking doors. Some red goo balls hanging around near them prove to be the answer. Attach them to the top of the doors and they turn into balloons, eventually opening the doors once you have attached enough.
So, doors open with just sky above you and no sign of the exit pipe, what to do? Simple. Attach some of the balloon goo balls to your line structure and, with the help of those spinning wheels, the entire thing begins to lift out of the ground, and the line start traveling up into the air. The line stretches out for what seems like miles, and looks amazing gliding up through the air currents, until you eventually reach the exit pipe, high in the air.
Sounds amazing, and it is, and the invention doesn’t stop there. I’m itching to tell you about some of the later levels, about how the game changes the very basics of hows it plays in the third chapter, but I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s safe to say that ideas are everywhere, with every single level showing innovation. Just when you think that the game has to start repeating ideas, that it must use some old mechanics from earlier in the game, World of Goo turns out another unexpected gameplay twist. There are levels here so cleverly crafted they feel like they were made by Miyamoto in his prime.
So, some of the best gameplay and level design that there has ever been, but it doesn’t stop there. This game has a story, told through the incredible design of the levels, but also though the use of the Sign Painter. Around the levels are little wooden signs that initially appear to just offer a few hints and advice, but soon reveal themselves to be the heart of the story telling. From little jokes and sarcasm, the Sign Painter starts to tell you exactly what is going on, which itself is something I wont reveal, but actually makes you start to care about the little goo balls, to the point that, on one level you may find yourself saying ‘Wow, I really don’t want to be doing this!’
There is also more than one level to the story telling, with a strong undercurrent about the little guy trying to make it in a world of giant corporations, which is only really there if you want to notice it, as it is intelligently done to feel interwoven with the plight of the hapless balls of goo.
The graphics are incredible, with a genuine style to them that I haven’t seen before and some of the sadder characters have the feel that they belong in a quality cartoon movie. The game must be doing an obscene amount of maths calculations under the hood, but you wouldn’t notice it, as everything is buttery smooth, and when you have to do the kind of balancing and juggling required on some of these levels, you will be thankful for it.
The music is brilliant, with original pieces that suit the game perfectly. From haunting music to some faster, more upbeat tunes there are many songs here that will stick in your head, none more so than the fantastic opening music.
There are many levels here to keep you amused, and usually a couple of different routes through the chapters so you can avoid some of the trickier levels if you have to, but the real star in terms of keeping you coming back is an online level where you compete with players from around the world to simply build the highest goo tower. You build using the goo balls won in the main levels, and rival players towers are represented by clouds showing their height. There is also full OpenFient integration with achievements to aim for.
This is, along with the iOS game is the best version so far released, as it has the sharpness to the graphics that the desktop version had, as well as a control system that is actually superior the the lauded Wii title. Whereas using the PC mouse or Wii pointer was intuitive enough, using multi touch here is just far better, and if you already own a previous version, you will find yourself playing far better than you did, with levels that gave you no end of difficulty before become far more manageable. If it goes wrong now, you can blame nobody but yourself.
There is still the small issue of selecting the wrong ball of goo in crowds of many colours, but when the process of selecting is so much easier, the issue is far reduced.
Overall, this is a premium title in every sense. One of the best games you will ever play, this is worth a million cheap and nasty apps that you end up purchasing from the Android Market. It’s beautiful, engaging and unforgettable, with more ideas and innovation than almost anything released in the last ten years, this is near perfection.
If only the goo balls realised just how delicious they were…