There are not many times that good video gaming ideas are allowed to stand on their own merits. There seems to be the need to embellish and enrich our gaming experiences until that initial imaginative spark is overpowered.
World of Goo on WiiWare is an exercise in how to let the star run the show. What was originally a technical demonstration of a physics based building mechanic has been lovingly pruned and shaped into a compelling video game. And all this has been done without overshadowing what made it fun in the first place.
If you’ve not come across it’s concept elsewhere, World of Goo puts the player in charge of a living Meccano kit. Each element not only has its specific abilities to create Meccano type structures, but they also have a personality all their own. What’s more, they move around – build a tower and they will trundle their way to the top.
The aim of the game is to get a certain number of your goo blocks to the level’s exit – a drainpipe usually situated in some awkward location. You get them there by constructing specific structures. Build a swaying bridge to cross a chasm, float a rope over a precipice or put up a tower to reach the top of the screen.
Each level comprises a particular scenario, a related set of building goo blocks and the environment itself. Its here, and in the overall pacing and structure of the levels, that developers prove their steady hand. Play proceeds fast enough to entice players into each new challenge without being frivolous with the novelties being introduced. It’s a quality for which Nintendo themselves are famed for – taking a simple idea and placing it in a world that gives you a reason to enjoy it.
This is all well and good, the general points I’m making here could apply to any number of high end productions. But then once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you start to realize that World of Goo comes from a very different place to a lot of other puzzle games. Not only does it retain the joy in its play mechanic, but it also perpetuates the homemade cottage industry appeal of the original.
This is seen more than anywhere else in the writing. Now, I often talk about writing in video games, but World of Goo made me realize just how lifeless and stade much of what passes for narration is in other games. Here, through a signpost on each level you encounter a character as intriguing and as fleshed out as GlaDos becomes. The ‘Sign Painter’ slowly creates an imaginary world from the perspective of one of our derivative building goo blocks. To anyone who writes for a living, and in fact to all of us that read, it’s testament to the evocative power of characterful prose.
Play is focused on a single player story, although up to three friends can jump in and play simultaneously – something where young or novice players can benefit from a helping hand from those older and wiser. A proper competitive or co-operative multiplayer is perhaps the biggest omission, and would indeed be a mouth watering prospect.
Even so, the game delivers a comprehensive package, it really wouldn’t be out of place boxed and on a store shelf. As it stands though, a WiiWare title, it offers not only great value for money but is instantly accessible to anyone with a Wii and an Internet connection (and the requisite Wii Points).
As I said at the top, World of Goo is a game that works because it respects its own genius. Care, craft and attention to what matters makes this my favorite WiiWare title by some way.
WIRED Meccano for the soul.
TIRED No competitve goo-ing.
Price/maker: 1500 Points (WiiWare)/2D Boy