Know that I am not a "puzzles man". Narrative-driven problems in an adventure game, I can do, but a wholly-dedicated puzzle game? Not for me. The endless repetition, the cold, sterile environments and the focus on head-scratching over finger-twitching seems more like punishment than enjoyment.
And yet, here I am, having just finished World of Goo, 2D Boy's physics based goo building game, and I'm writing a review about it. Was it because I did something wrong, and was, yes, being punished? Or did I, somehow, find a puzzle game enjoyable?
A Gentle Curve - You'll never "hit the wall" in World of Goo. The puzzles ramp up in difficulty quite gently, and even if you do hit a point where you can't get your head around a problem, you can just skip that level and come back to it later. Which is a neat feature.
Metagame - The entire game is based around clearing stages by getting a certain number of "goos" from one end of the map to the other. Pretty simple. But any surplus goo you acquire gets stored at the World of Goo Corporation, a sideshow/sandbox stage. In it, you can build a tower, and as you build, the game pings the servers so you can see how high your tower is in relation to everyone else's. This quickly flips the script, as what was at first a diversion quickly becomes the driving force behind your progression throughout the game.
Presentation - Two guys made World of Goo. You'd never have guessed. Quirky, smart writing, clean graphics and a soundtrack that's equal parts jolly and haunting - depending on the tone of the level - make it one of the most polished indie games we've ever seen.
Wha?- Of course, being made by two guys means other areas of the game are a little rough. Some things - like explaining the full range of what certain goos, and certain objects and obstacles, can and can't do - is left a little too ambiguous, resulting in needless trial-and-error.
World of Goo is one hell of a puzzle game because, as someone normally lacking in the patience for such things, I enjoyed every second I spent with it. And that doesn't happen very often. It's forgiving, it's addictive, it's gorgeous, it's smart. Well worth a look, particularly if your Wii is getting a little dusty.
World of Goo was developed by 2D Boy, released on Oct. 13 for Nintendo Wii (WiiWare) and PC. Retails for $US19.99 on PC, 1500 Wii Points on WiiWare. Played single player mode to completion and built a really, really big tower on PC.
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