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World Of Goo
Formats available: Nintendo Wii, PC. Wii version reviewed
I have numerous regrets about 2008, but one of the few I can actually do something about is that I never looked at World of Goo. I actually downloaded 2D Boy's physics-based puzzle game when it was released for the PC on Steam, but with so many triple-A games arriving at around the same time - Dead Space, Fable 2, Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War and Resistance 2, to name but a few - I somehow never found the time to play it. Luckily, the European release of the Wii version through Nintendo's Wii Ware download channel has given me the perfect chance to catch up. And if you missed out on World of Goo first time around, I'd do the same, because whether you play it on Wii or PC, it's a wonderful game.
Up to a point, World of Goo is nothing that new or original. The basic gameplay - get a crowd of small critters from one point of a level to another, overcoming whatever obstacles and hazards lie in the way - has been around since Lemmings, and you can also see echoes of games like LocoRoco or The Incredible Machine in there.
What's different here is the Goo itself. Or rather, themselves. These sentient blobs of gelatinous matter are both your little charges and your means of getting those charges to the exit. Your basic black Goo can be clicked and dragged into structures, forming towers, meshes, bridges or struts which you can use to navigate chasms, avoid dangerous mechanisms or simply move their brother Goo skywards. The only problem? Every Goo you incorporate into your structure is stuck within it, meaning that's one less Goo to make your target when you finally get them to the pipe that functions as an exit.
Your task early on, then, is to construct whatever you need to get your Goo to the pipe without using so many that you risk failure. In theory that sounds easy, but it isn't. The Goo isn't just sentient; it, like every other object in the game, is modelled using a realistic physics engine. Start building towers of Goo and they sway and wobble adding to the challenge.
As your unused Goo blobs surge upwards, their movements cause the tower to swing more violently. If you haven't got your supports figured out, it might even sag, topple or collapse altogether. This means that, all the time you're playing World of Goo, you're not just building - you're desperately trying to compensate for your own errors of balance or construction, not to mention the wriggling of the Goo. I haven't played a puzzle game so fraught since I first clapped eyes on Lemmings.