In the course of my time playing World of Goo, quite a lot of things happened. Information about the game’s world is revealed through in-game signs and cute animations between levels. In spite of these hints, I really had no clue what was going on. At various points I thought I was fighting to reopen an industrial goo-production factory. As I made progress I came to understand that that goo was the source of beauty in the world and therefore used for cosmetic products. Shortly thereafter, I got the impression that goo was the sentient fuel source for all mankind and in the process of revolting. Then things went all The Matrix on me, and I was in a goo-version of the internet, fighting to unleash all the spam email in history in one major blow. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Just when I was most perplexed, everything exploded.
Suffice to say I have no idea what the plot is in World of Goo. All I know is that it’s about utilizing different types of goo to help them get from point A to point B. There are 48 different puzzles in the game. Each one starts with a square frame that holds blobs of goo, and it’s your job to get those blobs of goo to the level’s exit: a suction pipe that leads… somewhere. The blobs of goo swimming on the starting frame can be used to build structures off of that starting framework. Drag a blob of goo near the framework, and it it will be anchored in place by two or more gooey tendrils. Repeat this simple action to build towers, bridges, wheels, and other unconventional shapes as the level demands. Safely transport the required amount of goo around the hazards and to the exit pipe, and you win the level.
There are a number of different types of sentient goo that you’ll need to figure out how to use. Black, “unrefined” goo is the simplest. Click and drag a blob to position it near the home structure. Releasing he mouse button places the goo in that location, supported by one to three tendrils. Positioning goo allows the construction of basic structures. Place a blob of black good, and it’s stuck there. Green blobs can be placed and re-positioned. Clear goo can be linked end-to-end, making a flexible goo chain. Red goo is flammable. There are more types of goo giving the ability to fly, grab onto other surfaces, or imitate skulls. Later on, the game gives you goo blocks. While I question whether or not these actually count as a type of goo, it’s difficult to argue with a block that has an eyeball in the middle of it. Call me weird, but I think the blocks are kind of cute.
Each level in World of Goo is introduced passively, by way of a wooden sign. Any hints for completing the level are told you by the sign, present in the level’s name, or suggested to you by the position of the beginning elements. Things start out simply enough, such as building a bridge to cover a small gap, or erecting a tower to reach a pipe in the sky. Things quickly become more convoluted as different types of goo are added into the mix. One of the later levels, titled “The Worm”, tasked me with creating a tall tower which I then had to topple end over end to reach my destination. The difficulty curve is finely tuned. Scenarios gradually become more complex, forcing you to try new approaches to the solution. Generally speaking, I felt moderately intelligent for being able to solve each level on my own. There was only level I had to look online to find the solution for.
For me, most of the game’s challenge comes from managing the monstrous goo structures I constructed. Goo itself isn’t rigid, and neither is a structure built from goo blobs. Everything built will shiver and wiggle like it can barely contain the energy contained within. Imagine a game of Jenga where the blocks of wood are actually made of Jell-O! It’s this variable turns simple puzzles into a chaotic affair. Building a simple tower often ends up becoming a race to stabilize the base before it topples over into disaster. There’s a fun tension to wondering if the structure you just built will stay put or keel over in spectacular fashion. I enjoyed my time in the World of Goo. The tone, quality of puzzles, and sheer exuberance with which the game presents itself reminds me of Portal; and that’s high praise indeed. I’m not certain how frequently I’ll come back to play it again, but I’ll certainly remember it quite vividly. And that’s saying something.