[2008; 2D Boy]
Indie games, a growing trend in the 00s, has always seemed like less than mainstream games and looked to have no hope of ever achieving the welcome alternative that indie films and indie music offer. Most indie games have found their audiences in cheap gamers and those who don't have the time to dedicate themselves to a Half-Life or Mass Effect. Not until the cellphone game industry came about has indie games become financially viable, but the hardcore still remain unmoved. This is slowly becoming less and less true in the past year. Braid has offered an original experience with masterful presentation, Geometry Wars 2 offered a versatility more robust than most big budget titles, and now World of Goo offers a unique take on the puzzle genre that makes it one of the best titles of the year. Indie or otherwise.
As many experienced with Braid and Portal, there is something exciting about being stuck in a puzzle without all the cliches of the genre. There are no falling blocks, kitschy music, or plotless gameplay here. World of Goo clearly envies the simplicity of these recent puzzle titles and aims to stand among them, which it does. The game is basically a physics puzzle where you are building bridges with the aim to get to a pipe at the end of the level. You will come across various forms of goo that have different effects, some act as a balloon, some blow up, and others help in more specific situations. The game is very easy to understand and biggest difficulty you will be facing are your demons from 5th period Physics class.
World of Goo has some of the best physics ever seen in a game. Where Half-Life and Portal teased us with half-assed physics puzzles, Goo demands you to learn what works and what will not work. The last portion of the game is a true trial of how well you understand the game mechanics, and there isn't a FAQ that will hold your hand through some of the tough calls you'll have to make. Like all puzzle titles, the game offers such a satisfying release when you finish a level. To add to this satisfaction is excellent presentation that offers a very relaxing PC game amidst the noise of Gears of War 2 and Fallout 3. The game tries to tell a story somewhere between Portal and Katamari Damacy, filling the world with signs that read just like a quote from The King of All Cosmos. Unfortunately, this humor comes across as a bit trying and more in tune with some troll's humor from a IGN message board then the clever lines you heard in those other titles.
Where the humor fails, the game's world is utterly spectacular. The game carries a strange Tim Burton in Candyland feel that is charming and haunted, once again recalling Braid. Without ruining anything, the 3rd gameworld completely changes the gameplay and setting. The game suddenly explores new avenues and themes to great success, offering the sort inventiveness that most big franchises hold on to for a sequel. World of Goo might not impress your friends as much as Fallout 3, but I wouldn't doubt that it will pull you in as much or more than the bigger titles of Fall 08'. Its a game that will find you empathizing with indie games for once, rather then questioning the desperation in their existence. This isn't a cheap flash zombie shooter, but a game that no bigger developer has even hinted at. They'll probably regret it too, if they ever get pulled into the hopelessly addictive World of Goo.