Name: World of Goo
Platform: WiiWare, PC (Reviewed for WiiWare)
If I were to ever make a cake out of people, I think two of the leading candidates for said cake would be Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton. Of course I wouldn't be making said cake out of their human bodies (I'm sure Seuss is past his sell-by date - respect), but their essence. I'm not a cannibal. The combination of these two would likely be highly flavorful and imaginative and probably would make you see in bold colors and squiggly lines for a few hours.
World of Goo is the next best thing to a Burton/Suess essence cake. Throw in a bit of Danny Elfman-esque musical arrangements, beautifully rendered water-color backgrounds, and liquid-motion timers and – bam - you're instantly transported back to second grade playtime. It's a joyous and nostalgic experience, while still feeling completely new and surprising. Also, it's a WiiWare game.
Gameplay consists of part puzzler, part physics experiment. You manipulate balls of goo by pointing at them with your Wiimote, clicking on them, and positioning them amongst other goo-balls to create goo-structures. Since you are working with a sticky, shifting substance, your creations are wobbly and flexible. Goo is subject to a realistic set of physics as well, and thus poorly built towers are liable to collapse. Time plays a critical role in some puzzles, and quickly building a structure without much forethought can be a taxing experience. Your heart will race as your tower wobbles back and forth, nearly toppling when you are only inches away from your goal.
There are various types of goo balls, from your standard sticky black ones, to clear, water-like balls that droop and hang and red balloon-goos which are capable of lifting your structures into the sky. These, as well as an assortment of other goos, are presented to you as you move through the game's story. Each level has you mastering a new aspect of the game, only to have a new type of goo or a new application for an already mastered goo added into the equation. It is a finely designed learning curve, and the balance between challenging puzzles and freedom to build creatively is executed with aplomb.
World of Goo's presentation matches perfectly with the stellar game play. As mentioned before, with Seuss-like designs, cute, gothic characters and colors that come straight from an animated Burton film, you can't help but fall in love with Goo’s visual style. Unless you hate both of those things, in which case you will not be pleased. Too bad.
The music is elegant, dramatic, and at times quirky. It fluctuates from upbeat, jazzy jaunts, to rising, classical crescendos. The Goo balls sound almost identical to characters in Worms. This gives a nuanced personality to the tiny balls of oily gunk.
The story is thinly spread, but it has hints of a Lorax-ish (you didn't read the Lorax?) morality tale on consumerism and environmental awareness (so hot right now). It is appropriate without being preachy, as the story is mostly told through signs placed in each level that have a Onceler (seriously, read the Lorax) tone to them. He makes mocking, fourth-wall breaking commentary that will raise a giggle from even the most serious of gamer.
This game is nearly perfect. If there are complaints to be found (and it takes some searching – believe you me!) one could say that the controls can be tricky when you have a giant ball of goos and you are searching for a specific type. Pointing your cursor into the pile can feel like a round of Russian Roulette. You are at the whim of whichever goo is randomly plucked. This can be the difference between solving a time-sensative puzzle or restarting. This instances are rare, however, and controls are essentially on-point.
This game is one of the finest titles available on WiiWare. It is easily worth fifteen bucks. If you own a Wii and complain about it gathering dust, then please – do yourself a favor. Stop complaining, pony up the cash and enjoy yourself. You'll get at least a few evenings out of this one. And you won't have to eat a human-being cake.