To begin with I'll provide the simplest of facts:
WORLD OF GOO IS A PHENOMENAL GAME
Now, I don't openly encourage the writing of words that begin with 'Ph', which is partly why I failed my Physics exams so badly at school. But there we are, that is what this game is.
I pre-ordered my copy off the 2dboy site some time last week and yesterday there was a delightfully-titled bit of mail just sitting there in my Hotmail inbox. It read: 'World of Goo for you'. I praised the gaming gods and downloaded it instantly. One week prior to official release, a copy was in my hands (albeit virtual hands).
It's also worth noting that they provided me with a link with no stringent security protocol between me and the game at all. Just a link. 'We are trying an experiment,' they explained. 'World of Goo has absolutely no copy protection or DRM at all, since we want to give you (and everyone) the best experience we can. Thanks for not distributing this, and helping us make this possible!'
Game of the year or not, they're already in my good books and trust me when I say I will guard that file with my life.
To play World of Goo you don't need to be part of the gaming elite. To appreciate it fully you don't even need to consider that tiresome argument as to whether games can or can't be art. To fall in love with Goo (for fear of writing the questionable abbreviation) you need only a pair of eyes (though one will do), a single mouse-clicking digit and something resembling a soul.
And so I come to a barrier placed firmly between my experience and your curiousity. It's something that makes this review particularly hard to write. To give you evidence to support my love of this game would be to spaff on your birthday cake. It would be like ruining that movie, Sixth Sense, not by giving away the awful twist, but my shouting 'F**k you, M Night Shyamalan, you hack' very loudly, over and over again whilst you watch it. To describe the puzzles to you and explain why Chapter 4 is so unbelievably fantastic would destroy your first-time experience of the game and that would be unforgivable.
Let me go onto the basics instead...
Goo is essentially a 2D puzzle game. To progress through each level you must lead a specified number of over-excited, character-full 'Goo Balls' from the starting position to a pipe that will suck them all up. The way to do this is by forming rigid bonds between the little globules to build structures across which they can crawl to the end destination. This is how things begin.
The true beauty of Goo is that, every so often, you'll be offered a new type of Goo Ball with different properties. Some dangle, others float and many do things that I really can't tell you about for previously mentioned reasons. The variety of play brings an insane amount of depth to the game and you'll be begging for more from the off.
Each chapter is laid out like a Super Mario World map and brings a truly retro feel to the game. It was like I was re-discovering my childhood whilst playing through, remembering the excitement that simply arranged coloured pixels used to bring me. Every time a new feature was implemented I couldn't help but smile or shake my head at the genius of the level design. There's an undeniably Worms-esque feel to the play at times and Lemmings surely can't go unmentioned as an influence. And the graphics follow suit: colourful, cartoony and absolutely enchanting. The goo balls bounce around insanely, chattering amongst themselves, whilst the promise of an all-swearing add-on to the audio on release is something I can't wait for.
I've read elsewhere about comparisons to Tim Burton's work and they definitely aren't unfounded. The intro music is typically dark and circus-like. The world you explore is dismal at times, centering around the huge and filthy World of Goo Corporation that are committed to spewing out vile pollutants across the lands. The comedy is implemented in bucket-loads, parodying the power of cynical marketing and the corrupt exploits of major corporations... and at this point I struggle to find a way to put into words how a puzzle game can explore so many themes. It's just incredible.
Whichever way you choose to go about a puzzle you'll feel as if you've re-invented the wheel each time you find the solution. Many times whilst playing you'll wonder 'is this what I'm supposed to be doing?' and then you'll realise that it simply doesn't matter. Like many of the best games you need to drop your pretences about how they should be played. Discard the linear thought processes and just enjoy the creativity of your own play-style.
So here is where I end this nonsense because I can't actually write coherently on the subject of World of Goo and it's almost pointless to recommend it because it costs about a tenner so you have absolutely no reason not to try it out. It's far from being a short game and certainly offers enough challenge and joy for me to re-visit regularly. Yes, it has some problems, but mentioning them would be akin to pointing out a misplaced brushstroke on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel... and there I go, bringing art into it. Tsk, tsk.