This weeks Netbook Game of the Week is World of Goo, the 2008 Independent Game of the Year, from indie developer 2D Boy. WoG is an intellectually challenging physics simulator. Sound fun? Then how about this? You stick gooey balls together to build stuff and solve puzzle. Better?
Each level presents an intriguing new area and a logistical challenge to solve. You become a structural engineer as you invent and build precarious bridges and teetering tower, which the Goo Balls swarm over in their climb to safety. Remember the tower of ants in Indiana Jones 4? Kind of like that, but much cuter. Managing you resources of the number and placement of balls, balancing the and weight and sway momentum of the structure, and taking the wind and other environmental factors into account is all part of the highly enjoyable game play.
Parallels to the Amiga game Lemmings are many, and that is a high compliment. In this 1991 classic mono-skilled Lemmings (builder, blocker, exploder) would direct the single-file marching line to their goal by altering terrain with bombs, digging tunnels and parachuting of precipices with umbrellas. The World of Goo is inhabited by different species of Goo Balls that stick together and tear apart in different ways. Goo Balls are just as charming as any green-haired Lemming, and they have a language all their own. Goos must be Apple Computer fans since they often triumphantly shout “Ihnatco” upon completing a difficult task or reaching the summit of one of their Jellloish edifices.
Netbook owners can fully enjoy World of Goo since it plays smoothly on Samsung’s Atom processor. It looks and sounds just as great as it does on more powerful PCs. While the track pad works fine for early levels, you will want to switch to a mouse for the later challenges. Be sure to set your trackpad to Tap and Drag and disable those silly scrolling zones. For more info on tweaking your track pad, try Jez’s tips and tricks at SammyNetbook.com.
This game is smart, with beautiful 2D graphics, and a wonderfully cinematic score. The full soundtrack is available here as a free download. A quirky story winds through the game drawing leading you from one level to the next. Don’t let the Indie moniker fool you. This is a triple-A quality title. One would never guess that is was conceived, written, programmed, illustrated and scored by just two guys. World of Goo is a triumphant achievement in compelling game play, graphic design and music. It is well worthy of the industry praise heaped upon it.
As an independent production it will have no national ad campaign or movie tie-ins, so spread the word to your game-playing friends that this is not one to be missed. The DRM-free game is available for $20 at the 2D Boy website as well as on Steam. There is also a full first level demo available for PC, Mac and Linux.
UPDATE, March 25, 2009: World of Goo is now part of the MacHeist bundle. MacHeist is a $39 collection of Macintosh software that includes amazing apps like Kinemac,Wiretap Studio and iSale. It is a limited time offer so bargain shoppers should hurry over to the site and check it out.
UPDATE, March 26, 2009: World of Goo took top honors yesterday for Downloaded Game of the Year at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Congrats again 2DBoy.