The 12 Games of Christmas: World of Goo

By RPS on December 25th, 2008 at 12:25 pm.

To quote from the great prophet: IT’S CHRIIIIIIISSSSSSSSTTTTTTMAAAAASSSS!!!! What we really need is a really, really good game. In fact, our game of the year.

For the 12th game of Christmas, my true blog gave to me…


A satirical charming goo-based puzzle gammmmmeeee!

John: We already knew World of Goo was wonderful. Almost a year ago we’d played the first chapter when we pre-ordered it. A collection of a dozen or so beautifully smart, extremely funny, and ludicrously interesting puzzles. Just another three or four chapters in the same vein would have guaranteed greatness. What I don’t think anyone was expecting was the best game of 2008 that we received.

I don’t think anyone was expecting a game that reinvented the rules as it went along. The introduction of new Goo types was perhaps a given. But the way these made it feel like a fresh new puzzle game each time certainly was not. By the time I reached those solid brick Goos in chapter 4 I was giggling like a frighteningly mad person. I didn’t bother with the puzzle. I just played with the blocks, regressing to my infant years and just stacking them, delighted by the clicky-clacky noise they made. I think people were possibly expecting the game to go in a straight line from Chapter 1′s green hills, possibly via an ice world, fire world and then level in the clouds, to eventually reach the Epilogue’s super-hard challenges. Kudos to the person who guessed the green wireframe levels – I think you might be lying.

I don’t think anyone was expecting a game with so much story, so subtly told. It doesn’t matter, it’s not really relevant by the time you’re puzzle solving, but it’s lovely that it’s there. Explained by 2D BOY as being analogous to the experience of games development, that’s possibly not of much use to anyone else who’s playing. But fortunately they chose to be obtuse enough to allow you to weave your own meaning out of the messages of corporate control and the fight for independence. Or to just ignore it entirely.

I don’t think anyone was expecting to feel so elated. Well, perhaps there were hints. That moment when you attach the eye-balloons to the rickety structure of green Goos and see them float away, at the end of Chapter 1, lets you know it’s coming. It’s such a lovely moment, filled with optimism and hope. Which is, of course, quite cruelly dashed by the following levels. But then if you’ve reached the telescope, you know you get your moment. But it was constantly so uplifting. The combination of cuteness, funny noises and really gorgeous cartoons made for a safe, happy place. Then the unending smartness of the puzzle design within that world made it a place that respected your intelligence, and pushed you to do better. Throw in the perfect music and the bizarre sentiment that what you were doing somehow mattered, and the result is a game that has you feeling better about yourself and the universe after you’ve played.

I don’t think anyone was expecting a low budget indie game to be their favourite game of 2008. In a year when a substantial number of games stood out, I know for sure it was mine.

Kieron: I dunno. I’m more shocked that I called my game of the year as early as the first weeks of January. Doing the first preview for Eurogamer, I was reduced to excitedly babbling on blog because no-one else was online. I couldn’t believe that I was playing something so genuinely outstanding this early in the year. I mean… surely it was too early for such feelings?

I was having lunch yesterday with Julian Widdows, Producer over at Swordfish. Conversation turned to a game of his I loved way back in the early days of the 2000s. Hostile Waters. In my review, I dropped the line, “The first great game of the millennium”, not caring that it’d annoy the Millennium-date-fascists, just pleased that I could say something as ludicrously over-hyping as that, and know that it’s not over-hype, to know that you meant every word and you’d face up against anyone who said otherwise.

The best games are good enough to make you unafraid to embarrass yourself. And from those early days in January, I knew I’d found something worth bearing such blows. And, really, what I was amazed at from that preview code wasn’t that it had come so early in the year – what I was amazed at was the sheer joy of it. That undeniable rush of joy of discovery when you suddenly realise you’re experiencing greatness. The realisation that things can be as good as they are.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve been a games writer for as long as I have – the next year will be my fifteenth. And sometimes, when I think back at what I felt at Deus Ex, at Hostile Waters and now at World of Goo, I can’t believe I could imagine doing anything else.

Jim: Last year’s favourite, Portal, and this year’s champion, World Of Goo, seem to have something in common. They might be nothing alike in execution or mechanical process, but they seem to share the same kind of attitude. They’re both essentially puzzle games, making use of our elastic sense of space, and they both reconfirm that the game-as-puzzle of videogames is alive and brighter than it’s ever been. Pure fireworks and car-crashes games are not. It was clear, inventive, and challenging in just the right kind of brain-flex way. There was no moment that you could use to doubt it, or to think that its creators hadn’t invested everything in making it as good to play as it possibly could have been.

The other thing that both World Of Goo and Portal share is an offbeat sense of humour, and a feeling of optimism. They seem to confirm that we want funny, and that we are happy for our funny to come from a strange place. Where Portal was a cute kind of black comedy, World Of Goo is a sort of elegiac cartoon. What is it an elegy to? Funny faces, puzzles, the seasons, lipstick, those green screens on old computers, helium balloons, pollution: a whole gamut of things that games otherwise fleet past. Rather than the dumb, sterile worlds that most games create for us, World Of Goo was rich and healthy. It’s the combination of these many elements that make the game so wonderful to play: the rising, life-affirming music, the wonderful depth the graphical style gives to a 2D plane, the little tricks of sound that trick you into believing the solidity and physicality of the goo structures you are messing with.

In short: it’s fucking wonderful, and we’ve already overstated all that other stuff that makes the game interesting. Let’s ignore them and remember just how satisfying it is to play. 2D Boy, you have done good. We salute you.

Alec: I like the bit where you glue a ball to another ball and make a big stretchy thing.

There was a strange week when both me and my housemate were playing Goo simultaneously, so its eerie-epic music was blaring excitedly from wherever you went in the house. Meantime, my then-young kitten was scampering bufoonishly all over all the place, chirruping like a Goo ball all the while. The place felt like some odd theme park, a wonderland of weird/cute noises. Even ruling out the cat, there are so few games that can create atmosphere beyond what’s happening on the screen. The sound and music adds so much to it, but crucially it works in perfect tandem with the wobbling, ever-changing visuals. There’s something so celebratory about Goo, even when it’s at its darkest, and it’s absolutely infectious. It’s a song of triumph for what games were, are and can be.

Admirably, though it pretty much perfects that Tim Burtonesque feel in the first stage, it doesn’t coast on it. Along with the general drift through new puzzle-types and the total visual shift of the later worlds, it throws hard surprises along the way. The level that stunned me the most was the Red Carpet one. Not because of the challenge, but the disorientating, exhilarating switch in mood.

Again, so much of it is in the sound. The clash of camera flash and cheer of an invisible audience, all overlaid with this pounding, off-kilter orchestral trance track: it’s dreamlike, absolutely pinpointing the mood of some new starlet greeted with the insanity of celebrity for the first time. Pointedly, the puzzle itself hinges on crushing transluscent Goos in the main Beauty Goo’s wake – are they innocent fans steamrollered by their idol’s success, or a legion of lackeys treated like nothing by their diva charge? It’s not, I suspect, trying to make some sneering jab at the nature of celebrity – instead it’s trying to set a scene, a one-off themed vignette that’s got nothing whatsoever to do with whatever it is the main plot chatters about. It punts you off to an entirely different headspace for ten minutes.

There is no reason for it to be there – it’s got nothing at all to do with anything. 2D Boy did it anyway, and it’s treating throwaway concepts so lavishly that makes Goo the most purely celebratory game of the year.

, .

149 Comments »

  1. Thomas Lawrence says:

    Hurrah for Goo!

    Truly, the only choice. Buy it if you haven’t already.

    And yes, Red Carpet is the best level. Except for Blustery Day, that’s the best one too. And Regurgitation Pumping Station, that’s the best as well. Ooh, and You Have To Explode The Head, and Super Fuse Challenge Time, they’re the best too.

  2. Chris Evans says:

    Great choice, certainly WoG is my game of the year :D

    Gotta rush before grabbing lunch, but a great two part interview with Ron and Kyle from 2D Boy can be found here.

  3. nabeel says:

    Lovely, lovely game.

  4. Duke Nasty VI says:

    I bought this game last weekend, and it’s a fantastic game. Perfect for my EEE as well. It actually works quite well with the touchpad.

  5. Larington says:

    Yeah, easily my game of the year, I couldn’t find fault in it.

  6. Gurrah says:

    What a good choice. This game coins the term ‘game’ perfectly. It was so much fun and sadly ended too quickly… that’s what I get for making gaming my nr. 1 pastime activity.

  7. Pags says:

    Only edged out as GOTY by L4D for me. Just magnificent.

  8. spinks says:

    I love this game so much. Awesome pick guys, and happy Xmas!

  9. Bidermaier says:

    I love great original music in my games. The first episode of WOG is epic in that sense. The tumbler level music was so great i had to stop the game. A bit like in the “The hairdresser husband” ending.

  10. Naurgul says:

    World of Goo was a really good game. It truly exceeded my expectations by a large margin. My only concern is that it will take me too much time to achieve the OCD criteria for all the levels. Yay for goo! :D

  11. roBurky says:

    The red carpet level is my favourite as well. The sound makes it.

  12. DigitalSignalX says:

    If there was one game this year that was elegantly executed and has no faults… WOG would be it. Perfect in every way, but GOTY?

    My heart still says Fallout3, which arguably has a whole crapload of faults, but remains in my heart the “OMG Wow this is why I like playing PC games” game of the year. I probably won’t be going back to play WOG, whereas FO3 will get many, many re-runs as the mod community warms up.

  13. Meat Circus says:

    I love you guys. Proof if proof be need be. Let’s have babies.

    Actually, aside from the fact that you made World of Goo, one of the most undeniably lovely games of ever, and one of my three personal GoTYes your GoTY, there is additional bonus love incoming for the fact that it’s not FALLOUT 3.

    LOVE GET.

    Yay for being pissed at Christmas. Happy Festivus, monkeys.

    @DigitalSignalX:

    I think you have already said in your own way why Fallout 3 cannot reasonably be a game of the year. It’s not reasonable, in any sensible way, for a game to be GoTY because of the potential it has when fixed by people who are not the original developers.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I played 34 hours of Fallout 3, and yes, I enjoyed it. But Fallout 3 is just broken and stupid in so many places, and so many obvious ways. It would be a dereliction of duty to start throwing awards at Fallout 3, when it could and should have been so much better, had Bethesda not been so slapdash and invested a little more time and effort in fixing the dodgy voice acting, the poor dialogue, the wretched main quest, the broken leveling and the huge variety of Fallout 3′s other mini-fails.

  14. SuperNashwan says:

    I didn’t like it. I think I may be broken.

  15. Real Horrorshow says:

    Will never play this game.

  16. John Walker says:

    Pray, tell us Real Horrorshow, whyever not?

  17. Saflo says:

    Will never play this game.

    Boo, hiss.

  18. Meat Circus says:

    @John:

    Legal reasons. Can’t talk about it.

  19. Meat Circus says:

    Clearly “Blustery Day” is the bestest level not “Red Carpet”. Red Carpet enthusiasts are heretics and must burn.

  20. MetalCircus says:

    I didn’t like it that much either. Does that make me silly?

  21. Meat Circus says:

    @MetalCircus:

    Silly? No. But you are now on The List. Be afraid.

  22. John Walker says:

    Hey, Meat, why are you replying to your own question?!?!

  23. Meat Circus says:

    You’re a very funny man, JOHN WALKER. I have proof made of science.

  24. Gap Gen says:

    “Pray, tell us Real Horrorshow, whyever not?”

    It’s the Real Horror – someone who will never in their lives experience World of Goo. Forget having your face clawed off by badgers or zombies singing Christmas #1s at you.

  25. StenL says:

    I disliked it. Actually, I utterly hated it.

    I found it aggravatingly hard, annoyingly cute and just not fun at all. Maybe it is some kind of mental retardation I have or maybe I am missing some important thingies from my brain, but I really don’t understand why anyone would like this Bridge Builder ripoff. Sorry, but definitely not Game of the Year for me. I would have to say that my favourite is either Space Giraffe or maybe Achievement Unlocked.

  26. Pags says:

    I found it aggravatingly hard

    I would have to say that my favourite is either Space Giraffe

    THESE TWO SENTENCES ARE INCOMPATIBLE.

    Once more, I’m inclined to agree with Meat. Blustery Day is the best level.

  27. StenL says:

    Hey, Space Giraffe is the good kind of hard, the old-school hard, but World of Goo has that aggravating “shitty puzzle game” difficulty, where the failure isn’t due to your low skills, but that you haven’t found the one obscure way to solve the level.

  28. Pags says:

    World of Goo has that aggravating “shitty puzzle game” difficulty, where the failure isn’t due to your low skills, but that you haven’t found the one obscure way to solve the level.

    Would you begrudge Portal for the same apparent ‘failing’?

  29. StenL says:

    No, because Portal was of just the right difficulty to me. If I have to spend over 45 minutes on one puzzle, the game is too hard. Portal was as close to perfection as any game has come for me. World of Goo isn’t even close.

  30. Ben Finkel says:

    So here’s the thing. I tried the demo, and moderately enjoyed it, but decided I didn’t want to purchase it just yet – it didn’t seem as good as the other marvelous games I’d purchased this year – Sins of a Solar Empire, Mount & Blade, Left 4 Dead. This article may convince me to go ahead and purchase it, but do you really recommend this to someone who wasn’t awed by the first chapter?

    Ben

  31. StenL says:

    NOOOOOOOOO ! Buy Space Giraffe, Jeff Minter needs your money !

  32. MetalCircus says:

    I am on the same side of the fence as StenL. Well, I don’t hate the game as he does, I merely only enjoyed it a little. I didn’t enjoy it as much as others did for the same reasons he stated. I found some of the later levels a little tedious for my liking – It started off quite well though. I enjoyed the first chapter. I wasn’t wholly pleased by the rest though – Shame because I wanted to like it because it seemed so unique.

    It does bewilder me how much praise it’s accrued – I can definitely see the appeal, and understand why it’s fun, but I don’t really understand why it’s being called GOTY…

    Worst part is, I feel stupid saying this, like I’m missing out on something, when thousands of other people loved it. Doesn’t help, also, when people scream at you for being an unintelligent philistine for not liking it, either.

  33. Pags says:

    @Ben: The first chapter isn’t nearly representative enough of the game as a whole; the next few chapters are where the game really shines.

    @Sten: It doesn’t seem like you have a fixed concept of what is ‘too hard’; it just appears you don’t like the game because you weren’t very good at it, not because you disagree with the idea of puzzle games in general – ie. trying to find an abstract solution to a problem.

  34. StenL says:

    Yeah, I do like some puzzle games, I liked Bridge Builder, which World of Goo is a cheap ripoff of. Me being horrible at World of Goo is definitely one reason why I didn’t like it, but i wouldn’t compare the difficulty to Portal, which had a much friendlier difficulty curve that never reached as high as World of Goo, not even in the challenges and advanced levels.

  35. Gap Gen says:

    Well, World of Goo contains bridge-building elements, but that’s about it. To claim it’s a rip-off of Bridge Builder is to claim that Portal is a rip-off of Half Life.

    Portal only seems easy because you have played FPSs before, I’d guess. My dad has never played an FPS and finds Portal very hard. By comparison, I completed Portal for the first time in around 3 hours.

    I thought World of Goo was fine. But then I am a research student in computational physics.

  36. John Walker says:

    StenL, while of course you’re very welcome to express your dislike of the game, I think phrases like “cheap ripoff of” are both libellous and unjustifiably offensive. Think a bit more carefully about it.

    I’m quite surprised that you found it so difficult. Perhaps watch some videos of solutions on YouTube and see if you can spot anything you might have missed.

  37. A-Scale says:

    I won’t pay 20 for this game. I’ll pay 10, I might pay 15, but I won’t pay 20. As for GOTY, MGS4 gets my nod. There are a lot of contenders, but no game gives as much inventive gameplay, story and cinema styled greatness.

  38. A-Scale says:

    libellous

    And THAT is hyperbole. I am reminded of Dawkins, who calls teaching children religion “child abuse”. Libel, like child abuse, can be prosecuted under the law. Are you really suggesting that Sten should/could be sued for his statement? Come on.

  39. Pace says:

    It’s Christmas everybody, stop being grumpy, I command it! (and A-Scale; this is a PC games site.)

  40. Larington says:

    Theres an assumption thats been made here that everyone is going to like any one game. Just as it seems certain people here weren’t able to get along with WoG, I wasn’t able to get along with Space Giraffe, I found that so tedious to play that I didn’t even move beyond the tutorial whereas I completed WoG.

    Personal taste and all that, I guess.

  41. malkav11 says:

    If I could get past You Have to Explode the Head, I would probably like it better. Blustery Day and Red Carpet were both really, really awesome.

    (And my frustration with You Have to Explode the Head is that I understand perfectly well what I’m meant to be doing – or at least I think I do – but I’ve never really quite gotten a handle on the basic construction physics of the game, so my towering structures inevitably collapse for no reason that I can perceive.)

  42. Pags says:

    As for GOTY, MGS4 gets my nod.

    Lol.

  43. John Walker says:

    A-Scale – No, clearly no one’s going to sue anyone over a mindless comment in a thread, but under libel law it is libellous. Stating someone ripped someone else off is very dodgy territory, unless it can be clearly demonstrated. (And there is of course a line between being inspired by, and ripping off.) I took more issue with the word “cheap”, as it happens. It seemed a strangely low insult. I’m sure StenL has intelligent things to say about why he doesn’t like the game. I’d prefer to keep things reasoned and reasonable.

    It’s the principle really. Let’s not call people “cheap rip-offs” on Christmas Day, eh?

  44. Larington says:

    @ John Walker: Aww bless, checking in on us on Christmas Day!

  45. Heliocentric says:

    Narrative driven games disappoint me when they drive a player through a not fun section for the story. But when games are in a narrative straight jacket and will punish the player with horrific hours of very specific gameplay to forward a plot drive. But less about mgs4. World of goo was absolutely about how you play it, “plot” seemed more to be there more to justify your own actions. Game of the year i dunno but very much a game. A beautiful one which has born a company which will remain on my radar. I wish it had multiplayer beyond metagame. And i eagerly await new content.

  46. pkt-zer0 says:

    World of Goo, annoyingly hard? Heh. What I find incredibly offensive is Portal’s inoffensive difficulty curve.

  47. Heliocentric says:

    Do the people stuck in wog know it has level skip on the retry menu right.

  48. Candid_Man says:

    After seeing the likes of Spore and Far Cry 2 on your list, I seriously entertained the possibility of you guys choosing Fallout 3 as game of the year.

    I then remember how much (justified) praise you heaped on WOG, and after it not appearing in the earlier positions, my fears were abated. I’m glad I didn’t bet anything on my earlier expectations. Here’s hoping next year’s list will be more hit than miss.

    Still, have a XMAS MERRY 08 or two.

  49. Saflo says:

    Finding the inoffensive offensive. Merry Christmas.

  50. StenL says:

    Yes, I know there is a level skip, I can’t bring myself to use anything like that in any game ever. Makes me feel like I am missing out on something. I have often just stopped playing a game because I haven’t been able to get some hard to get bonus item.

    John, I agree that rip-off was actually quite a bit of an overstatement, I will strike that comment from the record. It is still very much inspired by Bridge Builder. Only has an obnoxiously cute, sugary theme draped over it.