I’m not going to waste your time telling you how much fun “World of Goo” is. It’s garnered praise across the board and has won tons of awards since its release in 2008. If you haven’t played it yet, congrats! – you live under a larger rock than I do.
Instead, I would like to talk about how f*****g weird this game is. And not just weird – it’s unsettling. Narrative-wise, the game is about a company that awakens sentient primordial ooze when it starts jamming vacuum-pipes into the ground. These globs have the curiosity of a young boy on the moon, so naturally they build themselves up to the pipes only to be sent away to be processed into consumer goods at the World of Goo Corporation. The rest of the narrative is told through occasional cut scenes and the numerous signs and speakers that appear in each stage. The common wooden signs are normally located in ludicrous places and are always signed by “The Sign Painter”.
But who is this “Sign Painter”? What does he know? Or is it she? Or is it genderless? Could the signs have been made by other goos that have found out secret information about the goings-on at the Corporation? Come to think of it, are goos genderless? Where did the goos come from? One stage says that some goos are woken from a slumber that lasted thousands of years. Are the goos, in fact, primordial? (Hey – I may be on to something there!)
We never get any answers to these questions.
I don’t know if the game’s creators are trying to make any kind of social statements with the game or if they’re just being bizarre, but either way they have succeeded in being bizarre. At one point in the game you start moving and escorting large goos that are cartoonishly made up to be pretty women. At the end of the stage is a red pipe that is very exclusive as to which types of goo it absorbs.
Once you drop the large “pretty” goo down the ramps, it is smashed into tiny red-lipped versions of its former self.
There is also a stage later on where you have to separate the “pretty” goos from the “ugly” goos and then smash apart the “ugly” goos to be used as a bridge for the “pretty” goos to roll across.
Once again – I don’t know if the developers are trying to make a statement of some sort about the over-beautification of consumerist society, or if they’re just being looney for the sake of being looney, but my money’s on the first option.
Eventually the civilized world as we know it is destroyed because the goos awaken and release a spam bot (which seems like a reasonable way for the apocalypse to happen). The goos then try to access a telescope positioned on the top of a series of large spires that were created from the Great E-mail Bomb.
This is where the game ramps up in difficulty. The last three stages are absolute murder. One stage has you flip a bridge ass-over-teakettle across several ravines by way of repositioning balloons. Another has you build a giant arch over a spinning gear of destruction (much like in an early stage in the second chapter). But the worst – the worst of all of these! – has you build… a bridge! And I am TERRIBLE at building bridges! If you watched me stumble-f**k my way through the first world in the video, then you know how horrible I am at building bridges in this game. Luckily you aren’t supposed to build a bridge on this stage (which I figured out after spending about 30 minutes trying to build a g*****n bridge!). Instead, you are supposed to build a giant tower and roll it to the right so that it hits the island on the other side of the ravine, bridging the gap between the two spires. Even after figuring that out, I still wasn’t able to accomplish the task. I always had the tower fall over too soon, or – when I did get the tower high enough – it would buckle halfway up and fold over on itself.
But during one of these marvelous deflations I saw something that got the ol’ hamster upstairs a-runnin’ and a-spinnin’. As the tower folded over it would hit the side of the spire (which was lined in spikes) and break apart and kill several goo balls. Sometimes during this breakup, a triangle or small line of the goo structure would detach completely and go spiraling into oblivion. I got the idea to rescue that one piece with the single balloon I was given at the beginning of the stage and float it across the pit to the goos on the other side.
Time and time again I half-assidly threw together a tower, watched it topple over the side, and tried to throw a balloon on a surviving shard of the structure. After countless attempts, lady luck finally graced me with my chance to get past this sisyphean-like challenge.
Behold, my salvation:
Look at it tumble through the air with such grace as two goo balls and a balloon have never seen before.
Finally, I reached my destination and let the apparatus plummet onto the vacuum-pipe.
All but one of the sleeping goos on the opposite ravine awoke at the arrival of the dangling deity. The last, sleepy goo had to be roused with the balloon that allowed this entire silly plan to exist and be successful.
The final stage was not much of a stage, as I stated before. You basically attach floating puffer fish to the Eye of Sauron and watch as the whole damned mountain detaches from the earth and drifts into the heavens.
And that’s the end of the game and the story… essentially.
Now to talk about some of the frightening imagery in this game, most of which come from Chapter 3.
In the video, I built a F*****G BRIDGE out from a forlorn mechanical frog… thing.
Well, in Chapter 3, you have to build yet another F*****G BRIDGE across a marsh. Let’s see if our little buddy from earlier shows up again. Oh look! – here he is….
And if you think that’s scary, wait ’til you see what it looks like when you hover the cursor over its eye socket:
Would you like a bit more nightmare fuel?
Also there’s the stage with the soulless, spiked, dead robot that you have to blow up. And his head swivels ’round and ’round like the month-old corpse of a hanged man.
So… yeeeeeahh… this game was weird. But! – I enjoyed it. In fact, I was pretty good at it. I got the “OCD” rating on about seven or eight stages just on the first run-through, and I was able to plow through every stage from every branching path in about 6½ hours. I don’t care much for going back and getting the “OCD” award on every stage, but there are user-made tools and levels available online, so I might look at some of them later.
Overall it was a fun game that made me think, and I believe the mechanics of the game make it accessible to a wide range of audience age, genre fandom, and familiarity with gaming in general.