WORLD OF GOO

Deal­ing with a load of balls.

PC GAMER (UK) - - EXTRA LIFE - By Philippa Warr

Hav­ing long since for­got­ten the plot of

World of Goo but not its glo­ri­ous, weird jelly Mec­cano physics, I think I was ex­pect­ing this re­in­stall to be a mainly sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence. Some­thing like Peg­gle – great mu­sic, ap­peal­ing car­toon­ish aes­thetic – but with a slip­pery puz­zle el­e­ment in­stead of pin­ball, and a streak of black hu­mour in­volv­ing some goo balls go­ing through a min­cer.

I had for­got­ten the ob­ser­va­tions about how com­pa­nies use data and cook­ies ( World of Goo op­er­ates in a GDPR-less world), about id­i­otic, waste­ful prod­uct launches, about the value of phys­i­cal beauty and so on. These ob­ser­va­tions are rel­a­tively broad-brush – cor­po­ra­tions that put fi­nan­cial gain over con­sumer wel­fare, the ugly be­ing tram­pled by the beau­ti­ful – but it’s a tang of play­ful cyn­i­cism I haven’t seen much in games re­cently.

That’s not to say we’re less cyn­i­cal now, but there’s a spe­cific flavour of breezy side-eye which feels very much rooted in the late-’00s and is in­ter­est­ing to en­counter now. These were the heady days when we were only ques­tion­ing some, not all, of our metas­truc­tures. The re­sult is that its shots still hit their tar­gets (we’ve only re­ally dou­bled down on what the game calls out) but the mood it adopts is peppy and perky rather than ex­hausted. Cer­tainly a cu­rio to me right now, at any rate.

The jig­gly, chirrup­ing con­struc­tion side is as ex­cel­lent as I re­mem­ber. Have you played World of Goo? If you haven’t, the idea is that you have these sen­tient blobs which like to at­tach to one an­other by send­ing out ten­drils to other blobs. You’ll use this to create struc­tures – 2D lat­tices of vary­ing lev­els of messi­ness. Loose goo blobs swarm over the struc­ture, their weight and move­ment con­tribut­ing to the in­sta­bil­ity of the whole thing, some­times send­ing it tum­bling to one side.

The point of these struc­tures is that you use them to bring the loose goo swarm to an exit pipe which will suck them up. But the pipe only ac­ti­vates when the goo struc­ture is close enough, hence you can’t just fire goo balls into the air and hope they get slurped up.

Build up

At a bare min­i­mum, the chal­lenge is to build a struc­ture and reach the pipe with enough loose goo balls to meet the level’s tar­get. Later on in the game it’s about fac­tor­ing in the

dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties of the dif­fer­ent types of goo, about nav­i­gat­ing ob­sta­cles, and even mov­ing larger non-goo ob­jects around.

The lev­els start off rel­a­tively sim­ply. You have one type of goo and plenty of it, mean­ing it’s easy to meet the level tar­gets. The starter goo is won­der­fully un­com­pli­cated. It puts out two ten­drils and you can’t de­tach it once it’s in place. It nat­u­rally lends it­self, then, to build­ing ro­bust tri­an­gu­lar shapes and thus is rel­a­tively sta­ble.

These early lev­els re­mind me of the weird team-build­ing ex­er­cises we had to do as part of a few cor­po­rate away days I’ve been on, or as part of school physics projects – build a bridge out of news­pa­per that’s ca­pa­ble of bear­ing some kind of heavy weight, or a team­mate or what­ever. You’d al­ways have some­one who spent a whole day ex­plain­ing the value of the tri­an­gle in con­struc­tion.

“It’s re­ally hard to de­form a tri­an­gle, you know?” Yes Dave. We know. “Con­sider the pyra­mids.” I’ve con­sid­ered the bloody pyra­mids, Dave. “It’s be­cause of trigonom­e­try.” Shut up and roll news­pa­per, Dave. “It’s why you see so many tri­an­gles in bridges too.” DAVE THAT IS WHY WE ARE US­ING TRI­AN­GLES TO BUILD THIS BRIDGE. “Did I show you this pic­ture of a bridge I took while I was away last month?” Yes, Dave. Please just roll some news­pa­per so we can bear the weight of that en­cy­clo­pe­dia and get out of here. “Look! There’s a pic­ture of a bridge in this news­pa­per! I’m go­ing to cut it out so we can stick it on the bridge as a mas­cot. It even has tri­an­gles.” I swear to god, Dave. “You know what? My favourite tri­an­gle is the equi­lat­eral tri­an­gle.”

Un­like Dave, I have a soft spot for a sca­lene tri­an­gle. They’re awk­ward and dif­fi­cult and spiky, like me in a team-build­ing ses­sion. Any­way, where was I?

Gooreat

Ah yes. Goo. So there are dif­fer­ent types of goo. There’s that first kind I men­tioned, but you’ll soon en­counter oth­ers – green goo, beauty goo, match­stick goo, bal­loon goo… My

favourite is the green goo. It can put out up to three ten­drils which is nice, but the best bit is that it can be de­tached and reused or just left loose. The rea­son I love it is be­cause I spend a lot of time try­ing to res­cue as much goo as pos­si­ble from each level. If a level uses plain black goo, ev­ery blob you use to build is one you can’t col­lect. If you’re on the green stuff there’s a chance you can de­tach it and col­lect it once you’ve ac­ti­vated the pipe.

Hav­ing blasted through the story chap­ters in a few hours I went back to the be­gin­ning to try OCD mode. I winced at the name – an­other re­minder that the world has changed a lit­tle, I guess – al­though it tech­ni­cally stands for Ob­ses­sive Com­ple­tion Dis­tinc­tion. This is the hard mode where you need to meet far more chal­leng­ing tar­gets. Ev­ery ball and ev­ery place­ment be­comes in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant.

This is where I started to feel real an­noy­ance with the in­ter­face. It boils down to the fact the game doesn’t have a quick restart but­ton or a re­play op­tion if you reach the end and find out you didn’t meet the tar­get. Hav­ing to sit through the end sec­tion of a level and start again from the level se­lect screen is just a bunch of ex­tra click­ing which gets be­tween me and the chal­lenge. The al­ter­na­tive is to try and work out whether you’ve suc­ceeded or failed be­fore you ac­ti­vate the pipe, so you can use the in-level retry but­ton, which isn’t al­ways pos­si­ble.

Heavy weight

My other gripe is that goo be­comes heav­ier when you at­tach it to a struc­ture. I’m as­sum­ing this is be­cause it is now con­sid­ered to have the weight of the blob and the weight of the legs at­tach­ing it to other goo balls, but where did that ex­tra weight come from? In a physics puzzler, this man­i­fes­ta­tion of sub­stance from noth­ing, rather than the blob be­ing spread thin­ner, feels like a tiny be­trayal. “But what of the laws of physics?” Ex­actly, Dave. I’m with you on this one.

Try­ing to see if there was a way to quick restart us­ing a mod or some other tin­ker­ing is how I ended up on www.goofans.com. This is where you can down­load GooTool; a util­ity for in­stalling new lev­els and goo ball mods. It’s a bit old at this point and re­quires a touch of Java tin­ker­ing, but I’ve found a num­ber of level packs which of­fer some cu­ri­ous new chal­lenges. You can’t create new chap­ters for the game, so these lev­els just hover in the sky in the chap­ter 1 level se­lect screen – a bit mes­sy­look­ing, but use­ful for ex­tend­ing the life of the game that bit fur­ther.

I was also con­sid­er­ing some of the goo ball colour mods, but the game does a good job of clearly com­mu­ni­cat­ing func­tion via its colour cod­ing, so adding a ran­dom colour vari­able felt like it wasn’t likely to help me play (much as I would love to build a ri­otously bright tower that ri­vals my Christ­mas tree for coloured balls).

But all of this is just me dis­tract­ing my­self. I’m clearly go­ing to end up tear­ing my hair out over how you get one last in­fer­nal ball into that in­fer­nal pipe on vanilla mode. It’s 2008 all over again.

Ev­ery ball and ev­ery place­ment be­comes in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant

This level pack in­cluded nav­i­gat­ing a hor­ri­ble tomato.

Pro­duc­tive ar­son.

One of the more help­ful signs.

Noth­ing to see here.

Body pos­i­tiv­ity is use­less in the cor­po­rate goo fu­ture.

Some goo will not sur­vive the jour­ney.

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