Game Zone: World of Goo

By Ryan Smith (Xyus)

Every once in a while, an independent game is released that throws the entire games industry — or, at least a portion of the industry — into an uproar for a short time. Within that time, many, many reviews will be written about the game, it will win several prominent awards, and it will become spotlighted on all manner of "Recommended Games" lists.

These games are notable in that they did not gain their well-deserved popularity through a large financial backing, an all-encompassing marketing strategy, or, in some cases, even an existing fan-company recognition. Rather, they gained their popularity the hard way — through great game play, an interesting and unique concept, a whole lot of work, and (in this case) a rather unique marketing gimmick.

No doubt you have heard of World of Goo, the game developed by 2D-Boy — a small company founded by two former EA employees, Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel — that became a media sensation for a time last year when 2D-Boy announced that they were celebrating World of Goo's One Year Anniversary with a temporary "Pay-What-You-Want" sale. The sale attracted all sorts — from those who didn't have much of their budget dedicated to gaming, to those who earlier pirated the game and took the opportunity to go legit, to just general cheapskates. And while the idea of a game that "costs what you want" gained everyone's attention, it appears quality kept them around — World of Goo's popularity seems to have long outlasted the sale, although unfortunately not at the same level.

Game Play

World of Goo is a physics-puzzle game in which the goal in most levels is to direct the little goo globs into a pipe to either be processed into various products by the apparent corporate overlords, World of Goo Corporation, or to help them satisfy their insatiable need to explore. This is usually accomplished by carefully building a tower or structure of some kind, though quite a few levels have unique puzzles of their own.


The game's levels are divided into "chapters", each with a unique theme and taking place in a certain season. The chapters of World of Goo follow the game's 'story', which is presented at the end of, (or occasionally during), each chapter in the form of animated sequences.

Choose a name the first time you start. The game is played entirely by mouse. The controls are pretty much limited to picking up and moving the goo balls by clicking and holding the left mouse button, then letting go of the globs in advantageous positions to build your tower. These controls are deceptively simple, though. Rest assured, after the first few practice levels, this game will keep your brain "on its toes".

Most levels of the game are completed by building a tower or bridge to a pipe, while making sure that enough goo balls, (an amount predetermined by the game), survive to make it into the pipe. Since these structures are built out of the goo balls themselves, you should conserve as many as possible, or you may find yourself in the sticky situation of not being able to finish the level. (Although there are measures for this — see hints section.)

While that seems simple enough, building a tower in World of Goo is usually no small task. The game likes to throw all manner of challenges your way, from high velocity winds, to making all of your goo balls particularly flammable in a level filled with lava, to a level that continuously rotates. A few levels are action-game like in pace.


There are many types of goo balls, and depending on the level, one or more types of goo balls may be present. Each has different abilities and weaknesses, which can help or hinder your progress in a given level. For example, the black goo balls — the most common — have the disadvantage that they cannot be manually disconnected from the structure once they are attached. The green goo balls can, which allows you to rebuild your structures at will.



There are a few not-strictly-game-play-but-still-related elements in World of Goo.

The World of Goo Corporation HQ is a special "free-play" chapter where all excess goo balls, (those that were not needed to complete the level but went into the pipe anyway), go after each level. The goal here is to build the largest tower you can out of these excess goos. World of Goo Corporation HQ is "online" — you may see others' towers, (in the form of clouds in the background), and the game tracks the largest tower in the world. Bonus Fun: The theme of the World of Goo Corporation HQ changes as you advance in the game's "plot".


All levels have online leader boards that let players compete to get the best scores and completion time. All levels also give players the ability to win an OCD (Obsessive Completion Distinction) award for completing that level within a certain amount of time, or with a high amount of survival goo balls. (Each level has its own criteria for an OCD — check in the menu, under "OCD".)


World of Goo is available for Linux, Windows, and MacOS (And Wii through WiiWare).

World of Goo is a commercial game, and may be purchased using PayPal or a Credit Card for 20$(US) directly from the official site. For those of you interested in taking this game for a test spin, a playable demo is available from the site.

System Requirements

  • Minimum Recommended:
  • Processor: 1 GHz IA-32 compatible processor
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Hardware Accelerated OpenGL drivers
  • Sound: ALSA or OSS compatible sound drivers

I believe all of the libraries in World of Goo are statically linked, so you need not worry about having the correct libraries. Check the readme included in the demo/full game, should you need these details.


Hints and Tips

As with last month's Osmos, you'll get the hang of this game as you play it. But once again, I have a few general tips.

After the first few levels, if you happen to mess up, you can click on a time bug to go back one "turn". Don't forget about this! It can easily be the most useful feature in the game.

Watch the base of your tower/bridge/balloon/etc! It can be all too easy to concentrate on the top and neglect the holes at the bottom. You will then get to watch the sight of your hard work crash down around you. Fun.

Make sure to read the signs in each of the levels. Although sometimes they only contain flavor text, other times they contain very useful tips.

Bored of your plain install? World of Goo has a relatively strong modding community. Try GooFans. Just remember — The developers of World of Goo do not directly support these player created mods. They may cause problems with your game. Just make sure to back up your copy before using third-party mods, as with any game, and you should be fine.

Conclusion / My Thoughts

This is a pretty good game. That may be saying something coming from me. Usually this game would be too short or linear for my tastes, but for some reason I didn't notice much. The game play is great, and stays fun for a while after the first play through. I've had the game for nearly a year now, and still play it every so often. The artwork and music style are really unique, and they tie the game together perfectly.

All in all, I would certainly recommend it to puzzle lovers, no doubt about that. To all others: give the demo a shot. I have a feeling that all but those with the most specific tastes will enjoy this game.