Review: World of Goo for the iPad

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If you have a Wii like I do, or if you are a frequent purveyor of PC puzzle games, you might already be familiar with 2D Boy’s underdog hit World of Goo. If so, you are probably aware of all the accolades that it has racked up over the three years since its original release on the Wii.

Those awards include:

* Best Design -Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences
* Best Downloadable Title -Game Developers Choice Awards
* Best Design -Independent Games Festival
* Technical Excellence -Independent Games Festival
* Best Indie Game -Spike TV Video Game Awards
* Game of the Year -Rock Paper Shotgun
* Game of the Year -GameTunnel
* Wii Game of the Year -IGN
* Best PC Puzzle Game -IGN
* Best Wii Puzzle Game -IGN
* Best Artistic Design Wii -IGN
* Best New IP Wii -IGN
* Most Innovative Design Wii -IGN
* Puzzler of the Year -Golden Joystick Awards

That is an incredibly impressive feat considering that World of Goo is a humble downloadable title and was pitted against larger-budget retail titles from major publishers. Its amazing success is a testament to how far a small developer can go with an original idea developed into a great design, and carried out with superior execution.

The first thing you notice when you open World of Goo for the first time is the distinctive art style and musical score.

Imagine if Tim Burton and Danny Elfman worked as game designers. Don’t take that the wrong way. World of Goo isn’t a rip-off by any means, but that’s the vibe that I get from the game. It has that same sort of dramatic and humorously over the top macabre feel that you get from their movies.

The game is made up of five separate chapters, each with its own unique character and individualized art style. In all cases, the set colors are bold, with lots of contrast and the effects are larger than life and help to add depth to the game.

The music also brings it right out of the box, with a bold opening theme complete with cinematic vocal scoring. The opening music helps the game feel bigger than a downloadable title or App Store game. In contrast to this, a lot of the level music is actually very subtle. Because World of Goo is a downloadable title, it has to be kept at a reasonable file size. As a result, the music does tend to repeat a lot. Despite this, its high quality keeps it from getting in the way or getting boring. World of Goo is actually a pretty simple game when boiled down to its essence, but the high quality of the art style and music make it more engaging and really help to give it a big-budget feel.

At its heart, World of Goo is a physics puzzle game. You interact with Goo Balls of various types, each with their own distinct properties, and use them to solve environmental puzzles. In each case, you are looking to deliver a certain number of Goo Balls to a pipe, which when you get near it, will suck up any available Goo of the proper type for that particular puzzle.

In most of the puzzles you reach the pipe by building a structure out of Goo Balls. These can vary between towers, bridges, or dangling lines, depending on the objective of the puzzle.

In other cases you have to use alternate means of getting the balls around, such as attaching balloons to an object to fly it somewhere, transporting your Goo Balls in the process. As you progress through the game, you will find that puzzles also become more complex, and often involve accomplishing multiple tasks before reaching the pipe.

2-D Boy also did a great job of bringing a lot of different environmental factors into play throughout the game. You will have to take wind, water, air, fire, and and just about any other natural phenomenon you can think of into account at different times.

There are also many different types of machines and devices that you will have to work with and around, as well. What ties it all together and makes it all go is the well-designed and very consistent physics engine that controls all of the game’s interactions.

The level pictured below gives an example of how World of Goo combines all of its elements together. (Slight, 1/2 of a level spoiler alert. Skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid this.)

In this particular level, you must first use balloons to lift a bar obstructing your pathway. You then use the green Goo Balls, which can be picked up and moved at will and stuck to other items, to deliver the black Goo Balls to another location.

Once that is done, you then have to find a way to get them up to the pipe above.

This particular puzzle is only in World 2, mind you, so there are plenty of levels with increasing difficulty left to go after this level.

If you get stuck in a spot where the solution isn’t so evident at first glance, there are signs with cryptic messages from the ever-present and very clever Sign Painter placed at key locations in the level.

These messages can definitely help you out of a jam, but thanks to their cryptic nature, they can sometimes be as difficult to figure out as the solution to the level.

Once you get your Goo Balls to the pipe, you then have to worry about how many of the required type that you are delivering. Each level has a quota of Goo Balls that is required to complete it.

You are encouraged to get as far over that quota as you can in each one, as the game keeps a running total of your surplus. More on this in a moment.

As well as the number of Goo Balls delivered to the pipe, World of Goo also keeps up with the amount of time and number of moves it takes to complete each level. While only the number of Goo Balls matters as far as advancing past a level is concerned, the OCD mode is available for those who like more of a challenge. To get the OCD rating for a level, you have to get a higher number of Goo Balls into the pipe, or meet time or number of moves requirements. Couple this with the Apple Game Center support included in the iPad version, and you have plenty of built-in ways to compete against yourself or others, which certainly adds to the already high replay value.

Another way of pitting yourself against other World of Goo fans worldwide is in the World of Goo Corporation area.

Remember all those excess Goo Balls? When they are flushed away after a level, they end up in this open sandbox area. You can then use them to build whatever you want, however you want. While what you build with your surplus is left open to your creativity, the ultimate goal of the World of Goo Corporation is to make the tallest tower.

As your tower grows higher, you will notice small clouds with the names of other players, along with their nation of residence’s flag. These clouds mark the height of your nearby competitor’s towers, so these give you a way to see fellow players as you approach their height, and then eventually leave them behind.

The great thing about World of Goo’s gameplay is that, even as the levels get more difficult and take longer to conquer, they are actually worth the time spent on them. The experience of playing a level over and over to figure it out, and then even more to move your score higher once you have, is very rewarding. I have owned World of Goo on the Wii for well over a year and got pretty far along in it. I can tell you that I have absolutely enjoyed going back over all of the levels that I had already played on my Wii more recently on my iPad. There are plenty of games that I have owned, even ones that I really enjoyed when I first went through them, that I could not say that about if I tried to go back. If you are looking for a game that will keep you interested when you come back, look no further.

As a title already released on two other platforms, World of Goo already has a couple of established control methods. On the PC, you use the mouse to interact with the Goo Balls. On the Wii, you use the WiiMote controller’s IR functionality to point at and grab the Goo. One of the reasons for World of Goo’s popularity on both platforms is how the controls work seamlessly with the gameplay design and physics engine to make a complete experience. As good as those versions are, I would say from experience with both of them that the iPad’s touch controls are by far the best of the bunch.

The iPad’s capacitive touchscreen is perfect for a game like World of Goo. It allows you to get rid of the intermediate input device and, quite literally, get hands on with the game. The iPad version’s controls bring the whole experience closer and make gameplay even more intuitive than before. The iPad version of World of Goo may be newest of the three versions, but it has definitely become the definitive version of the game. Considering the awards that World of Goo has already won on PC and the Wii, that is pretty impressive.

So to wrap things up, 2D Boy’s World of Goo entered a crowded and very competitive App Store, and immediately stood out. It is a wonderful example of how well the iPad works for gaming, and how a strong, established title can shine even brighter on such an interactive and user-friendly platform. I hope that other developers, especially smaller companies, will take note of this. Even in a sea of apps, the cream will still rise to the top and be recognized. This fact is born out by the strong sales World of Goo has garnered since its arrival in the App Store over a month ago.

Like many other apps in the iPad side of the App Store, World of Goo is more expensive than most of the games designed primarily for use on the iPhone and/or iPod Touch. Sure, $9.99 is a premium price for an iOS game, but it is in line with many other premium titles designed exclusively for the iPad. I can definitely say that, in this case, your hard-earned cash will not be wasted. World of Goo is a superior game that offers pick up and play ease, hours of fun and replayability, unique and intuitive gameplay, and plenty of challenge all rolled into one neat and tidy package. As you can see, all of the various elements of World of Goo combine to make it an instant classic that is worth every penny.

While World of Goo is absolutely worth the $9.99 retail price, 2-D Boy is currently running a 50% off promotion in honor of the app’s birthday. This game is a flat-out steal at $4.99, and I just can’t recommend it enough. This sale is only for a limited time, so if you like what you see, go grab a copy and save a few bucks on one of the best games in the App Store.

2D Boy’s World of Goo version 1.1 is available in the App Store here.

This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPhone App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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