Remember those toothpick bridges you built in elementary school? They were supposed to teach you a few lessons about trusses and load bearing. But you didn't become an architect, or an engineer -- useless information, right?
Wrong. Here comes 2D Boy's World of Goo, a delightful independently produced puzzle game that's cheap enough to give as a stocking stuffer but still offers unique game play and inspiring design.
The essence of each level (there are 47) is to get from point A to point B by fashioning a bridge or tower using a pre-set number of goo-based building blocks. The goo bridges bend, waver and collapse when poorly designed, forcing the player to think before rushing into construction.
The gelatin-like quality of the structures helped World of Goo win a technical excellence award at the 11th annual Independent Games Festival. The game also received a design award -- mainly a credit to the work of Kyle Gabler, who composed the Danny Elfman-like score and produced the Tim Burton-esque artwork, in addition to designing the levels and writing the story.
In actuality, World of Goo was largely a two-person effort. Gabler and Ron Carmel, former employees of Electronic Arts and "gym buddies" (according to Gabler), spent two years developing the game in an effort they described as a "big chance to take a big risk."
"A lot of parents have been writing in to tell us how much their kids love it," said Carmel, who mentioned there were two emails about toothpick bridge nostalgia.
An additional mini-game allows you to compete with others online by building the tallest tower possible, but task-oriented players will likely want more objective-based levels, instead. Unfortunately, experienced game players will be able to finish those levels quickly -- easily in a weekend, if persistent.
Gabler and Carmel have no plans to make additional levels for World of Goo, but they are encouraging others to contribute new levels online by making the game "more mod-able."
You can track the modders' progress at the 2D Boy forum, but you'll find the group, right now at least, seems focused on translating the goo world's witty humor for foreign audiences and replacing goo balls with basketballs.
World of Goo is available for the PC and Mac ($20) and the Wii (1500 Wii points via WiiWare).