Indie Game 'World of Goo' Is Puzzle Gem

When an indie film like "Slumdog Millionaire" can win it big at the Oscars, it should come as no surprise that an indie video game can likewise be a real winner.

While still in its infancy,"World of Goo" won two of last year's Independent Game Festival's prestigious awards: the Design Innovation Award and the Technical Excellence Award. Created by Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler with "no money, and a whole lot of love" as they created makeshift offices at a network of free wi-fi coffee shops in San Francisco, the retail version is now available for computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux) and as downloadable Wiiware for the Nintendo Wii.

"World of Goo" lets players experiment with building structures using squirming balls of living goo. The game offers 48 puzzles which are tied together with an elusive storyline about a big corporation misusing these little blobs of goo to make commercial products.

While this allegorical story pokes fun at unrestrained capitalism, our concept of beauty, and Internet privacy, the main focus of the game is solving the refreshingly different and delightfully challenging building puzzles.

In each puzzle, you are presented with a group of wriggling goo balls and an exit drain pipe that is far away. Your objective is to combine some of the goo balls into a structure that will traverse the terrain to enable the remaining goo balls to travel over the structure to reach the pipe.

As the puzzles get harder, you will encounter many goo-destroying obstacles, including hills, cliffs, chasms, pits of doom, goo-popping machinery, and spikes. Each puzzle has a designated number of goo balls that need to make it into the pipe.

Combining the goo balls is as simple as clicking on one and dragging it close to another one. Goo strands will immediately stretch between the balls, and as you move them around, you can see the different ways you can form triangulated bonds.

When you click, the goo balls combine. This simplicity makes it appealing to everyone, kids and adults alike.

Game Has Sense of Humor, Personality

The challenge of building comes from the physics rules inherent in this gooey building material. As an elastic and jiggly substance, it creates structures which resemble Jell-O.

If a structure is stressed too much in one direction or another, it will collapse or fall over. Plus, since the unattached balls of goo like to climb on these structures as you build and rest on precarious sections, you have to factor in their weight.

Adding to the fun (and challenge) is that different colored goo balls have special abilities. Some harden when stuck together and then can't be moved; while others can be plucked out of structures to be repositioned.

Some look like water drops and have the ability to stretch out a great distance; while others can be filled with a gas that floats to help hold structures up over chasms. Some can even be ignited by flames, causing chain reactions.

Helping you along the way are cryptic signs that offer hints (and some of the game's quirky sense of humor). There are also little bugs flying around which, if clicked, undo your last move.

Plus you can retry a puzzle as many times as you wish, and even skip it. And for those who really love a challenge, each puzzle can be replayed on a more challenging level, which requires more goo balls to make it through to the exit.

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