World of Goo started life as a small, free, flash based video game. In fact calling it a game would be a bit of an exaggeration. Really it was a toy with no defined objective. It was called Tower of Goo and it was about building a big tower out of sticky goo balls. The balls just kept on coming and you were free to do whatever you wanted with them - or most this meant building the biggest tower they could. Being a little short sighted I didn't see this as having any long term gameplay possibilities - how wrong I was.
A year or so after Tower of Goo was created 2dBoy was formed, a partnership between 2 like-minded game developers. Their first game was to be World of Goo - an update to Tower of Goo, with some real gameplay objectives. The objectives are basically to save the goo-balls. The levels generally all follow the same pattern - there are some goo-balls, sometimes together - sometimes spread around, and you have to get them to the goo-tube and to safety.
The levels are made up of increasingly convoluted physics based constructions. Some levels are empty with nothing more than a yawning chasm to cross, whilst others have mines and spikes and cogs, and wheels, and fire, and all manner of other contraptions that need avoiding (or occasionally using).
Added to the physical objects there are now a whole host of different goo types. In Tower of Goo there were only the tar balls but World of Goo has more than I can count (ie - I haven't tried to count them). Some examples that I can remember are goo water (hangs straight down), dead goo (can touch spikes), and explosive goo (can be set on fire and burn). The different goo types combined with the wide variety of level designs makes the level variation very interesting.
Once the goo balls have been rescued they are sent to the World of Goo Corporation Factory where you can then compete, with other gamers around the world, to make the highest Goo tower you can (it's Tower of Goo all over again). The towers are saved on a central server and you can see how others are doing and compare their score with yours. This is a neat way of tying the original Tower of Goo to the new game - and it also gives you an incentive to optimise each level rescuing the maximum number of goo balls possible.
On top of all of this there is a story - something is going on in the Goo World, and it's up to you to find out what - and I am pretty sure you won't be able to guess. There's also a helpful sign painter who leaves hints and tips around the levels. The sign painter, the crazy characters and some charismatic goos all add up to give the game a distinct sense of personality often lacking in games these days.
The sound and visuals both really deserve a mention. The music is wonderful and compliments the look and feel of the game perfectly. The slightly quirky gameplay, visuals and music all meld to make a complete cohesive whole. In fact the game is slightly dark in tone and could even be described as the type of game Tim Burton might create, which is a very good thing.
If you get stuck on a level then you have the option of skipping it, although that means less goo saved, and there are some sometimes annoying, flying bug things that can be clicked on to take you back to a previously safe point. If you do skip a level you always have the option of coming back to it, and you can always go back to older levels to rescue more goos as well.
World of Goo is a fantastic achievement and incredibly enjoyable while it lasts - but it won't take you very long to complete. To increase longevity there is an OCD (Obsessive Completion Distinction) option in the game that challenges you to complete each level in a tiny amount of moves, and you always have the tower to go back to.
Whilst great I do have a couple of little niggles with the game. Generally the levels are balanced very well, but there are one or two that annoy you to the stage where you want to give up (and in my case do), they can always be beaten but it sometimes takes one too many attempts (and I don't like to skip levels). Also the undo creatures can get in the way and more than once I clicked one without meaning too. If you want to go back and replay old levels to increase your score then you have to sit through the cutscenes at the end again which can be a bit of a pain if you've seen them before and just want to rescue more goos.
The game could also do with a few basic setup options. I suspect their lack is primarily due to the game being developed with the Wii in mind, but I would really have liked the option to play World of Goo in a window rather than full screen and some volume controls would have been nice (the music is fantastic but I like to listen to my own music and with Goo it's all or nothing).
World of Goo is coming out on PC and Wii on the 13th of October (that would be tomorrow then) and I would highly recommend nabbing a copy as soon as possible. Personally I pre-ordered it which meant receiving it a week early (hence the early review) but whenever you buy it you're sure to have a lot of fun.