Version tested: PC
Physics has given us many gifts. Paint cans that pelt across the room when you walk into them, fallen enemies who collapse into difficult yoga positions, see-saw puzzles, cowboy hats flying off, oranges you can throw at a soldier - physics has given us all these things. If the Large Hadron Collider does cough out a couple of black holes, on balance the end of the world will be acceptable payback for all the fun physics provided along the way.
Physics' latest, purest, and most brilliant gift is World of Goo. A game so utterly charming, so pregnant with charisma, and so simple in concept, that it belongs in another era. An era when everyone got a little bit excited about video games; when you'd find coin-op machines in your local pub, and everyone played them. An era when Pac-Man made the women put down their Cointreau, hoist up their petticoats and fling ten pees every which way but loose. An era before William's Defender arrived and scared off the lightweight with all those buttons.
So, World of Goo is simple. Levels begin with a small structure, and this is where you begin. Crawling along the struts of this structure, or sleeping around the level, are balls of goo. Pull off a goo and place it nearby and it'll eagerly attach itself to the main building. You simply repeat this process until you reach the level's goal - usually a pipe that hoovers up any balls of goo that come near it. That's it. Use goo balls to build to the pipe. Easy.
The first level is a simple, short climb - you can do it in three moves. The next level, a bridge. "It's easier than it looks," you're reassured. Pretty soon, you're learning the feel of the goo, and forging swaying structures around lethal windmills. You're bridging an impossible-looking gap, and plotting your escape from a creature's stomach. Every level, from all five chapters, feels like a learning process - but however ridiculous the challenges get, they're all still solved with that same simplicity, fairness and skill.
Look at those pictures. It's beautiful, isn't it? Everything. From the beautiful levels, which go way beyond the basic graphical expectations of "looking nice", to the charming-alarming cut-scenes, to the beautiful characterisation of those adorable goo balls. World of Goo isn't just beautiful. The world, and its surreal anti-establishment storyline, feel original and sincere. It's Tim Burton's vision of one of Roald Dahl's more amoral tales. The short music loops are fantastic, too. Alternately whimsical, dramatic and haunting. Think Danny Elfman's themes to Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, and a few things in between. Basically, World of Goo has the soundtrack to a life I wish I lived.
World of Goo is the product of 2D Boy - a couple of guys in a tent - and while it's common to forgive indie developers a certain lack of polish, or finesse, there's nothing here to forgive; the game is slicker than most full-price commercial games. Some of the nuances are pointlessly deep. Pick up one of the goo balls. Hold it against the wall, and move it up and down. It'll rotate with the friction. Do it fast, and pull the ball from the wall, and it'll carry on spinning. It adds absolutely nothing to the game, apart from that polish, that sense of completeness. Similarly, the sound effects are perfect. Yelping, cheering goo balls make every move an event. The World of Goo, basically, is a raging pleasure to spend time in, and interact with.
Chapter Two takes place in autumn; and you're introduced to the beautiful - and sizey - female goo. The solution to getting this large girl into a small pipe isn't particularly nice, but she's docile, and doesn't seem to mind. Chapter Three is set in an industrial winter, and introduces explosive goo rocks and bombs, amongst others. The new goos you find vary in weight, the amount of connections they can form, stickiness, whether they can be re-used - and there's plenty more. I'd love to go on, because I've got these things in my head that I think you'll love. But I'll just be showing off. This is all stuff you should be finding out for yourself. Buy the game. Find out for yourself.