Let's go back to 2008 and remember one of the best indie games of the year, which made it to Mac OS as well as game consoles. I can't forget playing World of Goo for its music, story and game mechanics. Now I fast-forward to the 2010 holiday season and try to convince myself that this game wasn't designed originally for the iPad.
World of Goo by 2D Boy [iTunes Link] is a physics puzzle game where you use goo balls to create structures and rescue as many balls as possible. The game is divided in four scenarios with around ten levels each which will test your creativity in patience while teaching you new skills to use in further levels. The gameplay concept is not new, as we have seem some copycats such as Tiki Towers and Bridge Odissey populate the AppStore, but as far as I'm concerned, World of Goo was the first one.
When I launched the app for the first time I had to face the first disappointment: just like the majority of ports, I noticed that everything was too familiar, in fact, that it is the same game I had already played (and finished) on my Mac. The only hint for new content was a computer terminal on the free-play section called World of Goo Corporation, but I just guessed it would be used to display leaderboards and online GameCenter multiplayer (more on this later).
The levels are perfectly the same as other versions, which will bring a nostalgia feel to those who have played it and enough entertainment, as the levels are equally challenging and different from each other to replay them one more time. The fun in World of Goo lies on the types of goo balls to complete each level. From the basic black ball, which connects to other nodes in your structure, to more advance balls which can be relocated, ignited, float like a balloon and even expand like chewing gum. Mastering all the types will be key to get through to next rounds, but players must know there is an "undo" option in higher levels that allow you to experiment a little bit more.
All the hype in World of Goo is justified with elements that are usually overlooked in successful commercial studios. The sound, without having any important part in the story, carries the player through the levels in a very pleasing and epic way. The visual style is also top notch for a 2D game, with simple artwork that hold the plot together but still giving you a premium quality feel throughout the game. And then there's that little element of luck where AppStore shoppers are craving physics puzzle games in the line of Angry Birds or Cut the Rope and you have again, a new global phenomenon. Initially released only for the iPad, I believe that an iPhone edition would be a Top 10 hit but will lack the obvious screen state goodness.
World of Goo has its shortcomings and odd design decisions. Even after finishing the game, I would still pinch to zoom in and out… with no result. It felt natural but this wasn't implemented in the PC and WiiWare versions, but feels OK here. Although the touch interface feels perfect for this game, it is easy to drag a goo ball to the wrong place or use a special ball when you didn't intend to. I would like the game to undo more than just one step to be able to experiment more to spend more time playing and less thinking of a good strategy to finish each level using the minimum of balls required.
Building bridges and towers with your fingers just feels right. This should be the model for any port, specially when you discover all the extra new content in the final levels. It is difficult to explain how World of Goo wasn't designed specifically for the iPad and why has only arrived to the AppStore now.
Other app sites have given World of Goo their highest rating and have even been chosen by Touch Arcade as iPad app of the year. It is definitely different and if you have two or three puzzle games on your iDevice, this one should join the collection.
Despite its linear story, the game is absolutely repayable and can offer extra hours of fun, plus that show off element that iPad users tend to look for. As an additional note, the game has an extra scenario to be played once you unlock "Product Z." This is what that terminal in World of Goo Corporation was for! This feels like part of a sequel, since the visual style and game mode differs substantially from the original. Without spoiling any of the fun, you can have a sneak peek in the screenshots. It is a high price tag, but I believe it should be on every gamer's iPad.
UPDATE: The 1.1 version just released addresses one of my main criticisms to the game, the accidental touch of "undo" flies. Apparently, they won't fly so close to your finger so you accidentally go back to retry your previous move.