Friday, May 15, 2009

Review: World of Goo

Just downloaded one of the simplest and yet immensely enjoyable games from the Nintendo WiiWare site this week: World of Goo.

I have read quite a number of rave reviews about this little game by independent games developer 2D Boy from the two Nintendo magazines I subscribe to, Official Nintendo Magazine and Ultimate Nintendo Magazine. And since I finally got my Wii hooked up to the internet in the past week, and I had some Nintendo Points that were won in an eBay auction, I decided to download this title to see what the fuss was all about.

Now at 1500 Nintendo Points, World of Goo is most expensive game one can download from the Nintendo Shop online, from both the Virtual Console and WiiWare line of games. With 1000 Wii Points costing AUD$15, the World of Goo game costs a hefty $22.50, perhaps a piddling in price compared to the latest Wii games released in shops, but well higher priced than classic goodness like the Super Mario Bros line of games or some of the Zelda games available on the Virtual Console.

Let me just say that World of Goo is well worth the high price tag.

I haven't even cleared the first chapter yet but have already spent quite a number of hours on this game. It is fun, simple, addictive and immensely replayable. It has all the hallmarks of a classic game and even though I hadn't read the rules to the game, it took me about a few seconds to work out how to play the game and what the objective was!

In a nutshell, the game involves you controlling a whole bunch of globular "goo" balls in order to build structures, horizontally or vertically. Each chapter has various stages but the main objective is always the same: there is a "vent" or an "exit point" and you need to build your structures with the goo balls so that the tip of the structure is close enough to the exit point and your goo balls can then escape the level and you can move onto the next one.

That's really it. It's that simple. It's not an easy game to play though as a lot of strategy is involved. Your goo balls are alive: think those little black "ball" creatures in Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away", where they are malleable, constantly moving and have those big little eyes for comedic effect. That's what the goo balls look like.

In some instances, once a goo ball has been used to form part of a structure, it becomes an inanimate "joint". This is where one has to be careful: you have a limited number of goo balls in each level and you have a set number of goo balls you need to help "escape" from that level. So you can't just use up all your goo balls because if you do and you can't reach the set minimum number of goo balls escaping that level, you need to start the level again.

There ARE some levels where the goo balls remain animate even after using them as structure "joints" though. In those levels you can just "break" a goo ball off your structure and reposition it. So in those sorts of levels, if your structure falls apart, just like Lego blocks, you can take apart your goo balls and start all over again.

The physics of the game are pretty amazing and realistic. All too often I built a structure as high as I possibly could, only for it to come crashing down because it was just unstable at the bottom and couldn't sustain an even distribution of weight.

Found out that this game is also available on the PC, which makes sense: if you can use a Wiimote to point-and-click and build structures, of course you should be able to do the same with a mouse since a mouse offers greater accuracy and precision!

Which brings me to the little "mouse cursor" from the WiiWare version of the game. The "cursor" is a little black blob that is "malleable" in nature; it stretches, it bends and it forms shapes when you move the Wiimote quickly. Highly entertaining to watch the little cursor blob when you've got nothing better to do!

The graphics are top notch too, are is the music, which is a touch eerie. In fact, the game is very Tim Burton-esque: if Tim decided to stop making movies such as Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas and started his own game company, World of Goo would be the game that has all the traditional Burton hallmarks: dark, quirky and hauntingly beautiful.

World of Goo has also won multiple gaming awards as indicated in its Wikipedia entry here:

World of Goo Wikipedia entry

Simply put, this is a MUST GET if you own a Nintendo Wii and can get online to download the game. Heck, if you can't get it, because you can't get your Wii online (and I certainly sympathise with you if that is the case. It only took me about 2.75 years after first getting the Wii before I got it online!) or for whatever reason, get a friend to download the game into your console for you!

One of the most absorbing games you will ever play. It is well worth ANY price you pay for it. Heck, get it on PC if you have to!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Old handheld LCD games: a distant memory of my youth

Went to the post office yesterday and I signed for a package that contained the following Nintendo DS game:

No, this wasn't another game I purchased. On the contrary, this was a game that was SENT to me, free of charge, by Nintendo Australia, because I redeemed the Club Nintendo points that I had accumulated from the purchase of games like Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros, Wii Fit and the like!

The Game & Watch Collection was the most expensive item in the small list of redeemable goodies and the best of the lot...who needs a Mario towel or a Wii remote stand or even a DS game pouch? At least this was a game that you could play!

Nintendo made its name in the 90s with those tiny handheld LCD games that you could fit in the palm of your hand like Donkey Kong, Octopus and Parachute. In some of the games, you could control Mr Game & Watch, this black silhouetted character that ran around saving babies that were flung out of burning buildings, among other wacky things!

Mr Game & Watch made a return to Super Smash Bros Brawl where you can unlock and use him as a character and he's pretty fun to use too!I certainly remember those LCD games that were all the rage in the 80s when I was a kid. While I did have some of the Nintendo ones, though I can't remember exactly which ones now, the ones that were really popular during my youth were the Casio series of LCD games.

I certainly remember owning Submarine Battle and I played my friends' Western Bar and Kung Fu; these three were the most popular games in the Casio series, especially Western Bar!

Compared to today's modern games, these three games (and all other LCD games for that matter) are extremely dated, but back in the day, these games were AWESOME. The hours I spent on Submarine Battle, trying to beat my high score! Wow. A nice trip down memory lane for me.