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World of Goo

So there are these giggling little globs of goo that you can drag about with a gesture. If you place one near some others, it’ll form a wobbly structure by connecting itself to them with squishy struts. And about half an hour into playing World of Goo, it hits us: this is Lemmings in reverse.

You’re trying to build towards this pipe, you see. Once your structure is high enough to reach the pipe, any goos you haven’t used yet wiggle eagerly up to it and are sucked to safety. But the ones you used to build your structure are left behind, fixed in place forever, wasted, ignored, spent – just like the traffic lemmings and the lemmings we blew up to make way for the rest of the lemmings to escape.

The goos that escape accumulate at the Corporation Headquarters - an open level where you can use them to build into the air indefinitely. Your current tower height is uploaded to a central server, and you’ll see clouds representing the height of your friends’ towers. It really rubs it in just how much better you could have done if you’d only been a little better at planning.

But World of Goo’s levels proper are much more interesting. The game has evolved from itsearly prototype, in which you simply had to build as high as you could. Now levels ask you to build over huge chasms and around fatal spikes, to wedge your structures in chimneys, float them with balloons, and even build on water and in a tumble-dryer.

Before long, you’re actually building your way out of a creature’s stomach. First you’ve got to make a raft on the sea of his digestive juices, obviously. Then you build a tower on that to reach his esophagus, whereupon churning muscles rip the top of your tower right off and physically vomit it out of the thing’s mouth. So you build upon its lips. And from there? Well, there’s no pipe to build toward. But the answer is surprising and beautiful, so we won’t spoil it.

That’s all in the first and most basic of the five chapters. There are more weird types of goo we haven’t seen yet, and all the levels built around them. Goo has all the gnarled cuteness of Psychonauts, the wonky genius of Armadillo Run and the infectious warmth of Darwinia. Actually, let us put that in terms that don’t require you to have played a load of games very few people have played: it’s cute, ingenious and heart-warming.

Mar 3, 2008