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Joystiq hands-on: World of Goo (WiiWare)

Zack Stern

Cute graphics and sounds: Check. Clever puzzle mechanic: Check. Irresistible gameplay: Check. World of Goo hits the required bullet points to be an indie game darling. And comfortable Wii Remote controls make it a perfect fit to be in Nintendo's WiiWare lineup.

Players build simple structures by pointing and dragging living, bouncing goo balls. These spherical wonders extend a few arms to their closest neighbors, becoming rigid when the Remote button is released. Gamers have to figure out how to build bridges, towers, and other structures without toppling them over, all while trying to use as few balls as possible. In the end, they're trying to lead the remaining balls to a mysterious pipe that sucks them away at the end of the level.

I tried the action-puzzler at the Nintendo Media Summit and am anticipating its release sometime this year. (Developer 2D Boy says its work will be complete in the Summer, and Nintendo will schedule the release after that.) World of Goo felt great and could be poised to be an indie game that crosses over into commercial success.

Gallery: World of Goo | 5 Photos

Like most great games, World of Goo gradually adds depth to its gameplay. The standard, black goo balls first introduce the basic structure types, but I played with several other creatures. Green balls form three arms -- so players need fewer to make large objects -- and they can also be re-used. Balloons automatically attached themselves to objects when I brought them near, lifting a group of hardened goo balls up to their goal. And more ball types arrive later in the game. For example, 2D Boy developers Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel told me about the rotund beauty ball, which is too heavy to be lifted but can be prodded to the left or right.

The gameplay hooked me, but the terrific art, animation, and sounds complete the presentation. Goo balls are happy to please, eagerly hopping into the ominous pipes, squeaking and chirping with glee. This wry humor and style should lift the game above other downloadable competitors.

World of Goo will be released simultaneously for PC, Mac, and Linux alongside its WiiWare debut. Those computer editions will be nearly the same game, although only the Wii version will allow cooperative multiplayer. 2D Boy hadn't yet determined the number of people who can play at once, but at least two gamers will be able to point and position balls at the same time.

Look for World of Goo sometime this year, hopefully not to far from now.

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