Classic puzzle game World of Goo began the indie revolution in style
By John Walker, Contributor
The premise begins with the absolutely brilliant idea of building towers and bridges from bonding balls of goop. When joined together, they form more rigid and sturdy structures—structures along which other goo can climb. Since you have a limited number of goo balls, you have to create efficient routes for a minimum number of goo balls to reach a goal. These paths gradually become more complicated, with grinding gears to pop your little guys, then different types of goo which affect the types of bonds they can form.
If World of Goo had just kept to this formula, it would have been an absolute classic. But instead, it kept finding new ways to be inventively brilliant, with later chapters introducing entirely new mechanics. These include square goos and variable challenges that are threaded with a subtle and engaging storyline that reveals the true nature of the goo.
This is all presented with gorgeous cartoon art that had been absent from gaming for years back in 2008. Even 15 years later, World of Goo still stands out with its crisp, distinctive design, which has survived the ravages of time thanks to the timelessness of great cartooning. Add in a soundtrack that is still worth listening to independent of the game—and that absolutely shines as you puzzle your way through these levels—and you have a video game that entropy cannot harm.
But perhaps more important than any of that is this: World of Goo is incredibly fun. That fun comes from its smarts, certainly, but it also comes from its profound sense of joy. The plot may suggest darker tones—a grim message of the dangerous of overindustrialization—but it’s never without plucky determinism, and an overall sense that you can overcome the odds. It’s also surprisingly funny, especially when you consider that this is a game about building bridges out of goop.
Today, it’s certainly not unusual to hear about a tiny team releasing a breakout hit. However, 15 years back, before the indie revolution was in full swing, it was big news, and few games deserved it more World of Goo. It made millions of dollars, and the two developers weren't shy about sharing the figures, as well as detailed breakdowns of the number of copies pirated. They later accompanied their enormous financial success with an "amnesty program" for those who hadn’t paid ahead of playing.
In fact, it did so well that the developers—along with some other early indie success stories—set up a fund to help support others with great gaming ideas. It went on to fund well-known games like Tunic, Night in the Woods, Hyper Light Drifter, Manifold Garden, and Donut County, among so many more. Given this fact, it's no exaggeration to say that World of Goo’s legacy stretches over a decade-and-a-half into a web of enormous successes.