World of Goo: Conclusion

After you reach the ending of World of Goo, there are two avenues for pursuing perfection. First, each level has an “OCD” 1“Obsessive completion distinction, according to the game. challenge associated with it — usually of the form “rescue N goo balls”, but sometimes it’s “finish in N moves” or some other variant. I managed to pass a few of the easier such challenges in the smaller levels without meaning to, but I don’t intend to make a serious effort at it. It reeks of frustration.

The other optional challenge is one I’ve mentioned before: freeform goo-tower building at the remains of the World of Goo Corporation campus. This, I spent a considerable amount of time at, both after finishing the game and during the process, mainly while progress was slow. There are in-game suggestions that there’s something to see if you build high enough, but the end cutscene seems to suggest otherwise, that no matter how high you build, you’ll still be striving at the end. At any rate, I found this challenge fairly compelling, and spent a lot of time on it when I finished the game proper.

The next day, while at work, I noticed a unexpected variant on a familiar mental phenomenon. It’s not unusual for the quick but intensive training provided by a game to cause people to see patterns from the game in real life, especially if the patterns are strong, simple patterns that one has never had a reason to notice before. Many people have reported this happening to them with Tetris, and I’ve spoken before about experiencing it with Puzzle Quest. But this was a little freakier: I started seeing the slow wobble of a large goo structure in the unmoving windows on my desktop. (Source code looked particularly unstable, because of the slanting indentations.) I don’t recall experiencing anything quite like this with any other game. Seeing patterns where they actually exist is one thing, but this was seeing illusory motion just because my mind is primed to see it, like a long, slow afterimage.

At any rate, it’s a pretty neat game. Although many of the puzzles are basically variations on building a bridge or tower, it does a good job of always approaching it in a new way. Sometimes it’s the terrain that makes it different, sometimes it’s the available goo types. New goos with different properties keep on getting introduced until very near the close of the game. There’s inflatable balloon goo that can be attached to your structure to help it resist gravity, water-droplet goo that only attaches to one vertex and hangs down (potentially forming long descending chains, if that’s what you need), highly flammable matchstick-goo — come to think of it, all it needs is an earth goo to complete the elemental tetrad. I suppose that niche is taken by the stone blocks in world 4.

The stone blocks are not goo, in that they don’t move of their own accord and you can’t attach them to a goo structure, but they have two attributes found almost exclusively in goo otherwise: you can pick them up with your mouse and reposition them, and they have eyes. Little cartoony ones. Eyes of this sort are the lazy approach to anthropomophizing: I’ve seen them applied to things as unlikely as Tetris blocks and Pong paddles, game elements that really don’t need to be anthropomorphized. And it always seems to be accompanied by incoherent chirps and squeals from the creatures made anthropomorphic. So, yeah, I’m far from a fan of this aesthetic. But then, I look at this game and I ask myself what it would be like without the eyes and the squeals, and I have to admit it would be pretty dry — it would be a lot like Bridge Builder, in fact. Perhaps 2D Boy has actually figured out how to do this style right. It remains to be seen if the secret can be articulated clearly enough to recapture it in another work.

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1. “Obsessive completion distinction, according to the game.

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