There's a world. In this world there is Goo that manifests in independant blobs. This goo is semi-intelligent, and extremely delicious (although the goo may or may not know this). Said goo blobs have the ability to link up with other blobs to form architectural structures. They also posess a strange urge to go into and travel through pneumatic tubes when they are available, or find the local highest point when not, for reasons known only to themselves.
This is the basis for "World of Goo", a physics simulation and building game that is as much art as science, containing both humor black as the night and juvenile hilarity. And gravity. Oh so much gravity.
Your primary role in the game is to grab blobs, and attach them to structures (made of other blobs) to bridge a gap between where you start out and where you end up, which is often a pneumatic pipe. The remaining blobs roam over the structure and attempt to find their way to the pipe. There is one flaw with this concept, which is that when your structure is small and there are many goos, they make it nearly impossible to get a mouse onto previously placed goo balls - frustrating but not a show stopper by any means.
There are several species of goo, each of which have their own distinctive ability to help you or occasionally hinder you, not all of which work quite the way the standard goos do. If you goof while building, you are given several "time flies" as you build, which allow you to rewind by one move by clicking them which prevents overly frustrating the player by making them restart a level at every mistake. Making your task more complicated are spinning death saws, pits of flame, general bottomlessness, robots, tunnels, rollers, cliffs, windmills, gigantic glowing.... no that's enough. There is, to put it shorter, a lot of crazy stuff in the way.
The game is broken up into 4 chapters and an epilogue, each containing several levels on a basic map that are vaguely themed together. There is also an area that changes its name and nature several times over the course of the game that is essentially an updated and generally polished up version of the conceptual precursor to the game, "Tower of Goo" which was part of the Experimental Gameplay Project.
As you progress, you are given the dubiously benign assistance of The Sign Painter, who has left signs sticking out of the landscape with various hints as to what you're supposed to be doing in any particular level. Why? It is a mystery. Sometimes your goals are straightforward, other times they are not quite so obvious, but the Sign Painter almost always has something interesting, and worthwhile, and usually hilarious to say that adds to the overall atmosphere of the game immeasurably. The quality of the writing extends even to the initial loading screen which lists such game startup tasks as "Challenging everything", and "Spinning violently about the Y axis". Load screen jokes aren't new but I do still appreciate them.
The art and design of the game immediately made me wonder if Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam, or even Tim Schafer had had a hand in it at some point. The heavy shadows and industrial set decoration at some points evoke a vaguely disturbing feeling of elementary school paranoia, but tempered with cartoony foregrounds and the boundless enthusiasm of the blobs themselves as they move about and exclaim things when they attach to structures (in a presumably nonsense language that happens to sound remarkably like sped up Japanese). The music is similarly multifaceted but always fantastic, some themes suggesting triumphant progress, others evoking a lurking doom, some entirely off the wall, but always appropriate. As in a good movie soundtrack you don't notice it until you consciously think about it.
The game is so masterfully crafted in art, music, writing, and design that I am somewhat reluctant to suggest it has a weakness, which is its length - like a previous gaming masterpiece, Portal, it is over in a matter of a couple hours. It does seem to be a case of "leaving them wanting more", though the game does have lots of replay value in that you can attempt to build more efficient solutions and get more extra gooballs for use in the World of Goo Corporation section of the game. There's also an "OCD" score for each level, which can be thought of as a theoretical 100% mark. These are almost always bafflingly difficult - but there is usually a trick to them that only needs to be discovered.
The game can be got from Steam and some other direct download shops, as well as on an actual boxed disc, the latter option costing very close to $20, half the price of most games of this caliber. The price is a bit more fitting given the limited length though.
As a side note, the developer (2DBoy) have entirely foregone any kind of DRM attempt, in the belief that the user's experience and goodwill are better defense than paranoia and self destructive overprotectionism - well done say we.
World of Goo - PC
This game would not look at all out of place as a network cartoon show. It'd be kind of dull with no one playing it, but even so, that's how good it looks.
Do you like physics? Do you like building stuff? Do you like Rube Goldberg devices? Of course you do. Here it is, play it.
Not really infinite, but close. Once you're done with the story you'll need more goo balls and you get them from optimizing your story levels to perfection. They call the high score "OCD" for a reason.
Ok, so the levels only last maybe 3-4 hours if you really chug on them, but that's not really all there is to it. This really is a piece of art as much as it is a game, so it kind of makes more sense to compare it to a music disc that happens to be interactive and 4 hours long.
Art and science collide in a joyous, experimental, gooey mass. This is exactly the kind of thing the industry needs in an age where most games on the shelves have a number after their names that exceeds the number the store have in inventory.