Some games just need a touchscreen. The mouse and keyboard is no longer the prime setup, instead allowing indie developers to get their feet wet before plunging into the bigger, wider world of game development. And as we’ve seen with several games in the past, those barbaric user interfaces are no match for the elegance and simplicity of a touchscreen, especially when done well. World of Goo is one of those excellently done games.
First released back in 2008, World of Goo is a simple puzzle game where players build unstable structures to get across ravines or up magnificent heights using balls of goo, which connect similar to magnetic connectors. Players do so to reach far-off pipes which suck up remaining goo. The more goo left over (and thus the less used), the better the score. Economic efficiency in building is the premise of World of Goo.
Yet when I first purchased the game on the PC, it was uncomfortable, to say the least. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, just that it wasn’t fun or as precise as I’d have liked. Now, on the iPad, it’s clear where developer 2D Boy went wrong: they needed a touchscreen. Using the iPad’s large capacitive display, grasping goo balls to strategically place is equally based on precision and feel, and the speed in which corrections and changes can be made far surpass that or using a mouse.
Why does the touchscreen make it better? It’s faster and easier overall, for starters. Using a mouse, players can only pick up one goo ball and drop it wherever they want. Perhaps with even greater precision than a finger. But in every other aspect, it’s less capable. Missing a connector and dropping a goo ball, for instance, usually means losing it entirely unless you are fast enough to catch it. With a mouse, it’s simply too precise to get it. But with a finger, it’s so easy to select by just tapping.
The difference in tapping vs. clicking has its ups and downs. Some levels feature tens, or sometimes hundreds of goo balls in a tiny space, and selecting specific goo balls becomes next to impossible. One of the more difficult levels had this problem, where several special goo balls floated among far too many others. On the PC, that problem is much easier to get around.
Other things like multi-touch support speed up certain aspects of gameplay, but are more a convenience than anything else. But to make a good game great is often about getting the little things done right. On the iPad, World of Goo is a fun, challenging puzzler that will take players 8-10 hours to complete. Plus, 2D Boy was kind (and smart) enough to include multiple save files, so anyone like myself with more than one person using the iPad can play the game without worrying about losing their save file, something nearly every iPad and iPhone game is guilty of.
All this, of course, comes wrapped in one of the simplest yet most genuinely intelligent games to release over the past few years. It’s witty through minimal cinematics and a tiny, almost irrelevant but strangely comical story. It’s artistic in level and character design, which features colorful and highly unique scenes, backgrounds, challenges and grotesque goo balls with faces. Just look at the screenshots taken during gameplay and dare to disagree. World of Goo is funny, smart and demanding in all the right ways, and now on the iPad, that original design perfectly meshes with the control scheme it always needed.
There is no game I could recommend more for the iPad than World of Goo.