Friday, December 4, 2009

World of Goo (Demo)

World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game using Goo Balls—among the most unusual construction materials ever imagined. The standard black Goo Ball forms a semi-rigid spar when dragged near an existing structure. Other colors have different properties: green may be repositioned after placed, red inflate into buoyant balloons, etc. Each level is built around the idea of helping Goo escape out of a vacuum pipe positioned in some awkward location. Unattached Goo Balls run on the structure you created in order to escape and serve as a scoring mechanism.

World of Goo Screenshot

Prior interest: high

Of the first round of WiiWare demos, the World of Goo was the only game I'd previously played as it had been released with a demo on PC. Thanks to gushing reviews and a few minutes with the demo, I was already interested in the game. In addition, the publisher (2D Boy) gave away the soundtrack, which I always appreciate. Since then, they posted some thoughts on game design and sold the PC version of the game for, well, whatever you feel like paying. So they have a lot of my goodwill if not my money. The only question I had was if the WiiWare version would be a better choice.

Odds of purchase: high

World of Goo uses pointer control exclusively, which limits the potential platforms for it. On the PC, there is just one pointer: the mouse. The Wii has the ability to display up to 4 pointers using the Wiimote, which ought to be used more often by game designers. Super Mario Galaxy's coop play is a bit silly, but giving the second player an onscreen pointer turns out to be both useful and clever. World of Goo on WiiWare runs with the idea in that 4 players can grab Goo Balls and add to the structure all at once. For some levels, like the giant tumbler level that requires throwing up a tower quickly before the floor moves out from under you, the extra hands are very useful.

Ultimately, the multi-player option is likely to be the reason I'd buy this game. On the PC, it's a fun diversion. The demo shows off some of the game's tricks and certainly leaves me wanting more, but on the PC I'll just move onto one of hundreds of demo or adware puzzle games that proliferate on the internet. But the same game with another pointer or three turns into a community experience. For now, the demo can be pulled out when the family tires of bowling and tennis and eventually, someone will want to do more than just play the first few levels over and over.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits (Demo)

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits (formerly known as Icarian, a far better name) is a straightforward 2D platformer set in post-apocalyptic mythical Greece. You guide Nyx, an angel-like woman in her quest to find and rescue Icarus: a refreshing change of pace. Speaking of which, the pace of the action is appropriately slow to take in the spectacular backdrops Nyx is wondering through.

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits Screenshot

Prior interest: medium

NyxQuest represents a type of game I'm interested in: puzzle platforming in an atmospheric, well-realized environment. But this particular game has several issues that have kept it from floating to the top of my list. First is the ridiculous name and confusing name change. Even the official soundtrack uses the old name for the title track. Second is the LostWinds series, which seems similar to NyxQuest, has been well-reviewed, and now has two entries. Third, the game disappeared from my radar almost as suddenly as it showed up there. This has not been a well-marketed game.

Odds of purchase: medium

Playing through the demo level, I started to feel like NyxQuest had borrowed heavily from the 2D areas of Super Mario Galaxy. Both share a similar control scheme, beautiful backgrounds, clever yet not punishing puzzles, orchestrated music and 3D models constrained to a plane. It's hard to think of higher praise for a game, but unfortunately the demo came out a few months too late. I'm already playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii which scratches that particular itch for a while. That said, I'll eventually need something to fill that niche in my gaming and when I do, NyxQuest will be waiting.

In addition to providing a demo, the NyxQuest developers have a pretty good promotional website that includes an Oracle trivia game, which rewards the time needed to guess the answers correctly with a nice little prize.

Note to the LostWinds publisher: this might be a good time to bug Nintendo about getting a demo out for your series too.