World Of Goo

With film directors latching onto game properties with increasing frequency, players might look at World Of Goo and assume that Tim Burton finally brought his design sensibilities to gaming. But Burton has nothing to do with it. Created by ex-EA employees Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, World Of Goo centers on exceptional physics-based gameplay, not oddball design. (Though the wickedly cute graphics and Danny Elfman/Ennio Morricone-ish music don't hurt.)

The elegant setup asks players to guide a set number of goo-balls into the mouth of a pipe. Levels often begin with a small structure crawling with a few blobs. Between them and the pipe might be fire, a great chasm, or instant spiky death. Grab a goo ball and place it near the original structure to build a rubbery truss, then repeat as needed.

Structures will teeter as they grow high and wide, and eventually they'll fall, which might be exactly what you require. Gabler and Carmel have achieved an ideal blend of realistic behavior and intuitive control. Though puzzles never repeat and new goo properties are constantly being introduced (they can become balloons, flammable blobs, or impervious skulls) the question is never what to do, but how, which staves off irritation. And there's little incentive to rush. Unlike with most puzzle games, the most entertaining moments often arise from "wrong" solutions.

Beyond the game: The WiiWare version adds co-op multiplayer, which spices up the World of Goo Corporation sandbox level, where players build a giant tower of blobs—especially if one player is trying to sabotage what the other builds. You can test-drive tower-building at the Experimental Gameplay Project website.

Worth playing for: The unexpected variety of situations conjured from relatively simple base rules, whether you're using balloons to carry a long chain of goo over a deadly windmill, or firing balls into digital orbit in the Information Superhighway chapter.

Frustration sets in when: While trying to grab and place blobs of goo, your motion ends up scrolling the screen instead, forcing a readjustment, adding extra time, and killing your chances of nailing the level's (optional) OCD bonus.

Final judgment: Though the game's downbeat point of view doesn't quite jibe with the gameplay, the puzzle setups are irresistible, and the physics impeccable.