Support your Indie Developers: Multiwinia and World of Goo.

As I write this, World of Goo is less than a day away from full release. Because I preordered it, though, I have already had a chance to play the full game for about 5 days, which was quite long enough to complete the main storyline (but not the majority of the "extra" challenges for each level).

I can't add much to the enthusiasm in my previous post, except to say that any fears of the simple concept becoming stale over the course of 5 different sections are totally unfilfulled. Each section (themed by seasons, except Chapter 4, which is Special) introduces new environmental features that can be exploited (or avoided) in your task to reach the exit pipe, new types of Goo that in some cases radically alter the way in which you can approach problems, and new elements of the frankly odd overarching plotline concerning the massive World of Goo Corporation.

It is beautiful, in some places poignant, in others surreal, and very much worth your $20.

Another indie game in need of some support is Multiwinia, the recently released multiplayer "sequel" to Introversion Software's second game, Darwinia.

Multiwinia was actually developed as the multiplayer component of Darwinia for its release on Microsoft's XBox Live Arcade, but as Introversion added polish and complexity to it, they decided that the final game was strong and complex enough to deserve a standalone release on PC (Windows first, OSX and Linux coming soon).

Compared to Darwinia, the setting is bleaker, and perhaps lacking in some of the original's charm - after the successful defence of the virtual Darwinians from the Virus infecting their host computer system (the subject of Darwinia the game), we are told that the Darwinian population grew and split into four factions, differentiated by colour, which descended into mutual, and apparently endless, war over the resources of their world. Every map comes with a small chunk of fluff text placing the location in this context of a fall from Edenic grace into internecine warfare, which becomes rather depressing after a while. 

This is, of course, just the excuse for Multiwinia's arcade-styled approach to multiplayer real-time-tactics gameplay, which is faster paced than the original's methodical approach, tending to chaos in the later stages of a game. The sense of almost randomness is enhanced by the addition of randomly appearing power-up crates which parachute from the sky to be collected by whichever faction is close by: these power-ups vary widely in power, some even activating instantly with negative effects (like infection with a deadly plague) on those Multiwinians unlucky enough to have collected it. Many of the other power-ups allow you to place items from the original Darwinia on the map to disrupt your opponents with (for example) nests of Multiwinian-harvesting Ants, or eggs which hatch to release Viral monsters across the area. Others allow you to enhance a selection of your forces with time-limited bonuses - faster movement, faster firing, limited invulnerability, weapons which subvert the enemy to your team, and so on. Finally, two powerups add additional unaligned factions to the game - white-hued "Futurewinians" who are armed with the abovementioned subversion weapons and assimilate the other teams; and black-hued (and possibly undead, from the fluff) "Evilwinians" who are possessed by a Virus-driven rage which makes them considerably more aggressive than the other factions.

As well as playing to simply eliminate the opposition teams, there are also other gametypes available - points-scoring "King of the Hill", asymmetric Assault/Defence, a statue-collection mode (like Capture The Flag, but with a serious change of scale) and two variants on complex resource-capture and retention gametypes.

The result is a somewhat light, very very arcade themed RTT which is quite sufficient to while away a coffee-break or similar. 

You can buy it on Steam, or from Introversion's website, or you can try the demo (just like the full game, but you can only play against the AI) for free from here.


World of Goo

With the output of large games companies increasingly coming to resemble that of large movie companies in its genericism and general lack of experimentation or innovation, we increasingly must look to the "indie" games developers for interesting new games.

2DBoy are one such developer, who became known for their entry in the Experimental Gameplay Project - "Tower of Goo", a physics-based game in which you have to build as high a tower as you can out of, yes, Goo. The black goo balls form semi-rigid links with any already fixed goo close to them, and by careful balancing of forces, you can construct towers of impressive height.

This was, it turns out, a concept test for the first 2DBoy release itself - the titular "World of Goo", which is released to those who preordered it on Monday (and to the rest of the world on the 13th). Building on the basic physics with additional goo-balls (the preview levels provided to those who bought on preorder include "balloon goo", which can provide lift to sections of your structures, and "Ivy Goo" which can be detached as well as attached to a structure and exerts more force on its bonds), a distinct audio-visual feel reminiscent of Tim Burton and Pushing Daisies and what seems to be a quirky and non-intrusive backstory and plot, what we've seen of "World of Goo" is highly impressive for what is basically a structural physics game made by two guys whilst drinking coffee.

Even more encouragingly, World of Goo will be available not just for Windows, but also for OSX, Linux and Wii - and will have no DRM on it at all. 

You can read the opinions of Real Game Journalists who played the whole thing at Rock Paper Shotgun, the world's finest PC Games Blog Called Rock Paper Shotgun.

There's still time to preorder it before the release on Monday, and it's only $20.