Since the dawn of science, ambitious researchers have sought to create artificial life, giving rise to lab-born creatures with human-like intelligence, but greater-than-human abilities. After years of experiments and failures, a brilliant scientist finally attains what before was only possible in fiction: A self-aware, chemically created lifeform. In Goo Saga, you play as an intelligent, color-changing, amoeba-like creature as it navigates a perilous underwater lab in its desperate struggle to preserve its newfound life.
Goo Saga blends steampunk-heavy-industry and ephemeral glowy alien organisms into a weirdly disparate but stunningly immersive visual environment. Put simply, the game is beautiful. The music suits the mysterious, slightly dangerous mood of the game perfectly. The sound effects had the potential to be off-putting. It’s difficult to make the wet splat of a living goo ball against a metal floor appealing, but in this game it works.
In playstyle, Goo Saga bears a lot of resemblance to games in the Rayman series. Each area has it’s own dazzling artwork, there are secret areas to discover, the main character collects glowing orbs throughout the level, and must navigate a series of challenges that are part timing, part puzzle. Goo Saga is not as fast-paced as Rayman, however, and while challenging in areas, it isn’t twitchy.
Although the game can be played with a keyboard, a gamepad is preferable. I struggled with the default configuration for movement and jumping, but fortunately, key mapping is an option. The controls are simple to master, but they aren’t explained at the beginning of the game. Ordinarily, this would not be a problem, but I didn’t realize I could attack until I checked the settings screen to change the keybindings.
The upgrade functions in Goo Saga is a stand-out feature that separates it from standard platformers. As you defeat bosses or successfully complete a level on normal, survival, and timed modes you gain crystals. These can be used to power upgrades for the Goo character, much in the way of an RPG. Unlike most RPGs, though, you can change out your upgrades at any time. If you need to be faster to complete a time trial, you can put all your crystals in the speed upgrade. If you need a vertical lift to access a secret area, you can switch the crystals to the jump upgrade. Aside from the convenience of being able to choose the upgrades best for the level, you can also tweak your character to support your favored play style.
The levels are well-designed and not repetitive. Each level introduces a new enemy, challenge, or obstacle and builds on those as the player progresses. In one area the Goo has a chance to operate a vehicle, changing the method of navigating the level without altering the objective. As a result, the game remains fresh and interesting throughout.
Goo Saga offers a level editor, which presents so much promise but is ultimately flawed. I spent a lot of time attempting to create my own level. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the editor to work. I could make playable area, but could not add objects. Instructions were not provided, so it is possible the issue was caused by a lack of knowledge.
A level editor is not necessary to make a great game, but it is an attractive bonus. Goo Saga offers the ability to upload your own levels and play levels made by others in the community, which adds to its appeal. However, if an editor is provided, it should have at least some basic instructions included. Most importantly, of course, it should work.
As mentioned earlier, I struggled with the default key bindings for the game. I was able to change those bindings but was limited to keyboard bindings only. I would have preferred to tie jump and attack to the mouse instead, but that was not available.
A minor, but annoying complaint is the difficulty of navigating between levels. There are times when you may want to return to previous levels in order to collect a crystal or hidden area. To go back you can’t scroll to the area you need on the level map. Instead, you have to click on previous levels to access the levels before the ones you’re selecting. The further you have to go back, the more tedious it becomes. If scrolling is not an option, it should be possible to zoom out and see an overview of the level map so it’s easier to get to the levels you want.
Goo Saga is a fantastic puzzle adventure platformer. The world is beautiful, the gameplay is interesting, and while it does have some minor flaws, they do not outshine this stellar game.