What have I been doing instead of working on grad school admissions paperwork, like I should be? I’ve been building towers, bridges and simple machines from enormous, sticky, elated looking amoebas in World of Goo, that’s what.

My latest digital addiction, World of Goo is one of a recent crop of games (like iPhone app Enigma) that is compelling in it’s simplicity. It’s a sprightly puzzle game that borrows ideas from mid-90’s PC puzzlers like Lemmings and The Incredible Machine. Each level is essentially the same – your goal is to lead a small army of Goos, the sole inhabitants of each sprightly, garishly colored level, to a pipe that will transport them to a collection tube and open the next level. To do this, you turn a portion the legions of critters you’ve been entrusted with into structures, machines and simple vehicles to transport their brethren to the promised land.

The game play is inspired with a shallow learning curve and a lot of room for mastery. A variety of tasks await solving at the hands of skills most of us haven’t used since building toothpick bridges and pasta towers in middle school science classes. Laced with with whimsical dark humor and set against beautifully designed stages that call to mind Johnen Vasquez working with Doug Sirk’s palette, World of Goo is simple enough to provide a few minutes of time filling puzzle fun to break up the day, but fun and challenging enough to be addictive. Though according to the substance abuse professionals at Dutch rehab center Smith and Jones, addictive probably isn’t the right term.

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