By John Young
November 03, 2008 at 05:30 PM EST

So, the sluggish economy has crippled your gaming budget and you no longer can afford those shiny $60 games. Fear not, for World of Goo has arrived.

The puzzle game, which costs $15 for the Nintendo Wii (via the WiiWare store) and $20 for the PC and Mac, has been my obsession this past week. The game’s objective is seemingly simple: You use “goo balls” to build a variety of structures — towers, bridges, rope — in an attempt to steer the balls toward an exit pipe. Yet, as your goo structures grow in size, they become increasingly subject to the laws of physics. What initially starts out as a handsomely stable tower will soon become a vulnerable Leaning Tower of Pisa (get a taste in the video below).

More Goo after the jump.

The game’s 48 levels range from painless tutorials to frustrating but captivating stumpers. One level in particular–“Upper Shaft”–had me baffled for at least an hour. But World of Goo is a charmer throughout. Its mechanics are so intuitive that the whole family can play, and its anti-conglomerate, tongue-in-cheek story is strangely fascinating (just wait until you meet Mom’s Computer). And the painterly visual style is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s most delightful drawings (especially his Stainboy cartoons).

World of Goo represents what may be a turning point for gaming. It was designed by 2D Boy, an indie game studio consisting of two people. Yes, only two. Kyle Gabler is credited with the game’s design, story, art, and music, while Ron Carmel was responsible for its programming. Along with Cloud and Flow, two compelling games made by a small group of USC students, World of Goo proves that you don’t need a colossal budget to create a quality product. You just need an original vision and the artistic talent to make it a reality. And perhaps a tiny bit of goo.