Gorogoa is a puzzle game unlike any other that I’ve experienced. It’s like the Inception of puzzles. It’s like trying to navigate your way through the Quantum Realm. It’s…incredible. Gorogoa has a story to tell, and only through solving its puzzles are players able to uncover the secrets it contains.
The game opens on a single square containing domed rooftops with a brightly colored creature stalking the cityscape. The camera pulls back to reveal a boy looking out his window and frantically flipping through a textbook to identify the creature before him. The pages of his text reveal an illustration of a dragon, similar to the one lurking outside his window. Clicking on the image to take a closer look reveals a drawing of a young boy and an older man raising a bowl with five colorful orbs above their heads. This image is significant and becomes the backbone to the game as the boy begins his journey to collect the orbs…a journey that may result in more hurdles than he bargained for.
The puzzle itself is laid out on a board made up of four panels, each containing different environments and puzzles to solve. At first glance it would appear the settings within the four separate panels are worlds apart, but by splitting the images from one another, stacking them, zooming in or out, and reconfiguring them you soon realize the worlds they contain are all connected. A painting on a wall could be a portal to another location or a star in the sky could be the light needed to spark a lantern’s flame, or the images on the binding of a book could lead you to a vast desert. Truthfully this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how these seemingly simple environments can expand or adapt into complex places. It’s something you just have to experience.
While Gorogoa is first and foremost a puzzle, I couldn’t help but obsess over the story that unfolded. With each playthrough I began to pick up on reoccurring images and themes; abandoned crutches, constellations, a moth to a flame. The game also toggles between past, present, and future; sometimes displaying all three timelines as happening at once on the board. For example, at one point during my gameplay one panel contained the image of the boy while another panel showed what I believe to be the boy as an old man. This may suggest that the boy spends his entire life on his journey to find and understand the dragon. There are several occasions throughout his life where he’s always thinking about the dragon, researching it, obsessing over it... If the moth represents the boy then the dragon is the flame that he’s drawn to. Is it a sick obsession? Can the dragon not exist without the boy, and the boy not exist without the dragon? Or maybe the dragon represents that thing we’re all chasing after... Or maybe it really is just a gorgeous interactive puzzle…
Designed by Jason Roberts, this his first game that he has released. Roberts began his career as a software engineer but in 2012 he left his job to pursue a different outlet for his creativity. He tried his hand at making comics and switched gears when he discovered he wanted to tell a story with interactive panels instead of static images. What he in turn created is the beautiful hand-drawn world of Gorogoa; a place in which feelings of hope and peacefulness are contrasted against moments of violence and despair. In a Reddit AMA Roberts stated that he wanted to, “create a world with its own culture and religions that parallels our own…just detached enough from our world to feel allegorical but real enough to feel grounded.” Sure, we don’t have dragons lurking in our midst’s but I think players can still relate to the familiarity in architecture, exploring the possibility of a greater being, or even the devastation of a city by a force beyond their control.
The score composed by Joel Corelitz subtly drives the story while offering a peaceful soundtrack in an otherwise complex environment. I particularly enjoyed how satisfying the music cues were each time I collected an orb and in hindsight, I appreciate how on edge I felt every time the music triggered that the dragon was near. Eduardo Ortiz Frau was responsible for sound design and was able to create an ambience that allowed the space to feel dynamic and bigger than itself. The sound design also builds the mystique that the board itself is solid while the world it contains feels distant and just outside of reach.
Despite the complexity of Gorogoa, it’s incredibly satisfying when you’re able to unravel the mystery hidden within each panel. Once the player learns one method of solving a puzzle the game expands on those lessons so you’re constantly building on the skills required to find a solution. It is because of this that the game is able to maintain a steady pace so that players never feel stuck. I played on both my iPad and iPhone and found that there was something special about the ability to physically touch the puzzle and interact with it as opposed to how a point and click option would feel. Having the ability to physically touch each piece of the puzzle containing intricate worlds made the experience feel like something straight out of Hogwarts; a magical experience right in the palm of my hand.
Gorogoa is now available on Steam, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Check out the trailer below: