Have you ever played one of those games where it became immediately apparent that you had something special on your hands? Something so good that it may well fundamentally change the manner in which you play and think about games? Well this is Gorogoa. And it just so happens to be one of those games.
Publisher Annapurna burst into gaming with indie darling What Remains of Edith Finch last year and since then has announced a number of promising games including the console version of this writer’s favourite game of all time, Kentucky Route Zero. After the success of Edith Finch, Annapurna’s second publishing initiative was a curious little hand-drawn puzzle game by Jason Roberts, which launched on Steam in late 2017. Gorogoa is actually a title we’ve been calling for getting a console release dating back to PAX East in early 2017, and mercifully, it sounds like someone was listening.
Gorogoa is a puzzle game that involves the movement of four panels arranged in a square. Each panel houses art work, and within each you explore environments to find means of splitting the panels apart and recombining them to create new images. The explanation doesn’t necessarily do the process justice, but the puzzles are so intuitively clever that we want to take great pains to avoid spoiling any of them.
Boiling the title down to its most basic, the game is sort of a hidden object game mixed with environmental puzzles, but the literal depth of the images adds an entire extra layer to the way you approach the game. The catharsis that comes from solving the puzzles single-handed in this game is a delightfully exciting thing to experience. This delight is further expanded upon as the puzzles get increasingly more complex, soon involving many steps, and there’s a few particularly brilliant puzzles towards the end of the game that require multiple steps and quick timing as you have to shift the panels around to get objects to travel from one picture into another. These situations felt a little more precise on the PC, but if you haven’t played a previous version of the title, it’ll more likely than not be a non-factor; controlling the game on PlayStation is perfectly fine.
The game also has no dialogue, and there is no tutorial. You are dropped into the environment and it’s up to you to figure out what you need to do. Luckily between environmental clues, and a “ping” feature which highlights which items can be interacted with in each of the panels, the game does an exceptional job of not leaving you lost and confused at any point in the release's couple hour run-time.
The backdrop to the puzzles are equally important, as you “control” a boy on a search to collect a bowl’s worth of bright, multicoloured fruits. The puzzles see you manipulate the environment around the boy rather than him directly, and this includes jumping to other narratives through for the aforementioned separating of layers of the pictures. There are gorgeous fertile courtyards hidden behind some of the pictures, but for each of these, you can discover grim images, such as bombed-out war-torn environments. The art direction is at its best, though, when it doubles down on some of the more abstract stuff. Vivid colours pair with mandala-like patterns, and when these are in the midst of animations, the game is truly magical. Between the use of colour and the hand-drawn animations, the game is a feast for the eyes top to bottom. All of this gets paired with a phenomenal ambient score courtesy of Joel Corelitz, which brings an understated ominous component to it. We found ourselves a little creeped out by the music at a couple points truth be told, but the score is usually more of the calming, ambient variety.
By the game's end, the most impressive thing, though, is the fact that the title doesn’t have a weak link. Every individual element is executed to an extraordinary level and they all converge to create a puzzle game that can only be described as perfection. With such a low price-point you should go out and grab this immediately and get sucked into the incredible world that Jason Roberts has crafted.
Gorogoa is an immaculate puzzle game. Gorgeous art, beautiful but ominous ambient music, and mind-blowingly clever design combine for something special. It's a game like nothing we've ever played before, and with a modest run-time and low price-point to boot, you have no reason not to snag this outstanding experience.