Nearly five years ago, at my first IndieCade East, I was amazed by what games could do. The feelings they evoked in me, the anxiety, the joy – that weekend helped solidify in me that games were more than just an activity. Sometimes, they could be an experience, one that was unique, evocative, and memorable.
Unsurprisingly, one of the games I played that cold weekend in New York City was the hauntingly beautiful Gorogoa.
Platforms: Mobile, PC, Switch (Version Played)
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Jason Roberts
Genre: Hand-Drawn Picture Puzzler
Release Date: December 14, 2017
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Released on December 14th, Gorogoa has been a long time coming. The entire game was hand-drawn, developed, and designed by Jason Roberts, and it’s astounding that one person was able to not just create such a viscerally satisfying puzzle, but also that he was able to make it so gorgeous.
The nature of the puzzles in Gorogoa are quite distinct. Players are given four images within a two-by-two grid, and the they’ll need to move them around to form new visual combinations. For example, multiple images can be put together in the correct way to set off an animation, so a character could activate a puzzle by moving a doorway from one image to a doorway in another image.. Some of these interactions and puzzles are far too clever, at times comically pushing out an “a-ha!” when you’ve discovered the key.
Your main goal is implied to you early on. You are a young boy, and you see a creature in the background – beautiful, colorful, and mysterious – as it ducks behind buildings. Looking through a book, you find an image, and you strive to recreate what that image suggests. Is it to summon the creature, to see it just once close up? Is the creature the titular Gorogoa? The mystery lies in more than just the creature, as the lack of language altogether leaves everything up to interpretation, allowing anyone to pick up the game and interpret it however they want to.
Sadly, there’s no real way for me to express just how pleasant and ingenious this game is without giving examples, and I would never want to spoil even one of these puzzles for someone who hasn’t had a chance to play the game. While the game is quick – lasting just a few hours – it’s well worth the $14.99 price tag if only for those satisfying moments. If you enjoy puzzles, especially ones that are beautiful and clever, this is a must-have addition for you. I played it on the Switch and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the controls translated to Nintendo’s console.
The musical composition is also excellently done by Joel Corelitz. With previous credits ranging from Hohokum to The Unfinished Swan, Corelitz’s style fits in perfectly here. Audio and visual cues work together to let you know you’re on the right track, or that you’ve solved part of a puzzle. And the music is also calming and charming enough that, if you need to put the game down to get something else done, it’s not repetitive or annoying in the background.
When we talk about the success and failure of indie games, we often focus on things like polish, feedback, and length of game. Gorogoa’s polish is incontestable, its puzzles are intuitive, and while the game is short, the satisfaction it delivers is divine. Giving this game your time and money is more than just supporting indie games – it’s supporting the idea that games are art. Jason Roberts is truly an artist, and this, his greatest masterpiece, is worth buying, playing, and cherishing.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Gorogoa was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.