STAFF REVIEW of Gorogoa (Xbox One)

Thursday, June 14, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Gorogoa Box art Every so often you come across a game that it stands out amongst the crowd for various reasons and is memorable long after the credits roll. To say the puzzle genre is crowded would be an understatement, so to be noticed in the genre you need to be different in some way. Sometimes right from the beginning you know a game is going to be special, like when you rewound time the first time in Braid, or you went through a portal in Portal or you fought against the Flood for the first time in Halo. While I don’t think Gorogoa will go down in the history books as one of the greatest of all time, it sure does stand out in a crowded genre with its unique look, style and gameplay.

More importantly, this curious little puzzle game is a one man show, created by Jason Roberts, first shown as a demo in 2012. Released late last year for PC, it’s now arrived on console for puzzler fans to enjoy. Hand drawn and made as a labor of love, Gorogoa will be in the back of my mind for quite some time, even if it has its own quirks and issues along the way.

Framed with a story, Gorogoa uses no dialogue or text, as it is simply animated and static images that are used to convey the narrative instead. It’s almost done in an abstract way, as a boy sees a fantastic creature in the beginning and sets out to collect five different colored fruits. I understood it as an offering of some sorts, but that’s what happens when a story is told in an abstract way, everyone will have their own interpretation of what they think it all means. While you may not understand much of what’s going on, or why, this is the gateway to the unique gameplay, having you click and move pieces across panels as you try and solve what you’re actually tasked with in the first place.

Your ‘play field’ is four square panels in the arrangement of a window pattern. Gorogoa opens with its beautifully drawn artwork in one of the panels, though you can move that particular one to any of the others should you wish. Some objects are interactive and others you can actually separate from the main panel. Eventually you’ll have four panels open at all times, each one allowing you to explore its own environment, delve deeper within it, or even combine them of sorts if you place them correctly adjacent to one another. Other times you’ll need to combine certain panels with others to create a new one, which can then be explored or separated even further.

It’s a really interesting gameplay mechanic that requires some getting used to. So many of the puzzles are cleverly created that I wish there was some sort of tutorial included. You’re simply dropped into this world and left to figure out not only what you’re supposed to do, but how. There’s a friendly ‘ping’ that happens when you click on a non-interactive section on a panel, giving you an audio and visual clue of what you’re able interact with, though there’s no other hint system in place, requiring a lot of trial and error.

You’ll need to think creatively to solve Gorogoa’s sometimes complex puzzles. Detaching a panel may give you an outline with a cutout that you need to match with another panel, or you may be able to zoom into a panel multiple times to rotate an object, etc. You truly need to think out of the box and the gameplay needs to be experienced for you to fully understand. It’s an interesting system that makes all of the panels share the same world and design, but at the same time they are different and isolated in worlds of their own. There’s literally depth in every panel you can play with, sometimes even having to scroll to the side to see other events unfold.

Great puzzle games reward you with those “ah-hah” moments when you finally solve a puzzle that you’ve been stuck on for what seems like ages. Gorogoa does this in spades, as you’ll surely get stuck at some point, but then you will feel a sent of great relief, and feel like a genius, once you solve it. Eventually the puzzles become very complex and intricate, though they still feel natural with a controller. Oddly enough, for my anyways, the middle part of the game was incredibly difficult when compared to the easier final section, something I didn’t expect.

Obviously your puzzle skills will determine your playtime from beginning to end, but I was able to complete it in a single sitting without much issue. I’d expect most people to complete it in roughly 2–3 hours, but there’s even an achievement for speedrunning it in under 30 minutes. Speaking of game length, even though it’s a little light on length, there is an interesting unlockable once you finish. You can actually play through the 2012 E3 demo, adding a little extra play time, but more interestingly, you can see some of the same puzzles and how far the game has evolved over the years and ideas matured.

The color pallet is beautifully hand drawn with many vibrant colors, and it has a kind of watercolor style to it. While the animations are basic, it has beauty and charm to it, especially when panels are paired together to work in unison. The audio is very light hearted and places a great backdrop for the journey before you, seemingly calming you even with your frustration when you become stuck.

While Gorogoa is an amazing experience, it’s a very brief one with little to no replay unless you’re chasing the few achievements you missed the first time through, or you may really want to experience it again afterwards with a better grasp of its mechanics. As a puzzle game, it’s unique, interesting and absolutely gorgeous. It’s obvious that Gorogoa was a labor of love, and it shows. Mechanically it’s ingenious and what it lacks in length, it makes up in quality. Quality over quantity is the perfect slogan for this unique puzzler that I’ll remember for quite sometime.

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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