Leave it to Gorogoa to come out at the end of the year, and completely up-end my Game of The Year drafts, like some character from Avatar:TLA destorying a carefully constructed cabbage cart I thought was safe…
Gorogoa is an absolute masterpiece of a game, beautifully realized, engaging and mysterious. Presenting a narrative through a series of increasingly inventive puzzles, Gorogoa is full of rich symbolism, and has a remarkable depth without uttering or writing a single word. While it is smudged by a remarkable difference in pricing between platforms, Gorogoa is undoubtedly one of 2017’s gems.
Gorogoa is an elegant evolution of the puzzle genre, told through a beautifully hand-drawn story, comprised of lavishly illustrated panels that players arrange and combine in imaginative ways to solve puzzles.
One of the very first things that I foundso engaging about Gorogoa is the utter lack of a UI, tutorial or instructions at all. The game simply leaves it up to you to use trial and error, experimentation and exploration to figure out how to progress the multi-layered narrative, shown a massive beast threatening a city, and then a boy’s idea of how to stop this beast.
(I know I extol the wondrous virtues of this kind of design a lot, but It’s my review, m’kay? It’s what I like!)
Mechanically, this involved you manipulating a series of vignettes. You’ll be able to zoom in and out on certain elements of these scenes and environments, and in certain cases split the scene into multiple parts, creating new scenes by overlaying frames or shapes over other scenes.
For example, one of the very first puzzles involves dropping an apple into a bowl. To do this, you wind your way through a scene in a front yard, zooming in on a crow resting on a branch. Then, you find a painting of an apple-laden branch in another scene. By putting those side by side, the branches seem to line up and meld. Place those two panels above the close up of the bowl, and the crow will fly off, causing the branch to shake across each panel and the apple to fall.
The gameplay in Gorogoa is wonderfully executed, and I never had an issue with sliding the panels around, or things not working correctly. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get stuck though. Gorogoa’s puzzles can be tough sometimes, particularly in the middle of the game.
I found that the first few puzzles were fairly simple and straight forward, introducingng you to the different ways you can move and manipulate the panels, and getting your brain to start thinking in the write way. Then, there’s a rather significant increase in difficulty, involving having to manipulate all four panels in the right sequence, timing and some incredibly clever ways of getting things to line up. Then, at the game’s conclusion, I found thing got much easier again, but I feel like this return fit the narrative Gorogoa was trying to tell.
Gorogoa’s story is full of symbolism and allegory, and isn’t told in a conventional way. There’s no dialogue or written explanation of what’s going on, so it’s all down to you to try to figure things out, and what those things mean. Time is out of order, and loops in on itself, with older versions of the main character providing you the pieces needed to help the younger version progress towards event that will shape his life.
Some people will no doubt find this too subtle and cryptic, but it’s exactly the kind of storytelling I love. What is Gorogoa? Is it an actual monster or a symbol for life inevitable march towards death? What’s the meaning of the fall? A literal fall, or a fall from the naivety of youth? What’s the significance of seeing people repetitively walk onwards, time and time again, literally acting like a cog in a machine? What do the five orbs symbolize?
There’s a lot of questions I’ve been left with after playing Gorogoa, and quite honestly, I intend to revisit the game and give it a couple more playthroughs. I don’t think I’d be comfortable saying anything too final about the narrative until then.
It almost goes without saying that the art and aesthetics of Gorogoa are stunning; rich with color and a variety of interesting set pieces. There’s an incredible level of detail in every panel, with beautiful filigree and designs morphing into whole set pieces.
There’s two issues I do have with Gorogoa, one minor and one rather major. First is the games short play time. It took me only around 80 minutes to finish my first playthrough, though I am eager to play through the game again. This is a short play time, but that doesn’t really bug me on its own, since it’s so well crafted.
However, combine that with the inconsistency in Gorogoa’s price, and you’ve got an issue. On the App store it’s $4.99. On Switch or Steam, it’s $14.99.
I have no doubt that this disparity has to do with different market expectations on different platforms, licensing fee’s, legal-talk, and other things involving very small font sizes. Here’s the rub: Gorogoa is easily worth $5. At that price, I’d say it’s an essential for everyone’s library. I can’t make the same recommendation at a $15 price point. Doesn’t change the fact that the game is phenomenal, but it’s not quite as easy to call an essential purchase.
Gorogoa is a phenomenally crafted piece of artwork, using the interactivity of games to help tell a beautiful, cryptic story. Due to the different price points, game’s length and amount of replayability, we suggest you absolutely pick it up on the App Store.