After my last mouse click, the screen went black, with only the word “Gorogoa” flashing. Those seven capital letters exploded from the void I had just uncovered by solving the last puzzle.
I nearly slumped in my chair, overwhelmed by the emotion I felt as I tried to understand what had happened. The game gave me some breathing room to do that, with a solemn song playing as the credits rolled. Then a single panel appeared. The game had started again. Turned to page one.
I’m describing this “end” moment because it answers a critical puzzle game concern gorogoawhich has been in development for an astonishing six years and was created almost entirely by one man, Jason Roberts. gorogoa is honestly short. After six years of development, Roberts has produced just over two hours of gameplay.
But that’s like saying your favorite illustrated book is only 24 pages or your favorite children’s movie is only 70 minutes. Like that kind of art, Roberts’ creation stands out because it absolutely works as a “play it again” plunge into spirituality, loss and rebirth. gorogoaThe clever game tricks and beautiful hand-drawn art will stay with you for a long time.
Roberts’ creation raised eyebrows in 2012 when he released a free, playable demo of the opening puzzle. Much of that original version still exists in the finale gorogoawhich is starting to feel like a successor to myst. You see a hand-drawn boy studying at a desk, flipping through pages, until he pauses, waiting for your input. Point your mouse until it changes from a cursor to a finger-shaped pointer, then click and push the scene.
What makes gorogoa other than something like that myst becomes apparent almost immediately when the panel you clicked moves to the top-left corner of the screen. As it turns out, gorogoaThe playing field is a two-by-two grid of four panels. And now, when you click on that original panel, you lift its outer edge. Click and drag to drop that frame elsewhere on the grid to continue.
This trick is gorogoaalpha and omega. Sometimes you’ll pull a box or border off a panel to reveal a whole new landscape underneath, which you can click through to reveal new puzzles. Other times you will realize that some of the contents of the panels align perfectly, perhaps in the shape of a door or a window, and you can combine them to create a new path. Still other times, you might notice that the left edge of one panel is covered in symbols… that line up perfectly with the right edge of another panel. Maybe you should put those panels side by side in the two-by-two grid and see what happens.
Those are just some of the awesome tricks involved in clicking panels, moving panels, combining panels, and more. gorogoaThe rules of engagement change in an instant, and entire, extended scenes can disappear with a single puzzle-solving click, leading to an all-new mechanic and new rules for sliding panels.
gorogoaThe best moments come when you click around the way Roberts intended, and that’s when his illustrative handiwork explodes. 3D effects play occasionally to improve transitions between its main puzzles, but for the most part, gorogoa is all hand drawn. Roberts’ artistic approach is very similar to the work of children’s book illustrator Graeme Base (animalia, the eleventh hour), in that each scene is full of intricate line work and hidden details. In many of his scenes, gorogoa adds the bonus of exposing more art by simply clicking on a scene.
Roberts’ use of hidden doodads can be a little off-putting if you’re determined to solve puzzles and don’t admire beauty, as some click-to-zoom moments are nothing but lingering over an incredible work of art. gorogoaThe appeal of “play it again” helps with this, as Roberts tells a whole story through his hundreds of unique panels. During gameplay, Roberts does a remarkable job of evoking older motifs and archetypes, such as the chorus of a song, which enhances the visual cornucopia of the game. Yet the second (and even third) returns to gorogoa is almost essential to understand the story and the characters. (Or is it just one character?)
at worst, gorogoa expect to click through certain puzzles in an exact order and not necessarily with rhyme or reason why. In my first run, I came across two “pause and come back” stub points that I already knew the solution to, but not Roberts’ favorite click path. These were annoying but tolerable. Otherwise, the game offers plenty of clues and organic nudges to guide you through the ever-changing rules and systems. Part of gorogoaThe brevity is that the puzzles rarely get in the way of appreciating Roberts’ visually rich world. (He’s also careful to reduce clutter and overcomplication; you won’t find an “inventory” menu or any other external system. Just click to navigate.)
Do you have children? Buy and share gorogoa as fast as you can. While this game is dark and gloomy, the saddest content is more a matter of tone and confusion than downright inappropriate material, and the wonderfully illustrated puzzles are no longer recommended for children. Fans of hardcore puzzles, meanwhile, should do their best to catch their breath while gorogoa‘s solutions and admire the beautiful story.
If you’re in a rush and feel like a puzzle-solving genius, that’s okay. gorogoa flips its own pages back to the beginning when you’re done. And you should definitely play it again.
- Arguably the most beautiful hand-drawn, hand-illustrated video game ever made.
- Panel sorting system pays off just as much with clever puzzles as it does with beautiful story-related reveals.
- Those moments when the solutions of certain puzzles are obvious, but the exact click order is not.
- Even as a short and sweet game, it’s hard to say goodbye to gorogoathe story so fast.
verdict: To buy.