Acting as one of the most unique takes on adventure and puzzle games that I have ever seen, there was one question that I wish I had asked developer Jason Roberts when my turn trying out his upcoming title, Gorogoa, was over. The question would be “Just how the hell am I supposed to describe this?” Stating that it is an adventure and puzzle game is accurate in the same way as describing a disemboweling as an effective weight loss plan. It’s true, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. Fortunately, Gorogoa is a much more pleasant experience when compared to intestinal removal (box quote!).
Actually, the design of the game is nothing short of artistic genius. There are four comic book panels that act as the play space. The game opens with one show a young boy watching a large creature parading down the street. The boy would like to meet this creature, and wants to offer up a bowl filled with five elemental fruits when he does so. From there, it is up to the players to use the panels in inventive ways to solve the puzzles. One stand out example allows the player to remove a doorway from one panel and set it aside, allowing exploration of a brand new area that is revealed underneath. When a proper spot to place the doorway that was removed is found, the player can then drop it onto the spot to create a new portal. A similar idea comes into play when placing a picture of an oil lamp over a sun, lighting the lamp and attracting a moth, whose wing can be clicked on to dive into a whole new area to explore.
Moving and removal of objects also comes into play with the stacking of individual panels. For example, the is a museum display with two ropes. Zooming in to the ropes makes a dotted line appear at the bottom of the panel. Another scene might have a spot where the ropes will fit in perfectly when viewed from the correct angle. Once the angle is found, the dotted line will appear at the top. Attaching the two together creates a complete set of objects to interact with, allowing for a fresh puzzle to be solved.
It should be obvious now where the issues with describing the contents of Gorogoa come into play. The title plays out like a bizarre fever dream of non sequitur situations and deep dives into a surreal sort of madness. This resulted in some guesswork during the demo, as basic logic doesn’t quite apply the way one would expect. On the other had, there are ample clues both overtly and subtly woven into the art to provide direction. Many of them were helpful, while others made me feel incredibly stupid for not picking up what it was putting down. We’re just going to go ahead and say that playing the game in the middle of the crowded Annapurina booth, with the developer looking on, might have put a damper on my deductive skills. The only other logical excuse is that I am not as smart as I think I am. I don’t think my ego could take the latter.
It was promised that the incredibly different environments and scenes that played out during the demo is part of a larger story that will make sense as the pieces come together. It will be a tale told entirely through visuals and animation, with no text or dialogue to parse. Based on what I saw, there may be different interpretations to be gleaned, which is quite alright. That is part of what makes an intriguing piece of art, which is exactly what Gorogoa is shaping up to be. Different, creative and not afraid to take risks, Gorogoa will be one of those games that we’ll be talking about long after its release.