Gorogoa Blends Beauty and Grace

From the mind of Jason Roberts and publishing by Annapurna Games comes Gorogoa, a puzzle game wherein you reposition four tiles, and eventually the images within those tiles, to progress a story about a man on a journey through life and memories. It’s a wonderful, mind-bending puzzle game like you’ve never seen before, and in my time with the game, I was completely enthralled by its story, art, design and so much more.

The concept of the game isĀ  simple; there is a window-pane shaped grid where these picture tiles can go, and as you move them into the correct positions, it will initiate the pictures to move, which progresses the narrative. After a few starter puzzles, though, you begin to realize that this is going to get very tricky very fast. There’s a moment after the first couple tile moves where you take a layer of the tile off, rather than the entire thing. Underneath is the rest of the lower image that allows you to figure out the puzzle you were just struggling with, and then you realize that the frame that you just took off the one tile needs to be put on another to finish that part of the puzzle. The images shift around as we watch the man’s story unfold, and we’re taken to a new area, where there are new tiles to reorder.

As you link, position, and zoom in and out of tiles, a story about a man and his struggle of becoming an adult and missing the sense of wonder and exploration he had as a kid starts to unravel itself. The entire thing is told without dialogue, but instead through character emoting, “camera movement,” and images that give you a sense of the mood and scope of what’s happening. Our protagonist is Chinese, and apparently had a childhood and a family that celebrated their culture, because as you see into his past, there is Chinese art and imagery everywhere. And a lot of the tiles that take us into the man’s childhood are rich with symbolism, like a moving statue or a flying dragon. They didn’t hold back when it came to making Gorogoa an interpretive story, and that not only gave Roberts the freedom to make great puzzles, but also makes for a beautiful and interesting story.

And while Gorogoa is indeed a beautiful story about a man struggling with some of life’s hardships, it can’t be understated that this is a puzzle game. It gets hard, and as someone who isn’t good at puzzle games, it took me way longer to figure some of the tiles out while the people next to me were way ahead. The clues themselves are what tripped me up, but that might not be a criticism of the game as much as it is one of my skill level. The clues given are extremely cryptic — you have to interpret their meaning almost completely — but it’s a great feeling once you figure it out.

With What Remains of Edith Finch, The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, Donut County, and Gorogoa all coming out of new-to-the-game Annapurna Games, it seems they know when an idea is worth chasing. Gorogoa is new, fresh and totally outstanding from its competition, and it will be interesting to see how the game shapes up as we get closer to a release date.

Gorogoa will be out sometime this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam.