Bob Dunn | Game On Review: Gorogoa a puzzle worth solving

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At their core, most video games are puzzles.

Even ones that, at first glance, might seem like the furthest thing from that notion — like the Grand Theft Auto games — are exactly that; a series of puzzles.

You're presented with an objective and its parameters and given a set of tools to use in order to complete that objective.

Then, there are the true puzzle games. The ones that force you to think in new and abstract ways to satisfy the game's own internal logic.

The appeal of those games is their "a-ha" moments when connections between otherwise disparate pieces become apparent and a path forward to the goal becomes clearer.

Gorogoa provides players with a multitude of those moments, wrapped up in a gorgeous, hand-illustrated package that strikes the right balance between challenge and frustration.

First thing's first: The game, designed and illustrated by Jason Roberts and published by Annapurna Interactive, is absolutely beautiful. Its vibrant, storybook-illustration aesthetic is a genuine pleasure to watch.

The game operates on a 2-by-2 grid, on which, a player interacts with up to four panels.

The panels can be manipulated in different ways, depending on the context of the puzzle at that moment.

Some panels can be pulled apart, revealing empty frames and doorways that can be combined with other panels to allow characters and objects to pass from one environment to the next.

In other cases, players can zoom in on specific parts of a panel, or shift the camera's view to one side or another, all using a simple and intuitive user interface.

The game communicates all of its information visually; there is no dialogue, spoken or otherwise. And, because of that, the first success a player has in Gorogoa will probably feel like the result of fortunate trial and error.

But, that trial and error teaches you the vocabulary of the game. The more you experiment with what's in front of you, the more you begin to understand how the "world" of the game works. You learn how to listen to what the game is trying to tell you in order to solve it.

Progression may be unclear at times and cause some frustration, but it's short-lived. The game's challenges never feel unfair and the puzzles aren't as obtuse and punishing as something like The Witness, for example.

Gorogoa does what the best games do; they make you feel yourself get better at it as you play.

Solving each of the puzzle sections is imminently satisfying in the same way as getting through each of the test rooms in Portal. It's a unique mix of joy and relief and a sense you're the smartest person you know for a few minutes.

Seeing the panels fit together properly and watching an animation you triggered because you cracked a piece of the game's code, is like seeing a magic trick play out right in front of you.

Each of Gorogoa's sections is limited enough in scope that a player can always find their way back from a dead end and subtle prompts provide alerts toward important parts of the background. If you wind up stranded, you won't be for long.

A first run-through of the game will probably take 3-to-4 hours, but there's an in-game achievement for completing it in 30 minutes or less.

That may sound short, but it actually feels like just the right amount of time. Better to have a shorter satisfying experience than one in which the game wears out its welcome.

It's also worth replaying in order to find the most efficient path through the game. As a bonus, those who complete the game can go back and play the original 2012 demo version.

Gorogoa is a unique and rewarding puzzle experience that could only exist in a virtual space and that space is well worth visiting.

Game on.

Goragoa, published by Annapurna Interactive, is available for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC and iOS and Android Devices.


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