“That fantasy, of the world itself being a puzzle,”
December 19, 2017 7:20 AM   Subscribe

The Puzzle Of A Lifetime [YouTube][Trailer] “A wordless, hand-drawn puzzle game in which people, objects, and places move across time and space; a game requiring you to let go of your perception of reality. It all sounded a little big. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Also I kept forgetting its name. [...] Gorogoa, released on December 14 for Windows, iOS, and Switch, was created almost in its entirety by Jason Roberts, a 43-year-old former software engineer. He drew the game’s gorgeous, intricate artwork in pencil. He learned how to animate. He painstakingly put together the puzzles, in which seemingly disparate objects and places across different scenes are made to meld together as if by magic. Roberts has been working on Gorogoa for over seven years. It is his first video game.” [via: Kotaku]

• This soothing, intricate puzzle game will make you feel like a genius [The Verge]
“ It’s elegant in its simplicity, at first offering what seems like a very basic challenge, before expanding to reveal something much deeper and more intricate. As you play through the three-hour-long experience, an ambiguous story emerges that ties it all together. There’s a young boy and a colorful dragon, and what seems to be a quest to find five orbs to soothe the monster. That’s the premise, but the adventure itself is more of a dreamlike adventure than a straightforward narrative. One minute you’re guiding the boy through some crumbling ruins, the next you’re trying to light a lamp with a star. It seems as though there’s an analogy about the various stages of his life, though it never quite spells it out. In contrast to the gameplay, the story and art are very serious with little in the way of humor or whimsy. There are scenes where you explore what looks to be a town damaged by war, and another where the boy makes a long, arduous walk up a steep mountain in oppressive heat.”
• Beneath four panels hide gaming’s most beautiful surprise [Ars Technica]
“What makes Gorogoa different from something like Myst becomes apparent almost immediately, when the panel you've been clicking shifts to the top-left of the screen. As it turns out, Gorogoa's playfield 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 Gorogoa's alpha and omega. Sometimes, you'll pull a frame or border off of one panel to reveal an entirely new landscape underneath it, which you can click through to expose new puzzles. Other times, you'll realize that some of the panels' contents line up perfectly, perhaps in the shape of a door or a window, and you can combine them to make a new path. Still other times, you might notice that one panel's left edge is covered in symbols... which line up perfectly with another panel's right edge. Maybe you should arrange those panels to sit side-by-side in the two-by-two grid and see what happens.”
• The magic lantern. [Eurogamer]
“But it's not just the mechanical cleverness that marks this thing out - not just the feat of cosmic paper-engineering that sees distant stars landing on living room tables or a crackling hearth fire engaging in all kinds of temporal shenanigans. It's the art itself, of course, which is detailed but never fussy, intricate but always readable and strangely calm, taking players to some distant environment in which fantasy and reason do not seem to be at odds. And it is also the emotional landscape that the art slowly builds around you, a place where everyone is careworn but just about bearing up, where the huge forces that knock people about have not completely eroded these people's sense of curiosity. Gorogoa is populated with scholars and dreamers, sat at desks with heavy books before them and turning beautifully illuminated pages, or slumped forward, faces buried in crossed arms as their sleeping minds conjure distant wonders. It is a world driven by obsession, and it is so clearly a product of obsession too. That you can go inside those illuminated pages, that you can go inside those distant wonders, does not really feel like so much of a leap in a place like this.”
posted by Fizz (22 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
I've been playing this over the last day or so. I made the 'mistake' of seeking out a walkthrough nudge near the beginning, but in my defense I was unsure of the 'language' of the game - I had purchased it merely upon friend recommendation, and hadn't looked at any trailers or articles about it. I've since steeled myself to keep from looking for hints when I get stuck, and it's pretty rewarding when I figure out how to progress. Lots of clever, magical little moments.

Beautiful game, and I'm already slowing down my game play because I might be getting near the end, and I don't want it to end.

Edited to add: If you want to keep spoiler-free, don't click on the artwork links, as they reveal some pieces/positioning that are 'solved'. :)
posted by wells at 7:37 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is a beautiful game and I happily lost most of my Sunday playing it. I'm still not quite sure I understood the final elements of the game, but I will probably play through a second time. The only complaint I have is that I am soooo very jealous of the art. It's so striking and beautiful but comforting at the same time.
posted by teleri025 at 7:51 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, this sounds nice. Has anybody played on the small screen? Does the intricate art fall apart on a 4.7-inch screen? I suppose I could play on Switch, but it's $10 more expensive.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:00 AM on December 19, 2017

I play on an iPhone 6+, and you can double-tap the tile/pic you want to see bigger, and it will expand to the top of the screen. It's easy to see detail, and it looks great up close. UI elements in the tile can be used when zoomed in.
posted by wells at 8:05 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

*cough* previously

The main article there was written five years ago - I'm so glad that he completed it, and very excited to play this!
posted by smcg at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Previously (like 4 years previously, when it wasn't complete)
posted by edd at 8:21 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I found out I don't really much like puzzle games back when I bought Myst since it was so beautiful looking. But I like the idea of them, and I'm glad this labor of love has come to the finish line.
posted by thelonius at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

...and I'm glad this labor of love has come to the finish line.

I'm loving that we're living in a time where these kinds of video games are being made with such craft and care. So much passion and creativity.
• Stardew Valley by Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone
• Cave Story by Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya
• Axiom Verge by Thomas Happ
• Papers, Please by Lucas Pope
• Banished by Luke Hodorowicz
• Lone Survivor by Jasper Byrne
• Thomas Was Alone by Mike Bithell
• Retro City Rampage by Brian Provinciano
posted by Fizz at 8:35 AM on December 19, 2017 [17 favorites]

That list being a list of games created by a single person.
posted by Fizz at 8:36 AM on December 19, 2017

I played this through in one sitting. Once you find out the way the maker of the game thinks, all the solutions seem "logical."

The art is gorgeous, and the slightly hazy story -- which I don't want to spoil, but involves a city and its traditional religion centered on a cosmic serpent god -- is thoughtful and lovely, I thought. I repeatedly gasped playing this game. Highly recommended.
posted by Rinku at 9:33 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fizz, don't forget:
  • Undertale by Toby Fox
posted by AlSweigart at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

I really loved this. I was considering waiting for a sale, but had some Steam Bux from trading cards and a refund, so I was like 'what the hell, why not', and bought it. Glad I did! The art is obviously beautiful, but there were so many wonderfully surprising and enchanting puzzle elements that I've never seen in another game. It really does get you thinking in a new way. I only used a walkthrough once, and it was mostly because I didn't realize a rather obvious interaction. Everything else was solvable through experimentation, and learning the language of the game. It never felt like an unfair, 'guess what the developer was thinking' moment, which is often what takes me out of a puzzle game.
posted by codacorolla at 10:55 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fizz, don't forget:

Undertale by Toby Fox

Indeed. As I wrote above, these types of games come across as very passionate works of art and I feel good knowing I'm supporting a smaller artist/company/developer when I make my purchase too. I picked it up on my Switch and I plan on curling up in bed tonight to dive right in.
posted by Fizz at 11:06 AM on December 19, 2017

For those of you that finished,

What did you take to be the overarching story / message of the game? I took it to be that the boy sees Gorogoa (I decided that was that the title referred to) out the window, performs the ritual with the five fruits, and then fails, because the offering has to be offered by both a child and an adult per the drawing in the book, and then all the other people we've seen over the course of the game -- the boy in the war, the man by the window, the other readers, perhaps even the boys performing the religious rituals you see in the three little implements, are that same boy over the rest of his life as he researches and worships Gorogoa, and then as an old man he returns to the tower where the ritual failed... and then what is that strange last little bit, where all the five darkened spheres are lit up again as you revisit the different parts of his life? It was beautiful, and I guess that's enough.

The bit with him at the window is pretty tragic -- on his calendar, you can see he's been marking the days, counting down to when he thinks the Gorogoa will appear again, but then it doesn't - you see the Gorogoa fade away in his thought bubble - and he pushes over the table and breaks his religious implements. So many little story details in this game.

posted by Rinku at 11:32 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rinku: Yep, that's pretty much how I read it!
posted by adrianhon at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rinku: I saw it as an "All Good Things" process where many things must happen at different points in time for the ritual to work.
posted by Ziabatsu at 12:11 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

So it's not available for us non-Apple folks who are looking for mobile game goodness?
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:15 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Quick spoilery question: does anyone know if there are any secrets hidden off the main-line of progression?
posted by codacorolla at 1:16 PM on December 19, 2017

I really had to squint on my phone to enjoy the detail of the illustrations, so I'd recommend a larger device if you've got one (Full disclosure: I'm old)
posted by gwint at 7:05 PM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Undertale I feel is a bit different from something like this or Stardew Valley in that Toby Fox had some help - he had some artist collaborators, for instance.

The whole "look at this person who made a game ENTIRELY ON THEIR LONESOME" thing feels extremely intimidating to me. Like, this looks great and I'll check it out soon, it seems like my wheelhouse. But as someone who's made a couple of small games in game jams and whose skillsets are mostly writing and Post-it Note flowcharts, it feels like if I'm not able to ALSO do the programming AND art AND music AND blah de blah and I'm not part of some megacorp then I shouldn't bother trying.

(It's probably no surprise that everyone on that list is male.)
posted by divabat at 4:14 AM on December 20, 2017

Plugging into my Switch for a while (a couple of hours?) and working through this game was a marvelous and well-needed experience today. Sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes it's simply amazing, sometimes it's a joy to see everything click into place.

Thanks for showing me this Fizz. It made a tough day better.
posted by cardioid at 2:53 PM on December 23, 2017

As a result of this post I got Gorogoa for Mr Mitten for Christmas, and we just sat down tonight and played through it! It's wonderful -- thanks for posting this, Fizz.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:57 PM on January 16, 2018

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