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Hands On: Gorogoa, A Puzzle Game About Pictures

You gorogoa play it

Stop. Look. Listen. Think. Gorogoa is a puzzle game which is part room escape, part jigsaw, part comic book, and in which your every action re-contextualises its imagery and expands your perception. It is serene, mind-expanding and best of all exciting.

Let me explain more. This makes no sense until I've explained it more.

At its most basic, Gorogoa is about separating, overlaying and connecting images in order to manipulate the worlds within those images.

But you're not just manipulating images. You're also creating an unusual movement through time and space. It's twice as mind-bending as using the portal gun is in Portal, as you shift characters, objects and your view not only from one side of a room to another, but seemingly between different realities.

I need to give examples. This makes no sense without examples.

The game is split into four squares, and in the top left square there is a room, and in that room there is a window, and outside that window there is a city. You grab the image and drag, and the window and surrounding walls come away. You now you have two images: one unadulterated view of the city, and one window frame with a view onto a blank canvas.

You find a hotspot within the image and zoom in on the city until you find a door. You do the same again, separating the doorway and forming a portal looking onto a blank canvas. You realise the door you left behind is now a small gravestone, the city having given way to a patch of grass beneath a tree.

Next you zoom out of the panel with the empty window, and find a room with a cupboard with a young boy inside. He's looking for something. You place the rooftop doorway atop the image of the boy in a cupboard, and he steps out, shifting from his darkened room to the rooftop.

I need to show you a video. This makes no sense without seeing it in motion.

This is the earliest possible puzzle in the game and the complexity spirals from there. You'll zoom in five times on the wings of a butterfly and zoom out once to find yourself in a room in a city that's being bombed. You'll connect images together, linking weighted objects and sloped shelves in one dimension with objects in another in order to make objects tumble between the frames.

As individual actions, these sound like so many other puzzle games. But Gorogoa is about unfolding nested realities. It's about disconnecting perception from reality in a way that makes you see the world differently. You'll start to come at each new image in the game with a new suspicion. What's really inside here? Stop. Look. Listen. Think.

Each of these puzzles is communicated wordlessly and that makes the experience utterly charming to explore. It's such an eye-widening shift each time you solve a puzzle makes that it's exciting to discover what comes next, and it will make you want to press on, to blow the edges off the next set of rooms. You'll want to show it to anyone you know who loves pictures, as its encouragement to always look closer conveys something of the wonder of art and comics and beauty.

You need to play it. This makes no sense unless you play it.

Luckily you can. Gorogoa is an entrant in this year's IGF and I played that expanded build, but there's an old demo from last year which adequately conveys the joys of the concept. Go and download it while we wait for the full release.

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About the Author
Graham Smith avatar

Graham Smith

Deputy Editorial Director

Rock Paper Shotgun's former editor-in-chief and current corporate dad. Also, he continues to write evening news posts for some reason.