The puzzles in Gorogoa begin with just a single panel, a single story, a single perspective. A colorful, dragon-like creature rolls down a street, partially obscured by the roofs of buildings in a quaint town. With the click of a minus sign, the camera pulls back, re-centering the image of the town, which is now glimpsed through a window frame. As a boy gazes at the creature in awe, the camera pans back again, the panel now set on a grid of four adjacent squares. The game gives you no directions, only an invitation to experiment, to perhaps move that panel from one square to another. When you do so, Gorogoa’s simple mechanic springs to life, for there are now two panels: one is the familiar image of those rooftops, and the other is the window itself, now looking out at an empty whiteness of infinite possibility.
Gorogoa’s controls never get any more complicated than that. Panels can sometimes be zoomed in and out of, or panned from side to side, and they can be overlapped or connected adjacently to make new images and connections. By keeping things so simple, the game is able to keep our focus entirely on the joy of discovery, delivering a striking visual metaphor for the way in which we form memories and, from those, tell stories.
By keeping things so simple, the game is able to keep our focus entirely on the joy of discovery.
This concept is made concrete by the haunting passage of time within the game, for it soon becomes clear that many of the panels, despite occasionally interlocking and sharing a fixed space, often depict moments from different points in the boy’s life. Accordingly, the puzzles grow more elaborate throughout his adolescent years and adulthood before slowly becoming simpler when he’s in his senescence. The panels with the boy alone involve interactions with simple, pretty pictures—of a black raven atop a branch, a red apple hanging from a tree, and a blue bowl sitting on a pedestal—that spring to life when properly aligned. In his teenage phase, the panels are already in motion, and must be carefully moved so as to account for the objects within them. And later, in his adult life, you must multitask, overlaying panels to create an object that might serve as a catalyst in yet another image.
Like Fez and Monument Valley, only in 2D, Gorogoa combines the abstract with the exact, sometimes requiring you to toy with painterly techniques (such as optical illusions) to progress. At first, it might seem frustrating that the game’s solutions are entirely within the box; you can move the panels in a myriad of ways, but only a few arrangements will actually yield results. But what makes Gorogoa feel like far more than a paint-by-numbers affair is the elegance of those connections, the creative way in which the various elements combine to make something far greater than each individual part.
In the game’s climax, the camera pans up a tower that shifts from a colorful structure to a grayish war-torn ruin to a scaffolded restoration until finally being whole again, signifying the process of rebirth without a single word. At the top of that tower, the boy dreams of the old man he becomes, or perhaps the wizened man remembers the child he once was. Which is to say that, as with so many of its puzzles, Gorogoa is content to be a matter of perspective.