This beautiful game is unlike any we’ve ever played. It’s unique, engaging, and has been born purely out of a need to tell a story.
Jason ‘Jake’ Roberts, who worked as a Silicon Valley software engineer by day, was in desperate need of a creative outlet. He filled notebooks with drawings. He concocted elaborate fictions. And he dreamed of bringing them all together.
“I wanted a project that'd involve every skill I have and force me to develop new ones,” he says. “I wanted to feel like I was making something in a new medium, even within the larger medium of video games.”
He laboured for five years on the ambitious puzzle game Gorogoa, named after an imaginary monster from his childhood. That’s a lot of time, but all the programming, design, and artwork for the unique puzzler are created by Roberts himself – and he really didn’t know how to develop a video game before embarking on the journey.
You wouldn’t know it, though, because Gorogoa is a marvel of incredible narrative and atmospheric design sure to dazzle and delight in equal measure.
The game’s intriguing storyline revolves around a character seeking hidden meaning in the nooks and crannies of the world. The way it all fits together. The way the relationship between the magical and spiritual transforms as we get older. Oh, and there’s a giant monster lurking somewhere in it, too.
Roberts drew and redrew dozens upon dozens of stunning illustrations to create a storybook presentation that nurtures an atmospheric world. But it’s not just eye candy. Everything has meaning and it’s all connected.
To play, you manipulate on-screen panels, each depicting unique scenes from the universe, and try to discover their relationship. In some cases, you’ll align two or more panels to expand a scene, and other times you’ll place one panel atop another to reveal an element you never knew existed.
The game effortlessly inspires awe. You’ll scratch your head as you endeavour to unravel tricky puzzles and then your mouth will drop when the panels zoom in or out to reveal new locations and items. It’s a rabbit hole that keeps going, and it has required a meticulous commitment to design structure and harmony.
“What I feel best about now is the unbroken flow from scene to scene,” says Roberts. “Even though each scene took a heavy-weight amount of design and planning and visual art to create, there's a feeling of freedom in the way the player's point of view can smoothly transition across time and space, into and out of memories, back and forth between real and imagined worlds.”
Gorogoa’s beautiful, mysterious, wonderful world may prove daunting at times, but the indie designer has some advice.
“If you get stuck on a puzzle, you're almost always pretty close to the solution,” he says. “You’re probably just holding on to what you think is a partial answer, but really, you need to let go. Take a break and come back to the game, or better yet, play with a friend.”