Critical Play: Gorogoa

For the assignment “A Mechanic and a Story to Tell,” I played the game Gorogoa.

Gorogoa is a puzzle game played in a 2×2 grid consisting of at most four images. The main mechanic of the game is manipulating these images to advance the story. The player can zoom in and zoom out of images, move frames, stack frames on top of images, and more. The player must find the connection between frames to create new scenes in the story or to allow something to move from one frame to another. The whole game is entirely wordless and gives no instructions. The developer himself chose the name Gorogoa from an imaginary creature that he invented when he was young. Since the word is not part of any language, the game and story become accessible to everyone.

The story itself is about a boy who reads about a mythical creature, presumably the Gorogoa, in a storybook and decides to find it with offerings of five balls/apples of varying colors. He spends his whole life trying to achieve this goal, but war ravages his city, and the boy becomes crippled. The game ends with the boy as an old man reflecting on his life, rearranging pieces of his memory, which can be represented by the panels that the player manipulates.

The story told in Gorogoa is meant to be interpreted by the player. For me, it evokes a feeling of sadness and makes me ponder the meaning of life. The game mechanics supports the story by not providing any words or instructions, allowing the player to fully interpret the story as they wish. If the story is about an old man reflecting on his life through memories, I think that the format of the 2×2 grid with four panels strongly supports that narrative. It’s as if the player is looking through a series of contained vignettes as they manipulate the panels. The story in turn supports the mechanic by hinting at what to look for next without explicitly stating it. For example, at one point the protagonist reads a book about a moth, which hints at the player to look for a moth among the panels. If the mechanic and the story were two intertwining melodies, they would be harmonious.

Overall, I really enjoyed Gorogoa. At times, I was lost and didn’t know what to do, since the game has no words to direct me, but carefully reviewing the panels again and thinking about what I know in the story always led me to the right solution.

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