This weekend I finally managed to finish Hob, and I’m happy to say it was as joyful and relaxing experience from beginning to end. But as I finished the game, I wondered where I could go next, where I could find that same chill gaming experience. Fortunately for me, the answer was already installed on my desktop, a very soothing and highly artistic puzzle game called Gorogoa, by Jason Roberts.
Gorogoa stars a young man who witnesses a strange multi-coloured creature outside his window. Curious and looking through his books, he finds references to a bowl holding five different fruits, which would perhaps gain the attention or bring him closer to the creature he saw. So he sets out to collect these fruits, across strange yet wonderful landscapes.
I call Gorogoa an artistic puzzle game because it all happens within a painting frame, split into four miniature canvases, each holding pieces of the greater image you are watching. You begin with one, but as you approach a threshold, windowsill or even mirror, these boundaries become removable and as you drag them to the next canvas, you see another image beneath, which you can then zoom out of and traverse. Sometimes the answer to collect the next fruit is right there, or perhaps you’ll have to extract even more of these image components, until all four canvases have pictures to interconnect.
Puzzles come from matching the images, perhaps a bridge with a certain architecture style matches the road on the other, so by placing them side-by-side, the character can move across to a new location. Other puzzles involve effecting changes on the nature of the picture by connecting them to others. For example, a darkened room requires a lamp. You have two images, one with the left end of a shelf, holding an unlit lamp, and the other with the right side of the shelf. Now, connecting them is not enough, as they’re balanced, but then you replace a few component images and turn two boxes on either end of the shelves into boxes of heavier or lighter materials, causing the weight balance to shift and moving the lamp to the right-hand side image.
As you progress the images becomes more complex, and collecting a fruit becomes an endeavour of multiple parts and though Gorogoa has plenty of trial and error in its experience I never found it stressful or frustrating in the same some point & click adventure games can be. Part of this is the astonishingly beautiful art. Each picture reveals a new wonder of light and colour. Darkened rooms and barren landscapes lead to gardens of vibrant tones. One frame leads to more, the images found within ever engaging.
But it’s also the music. Gorogoa uses lovely melodies, relaxing and soothing. Joel Corelitz does amazing work. The music matches the scenery and overall “chapter” you’re in but even the more intense or even darker pieces, especially near the end, meant to convey a feeling of despair, didn’t cause me to lose that chill, that zen-state I had slipped into while looking at the beautiful pictures and figured out the logic between them. At times, the melodies seem to blend together so that the only thing I remembered where certain tones, almost like chimes that punctuated this soothing puzzling experience.
My only complaint in this wonderful jewel of gaming, in this brilliant combination of visual arts, game mechanics and music, is that it’s not a longer game. Though who knows, maybe if it were longer, the effect would lessen over time. Perhaps Gorogoa is just the right length, a perfect dose of Zen gaming.
But now that it’s done, I must once more hunt for that next elusive title that will entice me as much as it’ll provide me with much-needed relaxation.