Gorogoa is still one of the best puzzle games I’ve ever played

Dear Polygon,

I’m many years into a period of chronic illness, which threw my life off the rails right in the prime of my young adulthood. I’ve got good at managing it, but I can’t deny how truly isolating, and quite honestly boring it’s forced my life to become.

But no matter how many years go by, and how many plans and hobbies I’m forced to drop, it never becomes any less of a treat to live in a video game narrative for a little while. When I’m too out-of-it to engage with some Hardcore Gamer Gameplay, I love having the door open for a short little indie game that is devoted to using the medium in interesting ways to tell its own unique story (many of which I’ve discovered through Polygon, I suspect lots of you share my taste on this one).

I do worry how many incredible video game stories out there get overlooked, that find innovative ways to get across beautiful moving narratives and yet fly under the radar for all but a dedicated few. If anyone knows about this kind of hidden gem, it’s Polygon Dot Com.

So I suppose I just want to know what games left big narrative impacts on you! What games provided characters and plotlines that left you enormously invested in a whole other world, even if only for a short while. It’s nice to live in someone else’s story when there isn’t much going on in your own anymore.

Thanks Polygon, and as we all love to say, keep on gamin’ in the free world.

—Sam

Hi, Sam!

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Chronic illness is hard — really, really hard. There’s been a period of time in my life where I’ve been very sick, and stuck at home for six months to a year. It’s so isolating, and I can absolutely relate to the ways video games help me feel more connected.

When I was recovering from a heart disease, getting really, really invested in League of Legends esports helped me feel like I was part of a community. It wasn’t something I actually shared with people in my day-to-day life, but just getting to know these players and this brilliant, complex game through competitive matches still made me feel like I was involved in something exciting, even when I had to be on bedrest.

gorogoa, with four panels. a bug, masks, a doorway Image: Jason Roberts/Annapurna Interactive

When I read your Dear Polygon letter, one game immediately came to mind: Jason Roberts and publisher Annapurna Interactive’s Gorogoa. I played it on PC, but I think it’d be pretty neat on mobile, too. It’s a puzzle game that takes place in a two-by-two grid where each square (sometimes all four, sometimes fewer) contains interactive images. You solve the puzzles by clicking on elements in each of these images or moving them to a different location in the grid. Sometimes this means connecting these illustrated squares into one contiguous image, or layering one on top of another — usually a window or a doorway — to combine them. When you’ve “solved” each step of the puzzle, it triggers an animation, moving the game forward.

I think it can be hard to explain how this works in actuality, so here are a few examples: There are two illustrated tiles in this grid, with one depicting an apple tree and another with a bowl. Move each of those squares such that the bowl is placed under the apple about to fall from the tree. The apple will drop from one image into the other, and the story will advance. Similarly, another puzzle involves creating a pathway for a ball to roll off a shelf and into another world. It’s much easier to see how this works via the trailer:

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Gorogoa is short and sweet, at around two to three hours. But through these individual puzzles, it builds toward a story about a boy and a monster, exploring themes of destruction and rebirth. It came out on iOS, PC, and Nintendo Switch in 2017, but it’s also available on PlayStation, Xbox, and Android as of 2018 — so you’ve got a lot of options on where to find it. I’d love to hear what you think; the story is even more remarkable for being told entirely without words. It fascinates me how I can be so invested in a game where I don’t even know the main character’s name.

I’ve never played anything like Gorogoa, and I still think about it a lot, even all these years later. I hope it’s a world you’re also able to fall into and connect with.