PAX South 2017: Picture-Puzzler Gorogoa Was Among the Best of the Show [Preview]
Annapurna Interactive isn’t a typical game publisher. For one thing, it’s not just a publisher; the games division is a branch of Annapurna Pictures, a production company with films like Zero Dark Thirty, American Hustle, and Sausage Party among its filmography. Also, it’s only got two games in its 2017 line-up, and both made waves on the PAX South show floor in San Antonio last weekend.
I made my way to Annapurna’s booth based on word-of-mouth recommendations for What Remains of Edith Finch, described to me (accurately, as it turned out) as The 7th Guest meets Grey Gardens. Edith Finch was wonderfully weird and one of my favorite titles out of PAX, but it was Annapurna’s other title, Gorogoa, that really blew my mind. Creator Jason Roberts has been designing and illustrating the hand-drawn puzzle game for years, and the result is something really special.
I mean, just look at it.
You know how, when you finally crack a tough puzzle in a game, you have an “Aha!” moment, the one when the imaginary light bulb goes off above your head? Gorogoa’s demo was almost entirely made up of those moments. Each panel provides a view of a scene from a story, and it’s up to the player to figure out how they all fit together in order to progress the narrative. Perspective is everything and nothing is exactly as it seems; zooming in or out, combining pieces of artwork, or simply moving a panel to another corner of the canvas can offer new views. Sometimes, when those light bulb moments occur, the beautiful scenes will come to life with a brief animated sequence advancing the story—which, from what I saw, appears to have some real depth to it.
A recurring theme in my demo was light, and finding ways to light up the darkness reflected Gorogoa’s clever mechanics. For example, one panel might have a darkened lantern or light bulb, while another could feature a starry sky. I discovered that by zooming in on both panels and putting one on top of the other, the bulb was illuminated, allowing the story to continue. It’s more than just moving panels; it’s about finding ways to put the story together and finding answers in unexpected places.
I sat engrossed by Gorogoa for a good 20 minutes. I forgot that I’d been walking for three days straight, that my feet hurt, that I was in a crowded convention center. I stopped running through my mental checklist of preparations for my upcoming flight. I stopped checking my watch to see how much time I had before my next appointment. I just kept sliding pictures from one panel to another.
On paper, Gorogoa is a pretty basic puzzle game. In execution, it’s something else entirely. It’s hard to get a complete impression of a finished game from a short demo session, but I feel pretty confident in saying that Annapurna’s Gorogoa is one of the most remarkable titles due out in 2017, and I can’t wait to play more.
Gorogoa will be out in spring 2017 on PC and iOS.