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Sliding puzzles and changing perspectives help create dreamlike stories with the power of imagination.

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I’ve always been fascinated by how altering perspectives can make ordinary objects appear completely different. Change the lighting a bit, introduce the right music, and a scene will send chills up your spine. A picture can invoke a sense of curiosity and mystery; string a few of them together and you’ve got the ingredients for a proper story. Gorogoa is a puzzle game that likes to challenge your sense of perception, and left me thinking for days after I played it.

When I was younger I used to play with these sliding puzzles around Halloween (my mom didn’t trust me with candy). The concept was simple enough: one space was open, leaving you to slide squares around to – hopefully – form a complete picture. Gorogoa works on a similar premise, only with the ability to move a piece of the picture to an empty spot. During some sequences you’re able to zoom out, move a piece of the picture over, and zoom back in to reveal another location.

You’re presented with a series of hand-drawn pictures that for some will feel unrelated or form a loose story. You start out with a small boy whose gazing out the window and catches a flash of color dipping in between the buildings. He ponders what it could be and ventures closer to catch a glimpse of the mysterious being. He thinks the flashes of color could be a lion fish and ponders collecting a series of what appear to be colored balls to complete a ritual.

Gorogoa forces you to think outside the box when looking at the pictures laid out before you. To see beyond the surface to solve a problem and see not what an object is, but what it could be. A star shining in the sky becomes a light when it’s captured within lamps; a painting can be a destination if you zoom in for a closer look. As I fussed over each picture and experimented with different combinations to progress, I created a story about the world.

Diving deeper felt like gazing into alternating timelines of the boy’s life. The town appears to be the same going from a war torn future to a peaceful existence where a man is wheelchair bound. He’s consumed with deep thought, gazing out at the wider world contemplating laid out before him. I like to imagine he’s a veteran who served in the war and was injured during his service. Or maybe he’s a civilian who kept gazing up at the stars and met misfortune when his eyes were turned upward?

My interpretation is leaping through time and seeing alternate futures and realities of the boy’s life. For other people it could be a passive experience where they see moving paintings or each character are separate people with no relation to each other. The sky’s the limit, literally.

Gorogoa is a game you really have to see to understand fully. Just like how a picture can say a thousand words, it’s difficult to translate the wealth of imagination that went into its creation, or exactly what you’ll bring to the experience. I can speculate on a story and the meaning behind it all, but even these moments are open to interpretation. It’s a charming puzzler that’s easy to consume thanks to bite-sized sessions, at least for the mobile versions. Check it out for yourself when you have the chance.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell