June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Gorogoa: A Thought-Provoking, Elegant Puzzle | Touch and Go

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Here’s a puzzle available on multiple platforms including the iPad.

Gorogoa (Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive)

 

Gorogoa (Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive; iOS $4.99, prices top at $14.99 for other platforms; Gr 4 Up) is a beautiful puzzle box of a game. Its creator, Jason Roberts, toiled over its design and hand-drawn art for five years, before the game’s official release on iOS, Nintendo Switch, and Windows in late 2017. As of May 2018, players on macOS, Sony PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Xbox One can also download this intriguing and award-winning title. The game’s many honors include the 2018 BAFTA Awards winner for Debut Game, and Game Developers Choice Awards 2018 winner for Best Mobile Game and Innovation Award.

The game’s narrative is entirely wordless and presented solely through colorful, animated, two-dimensional illustrations, with music by Joel Corelitz.. Perhaps even more striking are Gorogoa’s mechanics: players interact with the game by separating, combining, and rearranging four panels, which change constantly from one sequence to the next. If players drag a tile (picturing a door, for example) from one part of the screen and overlay it on another, a new pathway suddenly opens. Additionally, both the iOS and Nintendo Switch versions allow the use of touch controls, bringing a distinctly tactile feel to moving the puzzle pieces between frames.

The story opens with a single window frame, through which a boy glimpses a mysterious, dragon-like creature winding through the streets of a city. He rapidly flips through a book, looking for some context for what he has just observed, eventually landing on a picture of a bowl placed below apples in five colors: red, green, yellow, blue, and purple. From there, the game’s play space expands to four frames and the search for these five pieces of fruit will structure the arc of the narrative.

The game’s built-in hint system (which can be switched on or off) visually highlights interactive objects and can help if players get stuck on a particular puzzle. Its striking illustrations and engaging riddles make it an ideal title to play as a group, since spectators can suggest solutions , adding an element of cooperative play and team problem solving. Art, English, and computer science classes will all find something to admire and analyze, whether it is the distinct art, wordless narrative, or elegant design of the deceptively simple, yet thought-provoking puzzles.

Gorogoa takes approximately two hours to play to its conclusion. However, its six chapters could easily be divided up across several 45-minute class periods or afterschool club sessions.

After finishing the game, players also unlock a demo (originally released in 2012) providing a great teaching example of iterative design, or the process of prototyping, testing, and revising a game as it is created. A trailer is available.

VERDICT Gorogoa is recommended for middle and high school libraries and is a particularly good choice for students interested in art and puzzle design.Thomas Knowlton, School Outreach Librarian, New York Public Library

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

Curriculum Connections

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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