Reviews

Gomo – Review

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Platforms: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Fishcow Studios
Publisher: Daedelic
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

Though Gomo bears the Daedelic name it is in fact only published under the great companies umbrella, developed instead by the relatively new Fishcow Studios. Formed in 2011 Fishcow are aiming to make their mark in the point and click market with Gomo, a genre that is currently, in my eyes, dominated already by Daedelic and their numerous quality titles. The pressure for Gomo to deliver, then, is on.

It doesn’t. Just so you know.

The story is simplistic: your dog has been kidnapped by an alien, and the only way to get your beloved pooch back is by finding a mysterious crystal and giving it to the E.T. And that’s it. Seriously, there’s actually no more plot past this initial setup. It’s never explained what the crystal is, why the alien wants it, why he chose to coerce Gomo into helping or why Gomo already seems to know exactly where the object in question is. At one point you’ll even travel to the future because…reasons.

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The logic for this basic tale is because the narrative is told entirely without dialogue, relying solely on the visual style and animations to convey everything that needs to be conveyed to the player. It does this extremely well, but then again that’s only because the story is so simple. Now, there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with telling a straightforward tale. In fact it’s a common mistake of new authors to over complicate their work, throwing in more and more layers, characters and sub-plots while forgetting to actually flesh out any of them out properly. I’ll take a well-written, simple narrative over a complex but poorly told one any day of the week. But Gomo has taken this too far, leaving absolutely nothing of substance within its plot, and that’s a shame because through the silent protagonist a heart-felt little story of pure love and emotion could have been told here, subtle yet effective. Ah well.

Gomo himself is a sort of strange Sackboy-esque…thing who stores items by reaching around to his back and unzipping himself, hence the fact that his storage capacity is fairly limited. Gomo likes to travel light, and who can blame him when his luggage is rumbling around inside his…stuffing? He grumbles and groans faintly while his little legs scuttle away, trying to gain some purchase on the terrain. He has long, thin arms which can extend to seemingly infinite lengths to lift him up to high places and reach for shiny things. It’s also fair to say he’s a little clumsy, acting as the game’s shallow flirtation with slapstick comedy. His animations are simple, yet highly effective at giving him a distinctive and gently amusing personality. As he doddles around I can’t help but imagine him as a shy individual, kind to those around him but largely unwilling to deal with the hectic everyday lifestyle that most people are caught up in. In fact the unique art-style is Gomo’s biggest strength. It’s simple, abstract and almost a little Tim Burton, imbuing the game with a distinct look. Like with any visual style that’s quite far away from the norm, you’re probably either going to hate it or love it. Just take a look at the pictures and make up your own mind.

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Aside from its cute artstyle and animations, though, Gomo is a point and click adventure game that sort of forgot the puzzle part normally associated with the genre. The problems begin with movement: rather than being allowed to click and move anywhere on the screen as per normal, you can only wander over to a few given locations in any scene as determined by the developers. When you couple this with the fact that Gomo can only ever carry three items at a time and both the puzzle and the solution to that puzzle are almost always contained within one scene you’ll quickly come to the conclusion, like I did,  that there’s not a lot of scope for complex design.

At first, though, I was actually quite hopeful. It was like Gomo was stripped back to the very essence of what a point and click game was, streamlining it so that what was left was the undiluted soul of every adventure title. With some very clever puzzle designs, I mused, this could be an incredibly compelling game with simple yet elegant head-scratchers that mock the often convoluted logic that other examples of the genre exhibit. It would avoid the massive inventories of its competitors and the endless clicking that often came with it as players desperately attempt to combine random objects. I was wrong, through, because Gomo isn’t clever. Puzzles are so incredibly straightforward that it’s almost insulting. But at least to its credit the problems presented to you usually have logical solutions, like oiling some gears so they can be used to lift a box out of your way or using the key on the table to open the locked door.  The only time Gomo ventures into the realms of mangled sense is in a puzzle which asks you to shave a sheep. You see there’s a code written on the sheep’s body, but the sheep itself is tied to a hot air balloon and shaving it decreases the total weight, allowing the balloon to float free and therefore forcing you to use the nearby telescope to view the code.

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But while this might sound a little complicated when reading it from a screen in reality it requires only two clicks of the mouse to execute and the solution is so  clearly indicated by the game’s layout you’ll know immediately what to do when entering the scene. Even this rare example of Gomo venturing into the sort of odd logic used in other point and click titles is rendered completely forgettable by how damn easy to solve it was. In truth there was only one section (not the sheep) in the entire game that involved something I could actively describe as a puzzle, making me, for the first time in Gomo, actually stop for around 30-seconds and consider the problem at hand. In truth aside from this single exception there was not a moment within the game where I wasn’t running entirely on auto-pilot, mindlessly clicking my way through the thoughtless and basic puzzles.  This is the absolutely opposite of what I should be doing in an adventure game of this nature.

Perhaps I’m being unfair: Gomo’s official website describes it as a point and click exploration game. However, when analysed from this perspective Gomo still doesn’t hold up because ultimately there’s nothing to actually explore.  The environments, while holding a few little of mild interest, are generally uninspiring. The game is also linear in the sense that you progress from one scene to the next, never venturing back or exploring anything but this small, single screen slice of the world. Obviously adventures games have never been known for crafting open-worlds with exploration in mind, but many of them attempt to create a feeling that there is more out there, such as Deponia where a chunk of the game takes place within a city with numerous locations. And then there’s the legendary Monkey Island series: even though you see a relatively small slice of the world, there’s always the sensation that there’s more out there, and even have some idea of what it’s like. In contrast Gomo’s world feels hollow, merely a series of little screens to which I felt no attachment. I got no impression there that was anything else out there except for what I was seeing directly in front of me.

Gomo’s weird take on movement that I mentioned earlier also proved to be a source of constant irritation for me, because, you seem, it makes everything just a bit more awkward than it actually needed to be. Consider this: you pick up a key, and at the other end of the room is a locked door, therefore through the power of deductive reasoning you come to the understandable conclusion that you must set fire to everything. Okay, so that’s not true, you come to the conclusion you need to use the key on the door to advance. In almost every other adventure game you’d simply grab the key from your inventory and click on the door to send your character ambling over, but in Gomo you must first click on the arrow near the door to move over to that section of the environment, and then, and only then, can you actually grab the key and use it on the door.  You see, unless you’re standing in that particular section of the scene, you can’t interact with anything in it. This adds an extra, completely uneccesry click to just about everything, and makes navigating the world and solving the “puzzles” feel oddly clumsy in comparison to other titles on the market.

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Alright, so you’re probably thinking I’m making a big deal out of nothing, after all it’s just some extra clicking, and you’re not wrong. But the thing is Gomo is so streamlined, so barebones already, that it makes such an obviously poor design choice stand out even further. The puzzles are completely uninspired, and the fact that I have to put up with a movement system that makes no sense is simply the irritating icing on a pretty boring game.

Yet I can’t help but feel that I’m being far too harsh with Gomo, because perhaps it’s aimed at kids, and when viewed from that perspective it sort of makes sense – there’s a simple tale about getting your best friend back, easy to understand puzzles and a cute animation style which succeeds in giving Gomo himself a good bit of personality. Young children will probably quite enjoy it, although even they may find it remarkably simple. And short. You see Gomo is a little lacking in content, my own playthrough clocking at just under one and a half hours. There’s three extra unlockable mini-games, but they’re rather dull and likely won’t hold your attention for very long. Frustratingly to unlock them you actually have to play through the game again, hunting down pieces of paper in the process. Bafflingly the game doesn’t actually inform you that this is how you access the bonus menu, which is crazy because I doubt anybody is going to fire up a point and click puzzle game for a second time after just completing it. What would be the point? You already know the solution to everything. At just £5.99 on Steam Gomo isn’t exactly going to empty your bank account, but considering its length and lack of challenge it’s hard not to feel like even that low price is a little too much.

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Finally I encountered a rather strange problem during my testing of the game. For this review Gomo was played on a 37″ TV, and for whatever reason the game was only displayed as a fairly small square in the centre of the screen. I didn’t measure the exact size, but it probably would have been around 20″ or so. No amount of fiddling in the barebones settings menu could sort this.

And, eh, that’s about it. This review may seemly rather short, especially in comparison to my usual rambling articles wherein I get lost in my own genius, but that’s simply because there’s not much to talk about in Gomo. The puzzles are simple and dull. Say what you like about the insane logic a lot of other point and click games utilise when crafted their head-scratchers, but at least the weird situations and solutions tend to make them memorable. In Gomo the puzzles are neither well-designed nor memorable. Therefore that would naturally leave the narrative to keep player’s engaged, and yet again we find that Gomo struggles. It’s narrative is simple, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but fails to capture attention.

Yet I can’t bring myself to call Gomo a bad game. It’s glitch-free and does nothing that I could define as being actually bad, it’s just merely boring. When there is games out there like Deponia and the HD versions of the Monkey Island series there really is not reason to recommend Gomo to anyone, especially seasoned veterans of the genre.

The Good:
+ Interesting art-style.
+ Cute main character.
+ Manages to be mostly logical. Aside from the whole dog being kidnapped by an alien thing.

The Bad:
– Incredibly easy and simplistic puzzles.
– Very short.
– What’s up with the movement?

The Verdict: 2/5 – Okay.
Gomo is a visually appealing title, but as a point and click adventure game’s it’s a fairly bland experience.

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