When playing last year’s indie Flash favourite Little Wheel, did you ever stop to wonder where this wonderful world of robots came from? Developer One Click Dog is looking to answer that question with Mogo-Mogo, a prequel to last year’s popular robot parable that places you in the shoes of Bogo the Inventor. Be warned though, if you love Little Wheel, there’s a good chance that the only thing Bogo is going to invent for you is some pretty serious disappointment.
The Mogo-Mogo’s are hard working people – some might say a little too hard. They spend all day and night collecting food, never resting. Why? Because no one has ever come up with a better way to do things. Bogo, however, is determined to change that. One day while attempting to dream up his world-changing invention, he’s hit on the head by a falling piece of fruit and drifts off into a dreamworld… and his adventure begins.
Like Little Wheel before it, Mogo-Mogo is a free Flash-based point-and-click adventure that strips away all the bells and whistles of the genre leaving only the pointing and clicking behind. You won’t need to worry about things like inventories and dialogue trees here – all of the focus is put solely on the puzzles. Unlike Little Wheel, however, this is where things start to come apart.
The puzzles in Mogo-Mogo are, for the most part, over-complicated nonsense. What’s worse is that sometimes the solutions are blatantly obvious but seemingly impossible to execute. In one level you’re standing on the back of a whale trying to hurdle over flying red monsters – it sounds like a simple enough task, but Mogo-Mogo was never designed to be an action game. As such you’ll need to click a circle at the exact right moment to clear the monster. Even if you manage to get it, you’ll have three more monsters you need to jump in succession if you want to clear the level. It’s brutal. Other puzzles, like a musical game similar to Simon that has you memorizing 13 beats while trying to figure out where they all are on a tree, or a tunnel cave journey that has you entering one place and exiting another seemingly at random, are enough to make you want to throw in the towel quickly.
What’s really frustrating is that, outside of these moments of extreme difficulty, Mogo-Mogo has a few puzzles that are charming, fun, and offer up the same level of simple challenge that we first encountered in Little Wheel. Blending obstacles into the background by changing their color, for example, or picking the right baby bird to unveil the exit, delivered exactly what you’d want out of a Little Wheel prequel. Why the developers couldn’t have focussed on more simple moments like this and less moments of extreme difficulty like the ones mentioned above is completely beyond me. Maybe they took the criticism about Little Wheel‘s little difficulty a little too seriously.
The frustrating puzzle design alone is reason enough to give Mogo-Mogo a pass, but our biggest complaint has less to do with the puzzles and more to do with the story in which they were set. Little Wheel was a success in part because of its story progression, yet Mogo-Mogo seemed to have none. Sure there’s an opening cinematic that sets things up and an ending cinematic that wraps things up, but everything in between lacked any sense of narrative. Since Bogo is on a journey in the dream world, the developers saw this as an opportunity to create any sort of wacky situation and environment that they felt like drawing – but they did so at the cost of story. Visually the game is stunning, but with no plot progression it’s hard to get involved in the character or the story as you’re playing the game.
But maybe that’s the point. Maybe Little Wheel was an exercise in narrative while Mogo-Mogo is an exercise in visual art. If that’s the case it would be fairly easy to say Mogo-Mogo hit a home run. The dream world offers something gorgeous and unique in every level, delivering up a vibrant and exciting world that’s bound to impress even the most cynical of gamers. But you can’t sacrifice gameplay for the sake of art, and that seems to be exactly what’s happened here.
If Mogo-Mogo offered up a well-balanced game that better reflected the work the studio has done before, this would be an easy sell. But with some poorly crafted puzzles that offer an uncomfortable level of difficulty, Mogo-Mogo presents more than its share of gamer frustration. If you’re really looking for a great artsy adventure game to while away time on the web with, we suggest sticking with its predecessor Little Wheel or checking out the wholly enjoyable (and totally free) Alchemia. We’re not saying you shouldn’t check Mogo-Mogo out, just be prepared for some serious disappointment if you do.