Every so often a game comes along that just baffles me. It’s not too common an occurrence, but every time it happens I can’t help but to feel intrigued – I mean, there’s always some method to the madness, right? GNOG is another one of those occasions where I was left bamboozled at what was in front of me, with the game showcasing a series of oddities in the shape of small puzzle boxes that each tell their own story.
Once I got past the initial confusion though, I found I could appreciate GNOG for what it is: a charming little experience that won’t really challenge the player in any shape or form, but will certainly keep them smiling as they indulge in the game’s oddities.
The first thing you’ll notice about GNOG is that its aesthetic is delightfully unique, with the game throwing a plethora of vibrant colours your way along with some fairly eccentric designs. It actually looks pretty childish, but in the most charming of ways – you’ll feel like you’re actually playing with a series of imaginative toys, with the game designers certainly embracing their creative side in the puzzle box’s designs. You never see the same thing twice either, with each box carrying its own unique vibe that’ll continue to impress you the further you play through the game. There’s a sense of innocence to it all that simply works; you won’t be able to help but find yourself carefully examining each and every box for any tiny detail you might have missed, with small surprises constantly popping up that’ll bring a smile to your face.
GNOG’s gameplay is unlike anything I’ve played before, with the game challenging you to examine and interact with a series of different diorama-like boxes, with each one carrying their own unique look and telling their own little story. In many ways it’s like a puzzler, although you’ll never really feel like you’re really solving anything. It’s more a case of interacting with each one and seeing what every button or object associated with it does. You’re given no clue at what you’ve actually got to do with each box to begin with, though with careful fiddling and interaction you’ll eventually figure things out. Nothing is ever obvious though – there might be buttons littered all over the box, but you’ll have to do a bit of tinkering if you’re going to work out what each one does.
It’s incredibly neat and a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time the directionless style of the game might see you actually doing things without realising it, but the novel approach of seeing these tiny interactive stories play out in front of you is pretty charming. It means you never quite know what to expect, which in turn adds to the sense of adventure you’ll feel as the intricacies of each box are slowly revealed. It’s simple, but satisfying to see.
A few of the later levels will challenge you a bit more though and give you tasks that don’t simply involve pressing a few buttons and hoping for the best. It’s in these levels that GNOG really shines, especially since it pushes the player to think a little. Whilst I enjoyed everything GNOG threw at me, I would’ve preferred it if all of the levels challenged me to think outside of the box (excuse the pun) a bit more like the later stages did. It would’ve certainly helped alleviate the feeling that I was simply watching events unfold in front of me, with the instances where a bit of a thought process is required certainly providing GNOG’s most enthralling moments.
The stories behind each level are incredibly cute too, with each box telling its own strange little tale. You never know what you’re going to end up doing: at one point you might be helping a little frog eat some flies, whilst the next you’ll be repairing a damaged spacecraft. Each of the game’s nine boxes offer something different, with plenty of surprises coming your way. Sure, they might be utterly bizarre, but they’ll always intrigue and entertain you.
It’s a pretty tranquil experience, offering you something simple to do outside of all the shooting of an FPS and brawling found in fighters. It’s just so easy going, playing in a similar way to other bizarre releases such as ’Noby Noby Boy’ or ‘Linger in Shadows’. Just being able to sit back, relax, and smile whilst watching each charming story unfold in front of you is nice though; it’s just a shame it has to end so soon.
GNOG will take you less than an hour to complete, with the game lacking any real form of replayability. Each box doesn’t offer anything new the second time around either, so there won’t be much to draw you back in for another play through. It really is one of those ‘one time’ kind of experiences. It’s not such a bad thing since the time spent with it is certainly a lot of fun, but those who want a bit more bang for their buck might be a little disappointed.
On the flip side of the game being easy going, it’s also one of the main things working against GNOG’s appeal. Whilst each puzzle box offers something different for you to do, more often than not they each follow the same procedure of simply interacting with different buttons or items until things fall into place. In many ways, it’s more of an interactive experience as opposed to and out-and-out puzzler; you don’t feel as though you’re solving anything, but rather watching a series of events play out in front of you.
This might not be enough for the average gamer. It’s not like your typical puzzler that’ll hook you in with tricky enigmas, but instead will have you tapping random things and seeing what effect they have on the box. It’s hardly taxing stuff, though seeing how each box plays out with its own mini-story is certainly pleasant. Those who want a puzzler that’ll actually challenge you and last longer might want to look elsewhere though.
GNOG has Playstation VR support, allowing gamers to immerse themselves and get up close and personal with all of the puzzling boxes of the game. It’s actually a pretty fun way to play – whilst it doesn’t really add anything extra from a gameplay perspective, being able to explore each zany diorama the game throws at you up close in virtual reality is a treat. The way the game integrates audio is complimented by the use of virtual reality too, with the whole package coming together nicely to offer an experience that’s just pleasant to play within the headset. It’s not a necessity though, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t own Playstation VR.
Whilst there’s no doubting that GNOG is a delightful experience, it’s also a short-lived one that doesn’t really offer much for the player to do. It doesn’t quite feel like a video game, but more of an interactive experience that tells you a series of uniquely bizarre tales. This might be fine for some gamers, but others might’ve hoped the game offered more of a challenge to the player.
Despite this, I find it easy to recommend the game. I’ve never played anything quite like it, whilst the delightful aesthetic and charming design of each of the games puzzle boxes constantly kept me entertained. Your time with the game may be short, but it’ll certainly be time well spent.
Developer: Thomas Brush
Publisher: Armor Games
Release Date: 25/04/2017
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux