Review: GNOG

Developer KO-OP deliver a visual treat in this trippy PlayStation VR puzzle game.

The words ‘Double Fine have brought out a new game’ are usually enough to make most gamers take an interest. Although Double Fine are the publishers in this case and not the developer, they have cultivated a reputation for knowing good quality when they see it. The is certainly the case with GNOG.

GNOG (pronounced during the title sequence as ‘gun-ogg’) is a puzzle game on the surface. Each level in the game is a box resembling the head of some kind of monster creature, which contains a huge variety of buttons, lights, dials and levels that can be poked, pulled and prodded into doing something. The boxes themselves can be turned in every direction by using a combination of the DualShock trigger buttons and right analogue stick. Everything else is controlled with the left analogue stick and the X button. Curiously, it doesn’t use any motion controls, which is something of a lost opportunity.

The heads/boxes turn out to be little dioramas filled with complex worlds, which may remind children of the 90’s of Polly Pocket or Mighty Max toys. Everything you can interact with reacts to your actions, often with changes in the music and sound effects, resulting in the box-worlds playing a rather excellent tune when a puzzle is solved. The soundtrack in general is amazing, multi-layered and dynamic and really best enjoyed over headphones. Unless you happen to be lucky enough to have an excellent 5.1 surround sound set up.

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The graphics are amazing. Developer KO_OP has done an excellent job in creating a very distinctive visual style that makes everything look like it was built out of neon and candy. It’s very crisp and smooth, but the myriad colours can be a little overwhelming after a while.

Solving the puzzles inside the boxes/heads requires logic whilst following subtle clues from the environment. There are secrets and hidden trophies which can be found by performing some slightly esoteric actions within each level. There is occasionally something of a frustration in the trial and error style gameplay – especially when something that should work doesn’t the first time – such as during a sequence with the mother bird (this could have been a bug or a simple mistake).

A downside to GNOG’s visual spectacle is that it’s very short, with almost all the puzzles completed in a single sitting. While there is replay value to be gained from going back to find hidden trophies and easter eggs, there’s really not enough for puzzle fans. There are some other flaws as well, some of the levels feel like they could’ve been developed further, the aforementioned possible bug and the lack of motion control is really inexplicable in a title that relies on moving an object around.

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GNOG is an excellent title and well worth anyone’s time. It takes excellent advantage of the PlayStation VR functionality to produce something beautiful and striking, both visually and aurally. While it could potentially benefit from some extra puzzles and a bit more polishing, it is still a solid title and worthy addition to your PlayStation VR library.

80%
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