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GNOG

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Developer: KO_OP
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

GNOG is a release that, by its very nature, defies description - to the point where simple discussion stands in dangerous proximity to the utter ruination of the experience as a whole. I came to this conclusion less than ten minutes into my first experience with the game; the most worrisome thought in my mind being "How am I going to explain this game to others? I canít even explain it to myself!" Finishing the game brought me to an epiphany: Iím going to have to speak the gameís language. If this results in a review that is more cryptic than most, I apologize - but if you ultimately act on the recommendation I give it, youíll understand why.

GNOGís primary function is that of an audiovisual experiment. As such, graphics and sound are of paramount importance. While the simplicity of the audio and visuals produces a hefty percentage of the gameís overall charm, both aspects are fine-tuned to work in tandem to produce an evocative experience.

In terms of the visual component, this is thanks to the art style instead of any particular technical achievement. Its cohesive, uncomplicated use of simple colors and simple patterns are a perfect fit for whatever the game is attempting to communicate at any given time. This is hugely important, since GNOG has no interest in direct communication. Text and voice are both almost entirely absent. Whatís interactive and what isnít is denoted by a simple change in the objectís color (and, for that matter, a lack thereof). I would imagine that GNOG is something to behold in VR; alas, I lack the hardware required.

GNOGís audio complements its visuals perfectly; itís just as effective as it is in games like Sound Shapes and 140. When you interact with something, you always get some sort of feedback Ė for better and for worse. If you do something right, the sound will unambiguously let you know; same for when you do something wrong. But even when youíre not doing anything, the sound is essentially matching the values of whatever's displayed on the screen; itís this synergy that makes GNOG special.


Gameplay:

GNOG is all about observation and experimentation. It condenses the most basic video game mechanics into a series of cause-and-effect puzzles. These puzzles are housed in a series of what look like lunch boxes with faces. At the outset, you look for things to manipulate and you then manipulate them in order to doÖsomething. Give each one enough time and poking around, and youíll eventually find some sort of pattern; a solution to the central problem that each box hints at.

Lost? I sure hope not; GNOG is far too brief to warrant spoiling even the simplest of its puzzles. All Iíll say is that each puzzle box has a sort of story to tell, and delving too deeply into the gameplay risks spoiling the experience Ė to the degree where it wouldnít be worth playing at all. Since I am ultimately recommending the game, I have to leave it at that.


Difficulty:

GNOG always implies its objectives, but it never does more than that. As a result, your first moments with the game may very well be dominated by confusion. Mine certainly were. I frantically swept the cursor around the screen, messing with everything I could in a desperate attempt to make even the vaguest semblance of sense out of what I was looking at. Eventually, it clicked, and I realized not only what the developers were going for, but the fact that they ultimately succeeded.

Just be forewarned: GNOG is very short and has absolutely no replay value. Once youíve seen what there is to see, there arenít any reasons to come back, save for if you have a PlayStation VR and want to show it off to someone. If you donít, youíll likely finish the experience in less than two hours and never touch it again. In fact, if thereís anything on the horizon that will have me scrambling for disk space on my PlayStation 4, GNOG will almost certainly be the first thing to go.


Game Mechanics:

GNOG is vanishingly light on mechanics; likely a direct result of its development as a PlayStation VR title, but also due to its inherent simplicity. Most of whatís here is purely contextual. This is going to be short.

You take control of a dotted circular reticle that can travel anywhere on the screen. If you pass over a point of interaction, the game will let you know. From there, itís as simple as pressing or holding the (X) button and finagling around with the Left Analog Stick until youíve successfully manipulated the object to whatever end you come to.

The other mechanic is camera control. Triggers will rotate each puzzle box 180 degrees, while the Right Analog Stick allows limited shifts in your frame of view. Regardless of your first instincts to use these controls to their limit, GNOG always gives you the tools you need to solve its puzzles.

GNOG is overpriced; at $14.99 for less than two hours of entertainment, it canít even match up to a movie ticket. Given its brevity but overall quality, I suspect this might eventually end up either on sale or free for PlayStation Plus members, so I would take that into account. It certainly isnít for everyone, but itís an easy recommendation for players who are into this particular blend of aesthetics and puzzling. I was personally left wanting more, in both a good way and a bad way. GNOG is an enjoyable experience, but it flirts with the future of its genre without ever quite getting there.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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