I'm so glad that gaming has come to a point where games like GNOG can exist. It's hard to imagine a time before the democratisation of publishing tools and changes in corporate attitude when quirky and esoteric titles were relegated to imports or only existed on the PC. However, since the indie game boom, it's becoming harder and harder to make something original, and even harder for it to get noticed. If you spent your entire year exclusively playing quality independent released titles you'd have little room for anything else.
While GNOG doesn’t re-invent the wheel entirely, it left me thinking about it for several days. It also left me desperately longing for around 20 or 30 more puzzles. Although few in number the each bespoke decapitated head that is in the game is extremely fun and clever. Combine this some truly excellent audio work and brilliant art and what developer Ko_oP has produced is a very good puzzle game whose length holds it back from greatness.
GNOG is available for Playstation 4. A Steam and IOS version have been confirmed for release at a later date.
GNOG is a puzzle game in which each level is a different head, each of which feature a series of levers and buttons that must be fiddled with in order to open further parts of the head, or reveal another interaction. Each head can be rotated 180 degrees as some solutions require interactions on one side which will have an effect on its opposite side.
The puzzles themselves aren't difficult, nor should they be. I found more joy in the revelation of how each head unfolds rather than any sense of challenge. In fact, the few instances I was stuck for a few seconds slightly lessened my enjoyment of the level. There's a certain flow to the puzzles that make the best of them feel like transforming a Megazord or Transformers toy. The journey is fun, but what you really want to see is the ending. Because the fanfare that happens at the culmination of each puzzle is practically worth the price of admission in itself.
However, the lack of difficulty also factors into my complaints about the length of the game. There is no getting around that GNOG is a short experience. While it is an incredibly bespoke and interesting one, after the completion of every level, there is little to go back for. It’s a shame because the concept is so well executed and memorable i’d happily play more of them, and I sincerely hope I’m able to in the future.
GNOG uses bold vibrant colours to give each head its own unique feel and atmosphere. The heads themselves are set on dynamic backgrounds that move and change in relation to changes in the level. The use of bright, solid colours is a great way to convey interactable objects. Certain heads also use colour as a mechanic. The few anthropomorphized characters in the game are charming and colourful. There’s a slight Parappa the Rapper feel to their design and it fits well.
GNOG’s soundtrack is composed by Marskye and is one of the strongest parts of the game. Each level is full of interesting low-fi beats and exciting melodies. Thankfully the soundtrack is available online as it’s the kind of ambient music that is perfect for working to, in fact literally as I type this sentence I’m listening to the track “head games” on repeat. The tracks also react to the level and in certain levels can be manipulated and remixed. I love games that let the player influence and distort the soundtrack and GNOG's implementation of this is something that elevated it from a good game to something I'll remember fondly for a long time.
All of GNOG’s levels are playable in VR. I’d recommend anyone with a PlayStation VR headset to experience the game this way. The game’s bright and inviting art style are perfectly suited to VR and even with this headsets limited graphical capability, the puzzles and backgrounds are a joy to behold. A puzzle in which the player must work their way through a technicolour boombox is a particular delight. The game's use of audio in harmony with the trippy visuals makes GNOG one of the Playstation VR's best experiences.
GNOG is an engaging if short experience from start to finish. The game has a central concept that is unique and incredibly well realised, it’s just a shame that there isn’t much of it. An excellent art style and soundtrack tie together a puzzle game that should definitely be on your radar if you’re interested in a chilled-out, relaxing and interesting experience.
|+ Excellent soundtrack.||– Relatively few levels.|
|+ Beautiful visuals.|
|+ Clever puzzle solutions.|