Remember when we used to have board game nights? Games like Werewolf, Mafia, Resistance, and Avalon provided the fun that comes with successfully deducing identities and pretending to be villains among heroes. Gnosia replicates this thrilling and suspenseful experience that potentially ruins friendships. This time, your friends are intergalactic space travelers on the run from the invasive threat of the Gnos – infecting innocent humans with the “Gnosia” disease. Developed by Japanese company Petit Depot, Gnosia has the same charm and character-driven suspense of the popular series like Danganronpa, as well as the eerie time-based mysteries of Zero Escape.
Gnosia is now available on Nintendo Switch, and was originally exclusive to the PlayStation Vita, for your regional pricing.
Story – Let’s Do the (Space and) Time Warp Again
Your character starts out with amnesia (surprise, surprise), and you find yourself in a spacecraft holding a variety of characters trying to suss out who has the deadly Gnosia infection – a species of alien lifeform hellbent on the destruction of humankind. The goal of these interlopers is to take over the craft in order to offer the humans to the Gnos race.
Each character has their own biases and motivations for who they accuse and cover for in this game of trust. You will be plunged into the game right off the bat, with only Setsu as your friend and guide – except when they’re not! Soon it’s revealed that in the time loops, Setsu and yourself can be Gnos during any round.
As you play along, more roles are revealed – Engineers, Doctors, Guards, AC Followers, Guardian Angels, and Bugs throw in more difficulty and excitement in each round. You are then encouraged to try out many scenarios to trigger events, learn more about your crewmates, and unravel the reason you are stuck living in a horrific sci-fi Groundhog Day.
Not only is the mystery of the Gnosia slowly revealed through the looping narrative, but the nature of your fellow passengers becomes apparent as well. Whether they are infected or not, their personality largely stays the same. I enjoyed the fact that as you become friends and enemies with these characters, they begin to divulge their histories and connections, revealing emotions and morals that you can use for and against them during the deadly debates. This becomes a compelling reason to push through the story and play as many loops as you can – you’ll probably find yourself with a favorite character as you go along! I know I did, and that just goes to show how well-designed and well-written the cast is.
The story is divulged with special events triggered as you continue to loop, and these unique sequences help break the monotonous gameplay. It’s really easy to become addicted to playing and being rewarded with new bits of the narrative, setting itself apart from more cut-and-dry visual novels. However, as someone who gets bored when a story drags on, it can get really long-winded. Your curiosity for the story might be outrun by your patience.
Gnosia asks for mental and emotional labor that I can’t help but offer – with every loop, I wanted to believe will pay off in the end. All in all, it has a convincingly harrowing sci-fi horror told in a unique time-looping narrative, made even better with its bizarre cast of characters.
Gameplay – To Be Sus or Sussed Out
Gnosia’s version of “emergency meetings” is composed of five rounds. They are as quick and as fast as your favorite party games of deceit. You start off each loop in the middle of a nightly discussion about who should be kept in the cold-sleep chamber in order to appease the craft’s AI, LeVi, which will eradicate the whole crew otherwise. Your task is to outsmart and outmaneuver your crewmates during these trial-by-doubt sessions. You need to pay attention to everyone’s statements, who they accuse, who they support, manage everyone’s level of trust, blend into the crowd, and fish out the world-breaking bug… there’s a lot that’s going on in just five rounds of conversation.
You do have six different abilities that you can upgrade to help you out. Whether you win or lose, you can rack up points to help you reach higher stats. Of course, you still have to flex your brain, especially when the round’s settings have the odds against you. The logical deduction in the game ramps up in difficulty, and you have formidable enemies in your ranks. For example, Yuriko’s Charisma and Performance allow her to influence everyone’s decisions in the room. Otome’s Logic can catch you out immediately should you do a poor job at being Gnosia.
As someone who enjoys logic puzzles, I found myself struggling in other abilities, such as throwing the enemies off my scent and gaining the trust of my crewmates when I’ve spoken out of turn too much. The game does an incredible job of making you try out new strategies and challenging your way of thinking through each problem at a time while remembering the bigger picture debate.
As mentioned about the story, the most intriguing aspects of this life-or-death game are the revelations you get about the character through each loop. They play into the actual mechanics in a brilliant manner: you’ll find yourself thinking about the next move of a certain character as if you’ve known them all your life! I enjoyed this aspect of the debates the most – strategizing with the roles present in the current loop and understanding how each character adapts to the part they have claimed.
In order to completely unlock the story, you are encouraged to try out different scenarios, either by adjusting the settings or choosing a pre-planned scenario provided. This isn’t a game that you can bowl through and finish. You can finish a lot of rounds in nice short breaks, finding new pieces of the puzzle along the way. However, I did get tired of the gameplay after some numbers rounds. While the characters are memorable, leaving Gnosia alone for a while, forgetting what you’ve already learned, and then picking it up again after a while will be to your disadvantage. If you want to complete the entire mystery of Gnosia, you’ll have to invest over 20 hours of play.
Audio & Graphics – Minimum Style, Maximum Substance
Gnosia succeeds is its use of atmosphere – helping you plunge into the experience of a life-or-death situation. The game’s minimal use of audio and graphics was designed to give maximum effect. This was done through the expressive character sprites and telling musical cues.
Like most visual novels, most of the art that accompanies Gnosia is simply the same character sprites and backgrounds. However, the character designs are so unique and expressive that it’s a delight to see the characters react to your judgments and lies. The user interface, important details in visual novels are clean and easy to understand, especially when you need to backtrack on any details to help you do your detective work.
Where Gnosia succeeds is its use of atmosphere – helping you plunge into the experience of a life-or-death situation. The game’s minimal use of audio and graphics was designed to give maximum effect. This was done through the expressive character sprites and telling musical cues.
This is one of the few games that don’t need voice-acting to enhance it. Because of the looping nature, many pieces of dialogue are repeated over and over again – something that’s a chore to read but much more annoying if heard. The music cues help you realize what’s going on in the debates and scenes, adding emotion to what’s happening on-screen. Through its simple execution, Gnosia effectively delivers themes and atmosphere with thoughtful details.
Gnosia was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a key provided by Evolve PR.