Exercise for your gnoggin.
What is a Gnog? Well, it is an interactive monster head of course. Gnog the game is a collection of different Gnogs that each provides a unique puzzle waiting to be solved. There is no greater story or even purpose to be found during your time with Gnog, as each Gnog is self-contained, and completing one unlocks another. This isn’t a complaint though, as the singular focus of each Gnog allows for a smoother experience that can be enjoyed in short or long sessions of play.
Gnog is all about the experience, an aesthetically wonderful one. Each Gnog has its own theme which influences the approach that the puzzles take. One Gnog is a charming submarine, so unsurprisingly water factors into the puzzle. Not all are quite so traditionally themed; one looks like a fireplace, for example.
The game retains the same visual style across the game, which is a clean, beautiful pastel colour look where everything visually pops. This colour palette is surprisingly versatile and gives added character to each Gnog and any inhabitant that might happen to reside within. The visual style will likely catch the attention of anyone walking by the screen and is almost worth the price of admission alone.
It’s the puzzles, however, that provide the staying power. Despite the wide-ranging themes found throughout the game, the puzzle solutions are not solely dictated by them, with the solutions ingeniously hidden within each level. The logic to the puzzles is technically simple, with each level using the same methods of interactivity that can be used to a solve an element of a Gnog. It is this simplicity of input that prevents puzzles from ever becoming too overbearing.
The benefit of each Gnog being a self-contained puzzle box is that if a puzzle is stumping you, then you can move onto a different Gnog and come back later. Whilst another Gnog won’t have the secret necessary for completing the puzzle you were stuck on, it will give your brain a chance to focus on something different, which will help with the lateral thinking that is often necessary for solving the individual puzzles.
There will be times where you’ll have the urge to open up Google for the solution to a puzzle, but the reward of Gnog does not come from finishing it – as mentioned earlier, there is no narrative payoff to be expected – rather the puzzles themselves; and completing each individual Gnog provides the player with a satisfying sense of reward. Simply looking up the solutions robs this aspect of the game from the player, making it a hollow experience.
Gnog isn’t just a visual experience, but an auditory one too. There is a dynamic soundtrack by Marskye that gradually becomes more pronounced as puzzles are solved in a given Gnog. Each Gnog has its own unique musical score, reaching a crescendo as the Gnog is solved, to accompanying fanfare from the visuals.
It’s not just the score that contributes to the experience, as Gnog is full of satisfyingly responsive sound effects that reinforce the actions taking place on screen. Headphones are strongly recommended (via the DualShock 4’s courageously helpful headphone jack) to get the full Gnog auditory experience.
There is a generous selection of Gnogs available to explore and complete, although as a whole Gnog is not one to outstay its welcome. It can easily be finished in a single sitting of around two hours, although there are hidden trophies that can be unlocked in most levels. Whether this is the “correct” approach to playing Gnog is debatable, it might be better to play a couple of levels and then come back later for a couple more.
It’s still worth coming back to Gnog though, whilst the puzzles will remain the same, it is worth it just for the pleasing visual and auditory aesthetics.
Gnog is playable via PlayStation VR on the PS4. This is entirely optional and does not change the gameplay. When playing in 2D the game does have a noticeable depth to it, which presumably would be embellished in VR.
Summary - Gnog
Gnog is a pleasing and relaxing experience; one that understands what its strengths are and focuses making them the best they can be. Plus, it is the perfect length for escaping the dull and drab realities of the real world, and diving into the pastel-drenched absurdities of Gnog.