Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Gnog Review: Short and sweet puzzle unboxing

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

That’s gong backwards… —

Charm and brevity are the soul of this simple puzzle game.

Steven Strom

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Who’s a hungry frog?

Gnog

doesn’t ask much of its players. The pastel puzzler is easy on the eyes and easy on the pocketbook. It doesn’t last long, either. You can knock the whole thing out in a couple of hours or less. Its puzzles consistently capture the satisfaction of fitting a square peg in a square hole without much challenge to speak of. It is, put simply, one hell of a chill time.

Put less simply, Gnog a game about manipulating 3D puzzle boxes in the form of cartoonish floating heads. Each diorama tells a pseudo-story and ends with the constantly changing “face” crooning a little ditty. I found it hard not to bob my head alongside the colorful creatures. That’s especially true when playing in virtual reality. Those faces feel present in VR in a way that 2D screen representations can’t match.

Every head is carved from soft-edged, chalk-bright colors. It’s a friendly, welcoming sort of surrealism that only gets more charming as you peel away each layer. If a tiny being inside a head is sad, odds are your puzzle solving will make them happy. If background music is discordant or an object is out of place, you’ll probably set things right by winning. And the happy little songs at the end of each stage feel like precisely the kind of small, pleasant reward each small, pleasant level should end on.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Just the right touch

That general pleasantness also applies to the manipulation of knobs, dials, switches, buttons, and various other devices that fill out each puzzle. Anyone familiar with The Room games or Amanita Design’s output (like Machinarium and Botanicula) will recognize the objective. You’re presented with things to fiddle with, so you fiddle, constantly, until the guess-and-check methodology makes the correct order of fiddling clear.

  • Gnog‘s levels all carry themes that tell tiny, surreal stories as you progress.

  • Nearly every puzzle in the game is a makeshift “face” that you manipulate.

  • Eventually, the puzzles open up to reveal increasingly elaborate dioramas.

  • Soft edges, pastel color, and cutesy design go a long way.

  • Most puzzles are extremely simple. You just click around until you get the “logic.”

  • The first level is very simple, but things can get slightly complicated toward the end.

  • Every puzzle resolves in a small musical number with your newfound friends.

  • VR makes the game feel a great deal more tactile and personable, but you can play in 2D as well.

  • I wonder what that little diver is for…

  • The game is charmingly “pleasant.” You just want to make everyone happy!

  • Gnog is short, but nearly every moment feels well-crafted.

Unlike those slightly similar games, though, Gnog’s puzzles aren’t interconnected. The abstract faces you interact with are separated into nine stages. If you already knew how to complete each level ahead of time, you could easily knock them all out in under 30 minutes. So much of the game boils down to determining what can be manipulated in the first place.

There’s a charming flow to this. Even things that can’t be directly manipulated, like a puzzle face’s colorful, tombstone teeth, respond to your virtual touch. Xylophone chimes and friendly grunting follow. The feedback also typically carries a theme—just like the levels themselves. The first is a surreal toad’s giant head, for instance, and the melody of a swamp at night can be

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