REVIEW: “GNOG” has a big knock against it

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  • reviewed on PlayStation 4 / rated E10+ / $14.99 / released May 2017
  • PURCHASE LINK: PlayStation Store
  • FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars

A cross between a toy box and a fidget cube, “GNOG” is a great video game diversion. Nine puzzles await, each a unique and gorgeous piece of art. You can attack them with a Sherlock Holmes-style dedication, or you can simply fiddle around with bits and bobs and see what happens. Either way, you’ll hit on cute little solutions to cute little puzzles… the only problem is that there are too few of them.

The puzzles in “GNOG” are tiny houses that look like monster skulls constructed out of Mr. Potato Head parts. The art is too rigidly mathematical to be truly Dr. Seuss-ian, but the bizarre designs are definitely playing right next door. It is a delight to prod the adorable creatures and learn each puzzle’s individual structure.

Each head is decorated to a theme – like a broken space ship or a hungry frog – and covered with handles to pull and switches to flip. The heads open up to reveal interior dioramas that further the puzzles’ micro-stories. Sometimes the solution is obvious, but it is never straight-forward. The answer must instead be pieced together like a game of “Mousetrap” as you poke around to see what happens. Open this door, click this button, flip around to another side, rotate this dial.

However, the cartoon design means you can’t expect a fully logical puzzle. Solving each “GNOG” contraption is more about discovering causes and effects via trial and error. As such, it’s far too likely that you’ll stumble into a solution without knowing what you’re doing. Generally, there’s a sequence to follow (in the puzzle “Eater,” for example, you have to find the pages to a cookbook, then assemble the ingredients, and then serve the finished meals), but you can click everything you see without thinking too deeply. Occasionally the game asks you to memorize a pattern, but that’s about as intense as it can get.

In the end, that’s the big knock against “GNOG.” The nine included puzzles just are not very challenging. The game nicely avoids the frustrating feeling of a puzzle that’s too obtuse to solve, but it swings too far in the other direction, where each head can be finished almost before you realize what’s happening. It feels like completing this set of nine should have unlocked an additional, more difficult assortment of monster heads to explore.

This doesn’t mean “GNOG” is not fun to play. There’s just a “while it lasts” stipulation that makes for a sour pairing with something so charming.

“GNOG” is available for PlayStation 4 and PC. This review based on product supplied by the publisher. Images courtesy KO_OP.


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