PlayStation VR is still a young peripheral, and with that we’ve come to expect some growing pains. Dating back to the headset's launch, there’s been a surprisingly high volume of worthwhile titles offered, including some truly great games. But alongside that, there’s also been a glut of high-price, low-quality "experiences" that hurt the image of virtual reality on a larger scale. That isn’t to say that all of the “experience”-type projects are bad though. The latest and greatest example of these is KO-OP’s GNOG.
GNOG is a puzzle game that has you interacting with vibrant environments to unlock puzzle boxes of a sort. The game treats these levels almost like living creatures, as many of the puzzles revolve around things like waking up a sleeping creature. In a darker context, some of the things that happen could actually be considered quite terrifying: the notion of locating someone’s eyes so as to return them to their owner sounds horrific out-of-context .
But that doesn’t account for this game’s aesthetic. Everything is coated in bright, neon colours which look incredibly playful. The game almost appears as though it's constructed out of a large collection of vibrant building blocks that you might have had as a child – and boy does it work.
The visual presentation of the game – particularly in VR – is absolutely incredible. Being inside of these vibrant worlds is a genuine treat, and frankly, we were content for long stretches just to look around in some of these environments. Each of the game's levels looks wildly different from one another, further making the experience a visual feast. We weren’t in any sort of hurry to solve the puzzles because we just liked being in these worlds so much.
This is a good thing, too, because the puzzles are not challenging at all. The entire game consists of nine levels, and on first pass, you could probably clear the whole game in about 40 minutes. This is a big reason why we referred to the title as more of an “experience” earlier. It’s not terribly long – nor is it expensive – but unlike many of the other experiences on the market, GNOG makes brilliant use of its limited time.
Now, while the puzzles aren’t challenging, that does not mean they aren’t fun. They are highly entertaining as a matter of fact. And unlike most puzzle games, where puzzles being too easy would be a negative thing, that isn’t the case here. It sounds weird to say a puzzle game with easy puzzles isn’t a bad thing, but the lack of a challenge helps with the flow of everything with GNOG. Between the idle animations for some of the characters, the brilliant music courtesy of Marskye, and the vibrant charm of the environments, weaving your way through puzzles without being challenged too much just makes sense. The fun factor trumps the challenge to such an extent with this game that it ends up not becoming a problem.
There is one puzzle – the very last one – that is essentially five of the game's other puzzles built into one, and while it still isn’t especially challenging, it at least demonstrates a bit of complexity. It feels more intricately planned, and would definitely be the logical next step for new puzzles if KO-OP were so inclined to continue pursuing the admittedly beautiful niche it's carved out.
To go along with the less challenging approach to gameplay is a lot of environmental stuff that has no impact on the gameplay itself. Brushing your cursor over certain items moves them or causes noises which blend expertly with the music, and it’s fun to hunt some of these things down and mess around with them. The problem is that, with a game with such little gameplay, there should have been more of this. It would have been a nice way to provide an extra reason to linger in the beautiful environments a little longer.
More a nifty little virtual reality experience than a game but with an almost overwhelming amount of charm, GNOG is delightful. While it by no means feels like a full-sized title, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It may not take you too long to see all that it has to offer, but it's still an absolutely beautiful game that you’ll want to get lost in.