Gnog Review: Short and sweet puzzle unboxing

Enlarge / Who's a hungry frog? (credit: Gnog)

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.

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.

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