App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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There’s been a bit of a trend in mobile games that follow a kind of “poke at things and see what happens” philosophy. Games like Vignettes, ISLANDS: Non Places, and even Monument Valley to a certain extent present players with mysterious scenes that they can then poke and prod at to solve puzzles and push the game forward. If this sounds like a genre that you’d like to see more of, you’re in luck, because GNOG is very much one of those, and it happens to be a pretty great one, too.
Robot faces, robot places
Every level in GNOG presents you with a puzzle, and each of these puzzles also happens to be a robot’s face. For whatever reason, all of these robots you come across have some sort of problem that you can solve by rotating around their head to poke buttons, turn levers, and more.
What’s neat about GNOG is that these robot faces almost always have a hidden depth to them. There’s always some little world that exists within each head, with each one being tied to a particular theme. There’s a candy-colored robot with a literal candy store inside its head, for example. There’s also a nautical robot whos head doubles as a submarine. All of these touches make each puzzle in GNOG feel like its own special world.
GNOG’s premise definitely sets it apart from other “pokey” puzzle games, but it also goes a step further by being one of the most mechanically dense kinds of these games I’ve played. Every level has a clear goal, and achieving that goal takes some good old fashioned pattern recognition and intuition.
Whereas Vignettes and ISLANDS do things to try and make it less clear what the player is supposed to do to succeed, GNOG’s puzzles follow a logic that is hidden in plain sight. Enough testing around in a robot head allows you to figure out exactly how each puzzle works.
If there was one thing I’d knock GNOG for, it’s that not all of its puzzles follow a discernible difficulty curve. Instead, certain heads can present really complicated and involved puzzles that can take quite a bit of time to figure out, while the very next level could be a complete cakewalk to solve.
While I do enjoy that there is a good amount of variety in GNOG’s puzzle design, the idea that I never know what I’m going to get when I sit down for a play session can make returning to it daunting. This isn’t a huge issue with the game, to be clear, but it seems like the puzzles could have followed a linear curve that could have made the experience more enjoyable.
The bottom line
GNOG’s crazy, colorful world of robot head puzzles is a great deal of fun. Although it is a game where you mostly just poke at stuff, there’s enough mechanical depth here that makes it feel like a substantial puzzle game in its own right.