Touch All of the Pretty Boxes in 'GNOG,' They Are Good, I Promise

KO-OP’s new puzzle game is a pleasure to poke around at.

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May 2 2017, 3:00pm

GNOG (pronounced "nog," I think) is sort of the adult equivalent of those cloth "busy books" I had as an extremely young child. You know, the sort of thing where you can play with different textures, buttons, and colors—and the fun lies in the simple delight of playing with pretty objects.

That's selling the game a little short, but the appeal is similar. In GNOG, you play with giant, toybox-like dioramas. Some elements you can push, like buttons. Others need to be swung around, or pulled at, or arranged just so, to get the result you're looking for.

Every good reaction is met with animation and sound elements that let you know you made progress, and finishing the full puzzle (which can take anywhere from five minutes to close to an hour, depending on how tuned-in you are) results in said puzzle box turning into a friendly monster head and… doing a little musical number.

It is fantastic.

A huge part of GNOG's appeal lies in just how wonderful it looks and sounds. The game is itself a collection of simple, colorful shapes—all toylike in their own right—that make up a greater whole. The music is wonderful—fun and ambient and energetic throughout, with responsive (and yes, delightful) sound effects that come along with every interaction.

There is a level (PURP-L) that is basically a giant synthesizer, complete with massive speakers, knobs to tune or slow down the music, and a little DJ-person in the center of it all (you can spin them around on their chair!). There's a more involved level that involves predators and the smaller critters that they want to eat. Another is a rocketship in space with a nasty windshield gash that you need to fix (among other things) so that it's twee astronauts can survive and continue their mission.

There is a pleasant logic to the puzzle-solving. Poking around long enough always lends itself to the next step, and everything connects to everything else in a way that makes sense in GNOG's toy-like universe.

More than anything, playing GNOG just feels good. It's relaxing and sweet, with enough interaction and logic to keep those parts of my brain fully engaged. Maybe it is basically a busy book for adults, but I refuse to believe that's a bad thing.

Sometimes the simple act of play can be stimulating or soothing. Sometimes, that's exactly what you need, no matter your age.

GNOG is out now on PS4 and PS VR, and arriving on Steam and iOS later this year.

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