GNOG barges on to your device yelling “Hello! I’m weird, me!” And it is. Properly weird. If you had to pigeon-hole the game, it’s essentially a puzzle box, where you poke and prod things, to make other things happen. But it’s seemingly been designed by a children’s animator hopped up on sugar.
Each of the nine scenes involves a box that, when opened, explodes stars in your face, before leaving you with a dormant, levitating monster head. There’s no handholding – no context as to what you should or should not do next. The point is to tinker, explore and discover.
Immediately, you’ll find you can spin the head around with a swipe. You’ll then find mechanisms to fiddle with – chunky dials, switches, levers, and doohickeys. Some pleasingly squeak and creak, affording GNOG a real sense of physicality, despite its vibrant, almost eye-searing cartoonish plasticky visuals.
Do what the game demands and you’ll eventually be able to pull the entire back off of the head, revealing a tiny, intricate diorama. Packed within are the means of waking the head up. The multi-step process for doing so is far from obvious, though, is unique to each head, and involves plenty of poking, a fair amount of flipping, and – occasionally – a bit of swearing.
Fortunately, your time with GNOG is mostly spent at the joyous end of the equation. Short of being dead inside, it’s hard to see how you won’t be grinning ear to ear on bringing to life an actual ‘radio head’, with speakers for eyes, a graphic equaliser for a mouth, and a little musician inside, trying to compose a song. And then there’s a scene where a mama bird spews an endless stream of neon wormy treats into her offspring’s maw, the aim being to eventually have them sing awake the head.
But there are also moments where you bang up against a wall. During review, I sat baffled looking at a scene in a kitchen, with no idea what to do next. Elsewhere, I even watched two YouTube walkthroughs about a particular puzzle and emerged none the wiser, until someone told me to swipe a tiny contraption, rather than just tapping it.
In a sense, this linearity is GNOG’s Achilles heel, throwing up potential barriers, and also lessening replay value, because the route to each head’s happiness never changes.
That said, only misers and grumps would balk at spending a few hours in GNOG’s strange universe – doubly so when you venture into AR mode. That echoes the PS4 version’s immersive VR take, and transforms each head into an eerily realistic virtual plastic toy that sits atop a real table.
In short, GNOG is uplifting and bonkers, and can’t fail to raise a smile when a floating toothy plastic head is joyously parping a bassy melody because it’s so happy you woke it up.