If you’re one of my many devoted followers – I’ve got at least 3, of which only 2 are my parents – you’ll know that I have my doubts about VR. The nature of the platform requires new, innovative game genres to be constructed out of thin air; physical limitations such as motion sickness are too significant to ignore, as they in turn limit the kind of gameplay suitable for the wider audience.
Bethesda have promised VR support for Fallout 4. But will the radiation just leave us feeling ill?
What VR needs is game development companies who haven’t set their sights on richly diverse, first-person open-world experiences. Those sorts of titles will just make us common folk sick, unless we’re invited to physically do the running and jumping and shooting. It needs small, beautiful, puzzle-based titles that make innovative use of the 3 dimensions on offer without disconnecting inner ear and brain, and above all else, it needs to ignore this heavily ingrained idea that realism – in all areas – is the only way to go.
nDreams’ The Assembly skirts the issue of motion sickness with intuitive (but costly) movement controls.
As it happens, today I am bringing you news of one such small, beautiful, puzzle-based title. It’s called Gnog, and it’s the product of ‘artist-run’ game studio KO_OP, a small company – a team of 6 people, in fact – founded in 2012 in Montreal. If you visit their website, you’ll get an idea of what to expect from the group: it’s an amalgam of abstract art and game design that is brought quite spectacularly to life by vibrant colors. Gnog is the brain-child of Samuel Boucher, illustrator and toy enthusiast whose 2D designs were adopted and extrapolated by the team at KO_OP.
It’s a GnogLog. No, really.
Gnog is KO_OP‘s latest work, and perhaps their greatest, having received much critical attention well before release day. It is a puzzle game, in essence, that revolves around giant heads, or Gnoggins. Each of these Gnoggins is a world unto itself, offering uniquely puzzling scenarios through which the player must navigate in order to proceed; like a dolls house or Micro Machines play-set, the head – sorry, Gnoggin – must be spun around in order to access the puzzle within. I know this might not be making much sense, so take a look at the trailer below:
Any clearer? No? Take it from me, you’re not alone. KO_OP have a penchant for slightly unnerving game design, it seems, and Gnog is almost a mission statement in that respect; accompanied by heavily percussive electro-tinted compositions from Marskye and in-house composer Ramsey Kharroubi, Gnog is as much a sensual experience – and I don’t mean that in the romantic way – as it is a videogame.
It’s hard to tell where in-game object ends and artwork begins.
There are currently 10 Gnoggins to explore and conquer: you’ve got PURP-L, the musical Gnog; S-UB 01, the deep-sea Gnog; or even VORT-X, the space exploration Gnog, to name but a few. Each head requires manipulation of both internal and external levers, sliders, buttons, and other assorted puzzlery, and will throw anything from “spatial Rubik’s cube mind-benders” to “time manipulation.” Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough: the website says that this game also includes worms. I know.
VORT-X, or Neil ArmGnog.
Gnog (is that a silent G?) is launching January 24th on the PS Store, as an exclusive that will eventually make its way to Steam and iOS. And although the game supports PSVR (whether that be in addition to PS Move or DS4 controllers), you can happily puzzle away without a headset, without losing any of the immersion in the process.
I don’t have any cutting remarks for this one. It’s a moose.
So is this the answer to my questions? The solution to all my perceived problems with VR? I’ve no idea, but if it plays even a fraction as quirky as it looks, expect a surprise success from this self confessed avante-garde studio.
Gnog is out now for PlayStation 4 with PSVR support. Priced at GBP £12.99, a Steam and iOS version is on the way.