REVIEW: ‘Gnosia’ is Thrilling, Creative, and Beautiful (Switch)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

GNOSIA

On a ship flying through space, a secret dwells: the Gnosia, alien-infected humans who pretend to still have theirs. Through trickery and deceit, they eliminate one victim after another until all are gone and the Gnosia reign. Can you survive the Gnosia’s vicious onslaught, or will you go into an endless, dreamless sleep forever?

Gnosia is a single-player game Nintendo Switch title and a port of the original Vita version, which launched in June 2019 as a Japan-exclusive. GNOSIA’s Vita release received critical acclaim when it first launched, getting high scores from both IGN Japan and Famitsu. Now, for the first time since its release, English-speaking players will have the chance to explore GNOSIA‘s thrilling story. 

Gnosia was developed by Petit Depot, and published by PLAYISM. Kawakatsu Toru, also known as Mezukare, is the executive producer for GNOSIA. Scenario and development are credited to Shigoto. Kotori handled visuals for Gnosia. Finally, the sound was done by Q flavor. In regards to localization, the team for this title is unlisted. However, I would like to personally thank those who worked on localizing this excellent title and helped to make this title all the more atmospheric. The game is a sci-fi “social deduction” RPG in which players debate their humanity in order to suss out the Gnosia who hide in human form. Now, you might be wondering what they mean by “social deduction”. Think Clue meets Danganronpa meets Scooby-doo in space if you need a few cultural touchstones.

Choose your adversaries wisely, and you live to see another day. Leverage your role and skills the right way and you’ll triumph, surviving the “loop” to play another game and reveal more plot. Falter, make a nuisance of yourself, or simply choose wrong, and you’ll end up losing a crew member. Or worse: you’ll find yourself in “cold sleep,” unable to complete the loop.

Players create their own faceless avatar character that fills one of the crew roles on the spaceship. From there, the single-player game of “werewolf” begins. Most of the action happens in five-turn discussions where players can “cover” or “doubt” their fellow crew members. Speak up too much, and everyone will become suspicious. Stay too quiet during discussions, and you’ll face the same treatment.  In your downtime between discussions, players get the chance to level up, visit a crew member, and on rare occasions, get the chance to have an event that may or may not help you in the next discussion.

All of this plays out in “loops” which mimick a groundhog day situation that you and your fellow crewmates are stuck in. These loops don’t last long, forcing players to think of their feet in order to survive to the end. Additionally, players get to carry forward information from every loop into the future. This helps up the story as they seek the truth of the Gnosia and the mysteries surrounding their situation.

Players who have engaged with visual novels will feel right at home with Gnosia ‘s UI and play style, though I found the tutorial loops welcoming for players of all levels. The opening guides you through the mechanics, lingo, and rules smoothly enough, opening up new quirks, skills, roles, and bits of information without being too overwhelming. With an open mind and a lot of enthusiasm, players will find themselves eager to see what all the game has in store. I know I certainly was.

At first glance, I think a lot of players might discount this as riffing on Among Us, an imposter game that took the world by storm in 2020. It also might be easy to call Gnosia just another mafia clone with anime art. However, I firmly believe that discounts Gnosia ’s story and gameplay elements, both of which are superb. This is in large part thanks to Petit Depot’s execution, which creates a plot-driven story that doesn’t become boring or rote.

Initially, Gnosia starts off in tutorial mode, guiding the player character through various loops. Each loop builds on the terms and, opening up different skills, attributes, and roles as you fend off the ever-present threat of the Gnosia. Fairly early on, the game opens up, dropping in heavy doses of intriguing plot that make it easy to say, “Just thirty more minutes” to playing just a little bit more of the game.

Then again, it’s easy to get caught up in GNOSIA’s looping gameplay. This is in part because loops tend to be anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes, though you can move through loops in as little as five minutes. Often, my loops took a bit closer to fifteen minutes because I was enjoying the music, or mulling over which crewmate to interact with during the downtime between discussion.

That, or I was looking at Gnosia ‘s art, which is lush, bright, and out of this world beautiful. I frequently found myself taking screenshots of the characters just so I could enjoy their detailed designs later. Petit Depot’s visual designer Kotori successfully gave each character a distinct vibe that suits their mannerisms perfectly. In a visual novel with a fairly big cast, that can be hard. Thankfully, Kotori came through with lots of unique characters that never feel same-y.

Still, ten to fifteen minutes is the perfect amount of time, perfect for if you’re on lunch or have a short break. I easily found myself looping for an hour or two, just to see where the story was going, and honestly? I felt rewarded every time I played. It didn’t matter if I won or lost. In fact, losing was often a thrilling surprise.

It also helps that Gnosia has such a likable cast. While there are certain characters that I didn’t love, they’re all delightful on some level, and well written. Even the weakest characters in the cast are still really good, with lots of pros versus too many cons. They all have distinct personalities that play off one another well, especially during the discussion sections. Some of the cast’s personalities even clue you into who’s a Gnosia this round, and who’s just a human.

Furthermore, I found all of the cast realistically clever, and at times, one step ahead of me. All of the characters have tricks up their sleeves, even the most innocent looking. After all, GNOSIA is a game where anyone can be the enemy. When the NPCs outwit you, it feels delightfully frustrating in the best way. In fact, every time I lost a loop to a crafty crew member, I felt even more determined to beat them next time.

One of the coolest things about Gnosia is the loops themselves. No loop is the same with its own challenges as you open the game up further to the cast, mechanics, and roles you can play as. Sharp players will be able to survive while players who falter or stand out too much will get hammered down, or worse. Yet losing never feels like truly losing. If anything, it all serves as encouragement to think smart in your next loop. It also helps players learn better ways to detect the Gnosia and save the day.

GNOSIA

Another thing I also have to credit the title for is its subtle representation of genders. From the jump, you—the player—can set your gender to be male, female, or non-binary. This extends into the cast, which includes several gender non-conforming characters. While many players probably will just go with their assigned gender, it means a lot to me personally that this has been a part of Gnosia from the jump. Clicking “non-binary” felt like a small victory in my book. Plus, this feature adds realistic depth to an out-of-this-world title.

Additionally, Gnosia’s soundtrack slaps. After twenty minutes of play, my only thought was, “Where can I buy a copy of this?” The composer uses lots of galactic-sounding synth and bouncy electronic sounds, all mixed with dissonant chords, especially during tense moments. There’s also a Vocaloid-esque singer in the more peaceful moments with a voice reminiscent of a lot of Nier: Automata’s “chaos” language. It’s atmospheric and perfectly fitting to the title.

Personally, I think fans of Among Us will really enjoy this title, especially from a single-player perspective. It’s much more intimate than Among Us, and really lets you delve into the “whodunit?” aspect of the Gnosia and surviving each loop. I also think fans of Astra Lost in Space, Dr. STONE, Danganronpa, visual novel Raging Loop, and Higurashi will enjoy Gnosia. Fans of games like Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) will find themselves at home in GNOSIA’s sci-fi thriller setting as well.

In the end, Gnosia is a must-have title for any players interested in a thrilling, plot-heavy RPG. The art is beautiful, the music is wonderful, and the plot is thrilling. The gameplay is smooth, dropping players into the next loop seemlessly with plenty of options to tweak. This only gets better once the skills and roles open up a few loops in. Additionally, the cast is incredibly creative, including best girl SQ. Like I said, even the weakest characters are still likable. I’m 100 percent sure that there’s a character for every kind of player.

However, that’s not to say that Gnosia is perfect. There are a few grammatical choices that read awkwardly here and there. Additionally, it can be a little difficult to understand how to use the “doubt” and “cover” discussion system. A lot of it depends on balancing speaking up with not speaking up too much, which can be tricky early on.

Truth be told, I found it hard to balance blaming the obvious character too much with keeping quiet and watching things play out. Often, I leaned too towards speaking up, and ended up losing against the Gnosia. In fact, I found myself getting a little frustrated when my win streak broke and I couldn’t figure out how to survive. Still, with a little patience and a few more loops, I think players will find their stride and gain enough know-how to survive the Gnosia threat.

That being said, I ultimately found very little that I disliked about Gnosia.  If anything, I can’t recommend it enough, and honestly, I can’t wait to get back to playing it. In fact, I’m ready to loop through another fight against the Gnosia again.

Gnosia releases on March 4, 2021 digitally for the Nintendo Switch and will support American English only.

GNOSIA
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

I ultimately found very little that I disliked about GNOSIA.  If anything, I can’t recommend it enough, and honestly, I can’t wait to get back to playing it. In fact, I’m ready to loop through another fight against the Gnosia again.