This Game Is Sus
HIGH The believable personality types.
LOW Being voted out when I knew who the real Gnosian was.
WTF Dear localization team, Beluga Whales and Dolphins are not the same.
There are some genre mashups that I know I want. A dating sim mixed with a collectible card game that is also a first-person shooter, for example. However, until about a week ago I didn’t imagine there were ones I wanted that I didn’t know about, like a single-player visual novel version of Among Us.
The premise of Gnosia starts off like a standard sci-fi story. The player gains consciousness and finds themselves on a spaceship travelling somewhere, but they have amnesia and have no recollection of anything. They are soon introduced to the crew — a taciturn Setsu, ridiculous anime-styled SQ, shy Gina, and wacky Raqio. The twist is that one of them is not human at all, but instead a Gnosian. This alien in human guise will kill one crew member every time the ship warps, and the team must figure out who the culprit is before it’s too late. This is done by going through five rounds of accusations and defenses that culminates in everyone voting for one member to be put into deep freeze.
This debate is presented as a series of 2D panels of the characters talking in text boxes. They bark a preselected set of sentences like ‘SQ is being weird’, or ‘I trust Gina, she’d never harm anyone.’ and the player can choose to interject with support or denial, or simply to stay quiet and let the characters argue with each other. There is also a pause menu that allows for the player to check on who voted for whom and when, as well as to review diagnostic reports that can reveal patterns of lying.
Once the Gnosian(s) are either discovered or outnumber the surviving humans, the game ends and awards XP that can then be put into 6 different personality types – Charisma, Performance, Logic, and so on. These types will later unlock more dialogue options and be vital to layers of complexity that Gnosia will introduce.
This complexity is introduced after the first scenario as the story starts to loop and characters that were Gnosians may now be humans, new characters are added, and classes are introduced — Engineers (who can test one person per warp to see if they are a Gnosian), Guardian Angels (can protect one person per warp) Doctors (can check people in deep sleep to see if they were human) and more. The game will continue to loop regardless of success or failure and patterns of story will start to emerge, with new encounters unlocking and more details about each of the crew members being unveiled as time goes on.
What made Gnosia stand out is that although the dialogue is rote, the underlying mechanics of figuring out who is lying and who is telling the truth remain compelling and unpredictable since no two loops are the same — the identity of the killer(s) and the roles of the crew members are different each time, meaning that there is a lot of emergent drama. This is helped by the way Gnosia does convincing work with the cast, to the point where I felt like I actually knew the crew as people after 20 or 30 loops.
For example, during one of my first loops as a Gnosian, I was teamed up with Gina and Sha-Ming, an aggressive no-nonsense guy. With three Gnosians and eight humans, we had to get rid of five opponents to win, as long as none of us got voted off. In the first group discussion, Sha-Ming immediately started accusing everyone of being suspicious, while Gina stayed quiet. I lied about being an Engineer and was challenged by Setsu. Setsu’s high intellect made it impossible to con her, but I fooled some of the others and soon everyone was convinced that Otome, a sentient Beluga Whale in a space suit, was the Gnosian. We voted that poor little mammal into the deep freeze.
Once that was done and knowing that I would get exposed by Setsu if I tried to argue with her, she was eliminated on the first warp. Sha-Ming, true to his personality, continued to wildly accuse everyone that accused him, and he got himself voted off two warps later. Fortunately, the damage was already done and everyone thought Jonas the effusive cowboy/pilot was friends with Sha-Ming — it did not go well for Jonas.
Playing people off of each other and being able to unravel these interpersonal exchanges is deeply satisfying, and it contributes to the story that emerges slowly through the loops. I don’t want to spoil too much, but scenes that become unlocked and what they lead to are as compelling as the gameplay itself.
While Gnosia is fascinating, the only downside is the somewhat arbitrary nature of the story unlocks – I’m not ashamed to say that I went to a walkthrough to make sure I was doing it right, and I imagine others will have to do the same. Going through some loops a little pointlessly because I hadn’t teamed up with the right people was a bit frustrating, but ultimately still worth it for where the game eventually goes with some meta-puzzles, which I can’t describe here to, again, avoid spoilers.
Gnosia is a smart spin on visual novels, and a clever re-imagining of elements seen in the recent uber-hit Among Us. It’s an excellently addictive game on the strength of its mechanics alone, but is elevated by a strong story and neatly defined characters.
I lied in my tagline — Gnosia is not ‘sus’ at all.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Petit Depotto and published by Petit Depotto, Active Gaming Media, mebius. It is currently available on Switch, and PSVita. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 17 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes. The game is not openly gory, but has mature themes like sending people to their deaths, there is also several fairly gratuitous shower scenes that have no nudity. There is some exploration of a Non-Binary character (I am not sure how thoughtful the portrayal is but the game at least tries) and sexuality is explored a fair bit.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The game is full playable without sound and there are no audio cues needed. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable – it is possible to choose between two-handed and one-handed controls.
He can be found on twitter, where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.