Deduction games like Among Us are exciting in part because of the human element — finding those signs that someone is lying, or doing your best to conceal your true identity while everyone scrutinizes you. The experience changes dramatically depending on who you’re playing with and how committed they are to their role. That’s what makes Gnosia so intriguing. The core idea is the same, as you’re either trying to suss out who the enemy is or disguise yourself as one. But there’s a huge difference: in Gnosia you play entirely by yourself.
Gnosia is probably best described as a deduction game transformed into a visual novel. You play as a crew member on a spaceship, one that has been infected by an alien race known as the gnosia. While everyone looks human (well, except for the talking dolphin), one or more is actually an alien who wants nothing more than to kill the rest of the crew. The gnosia only attack at night, and each day the crew will hold a vote on who is most suspicious; the person chosen will then be placed in a cold sleep in hopes of preventing a death. This process continues until either the threat has been eliminated or the gnosia take over the ship.
So how do you figure out if a computer-controlled character is lying? These voting sequences make up the heart of Gnosia, and they consist of a lot of dialogue. Before actually voting, everyone will voice their opinions and concerns. Some of the crew will have specific roles — like a doctor who can tell if someone is actually a gnosia — but of course they could be lying about that as well. Your job is to pay close attention to what people say, as well as how often, to figure out the truth. Are they constantly trying to divert blame elsewhere? Are they suspiciously quiet? At the same time, you have to be careful not to draw too much attention to yourself.
One of the more interesting narrative twists employed by developer Petit Depotto in Gnosia is that you and the rest of the crew relive the same day over and over. The variables change each loop, including your own, essentially randomizing things. Sometimes you’re aiming to save everyone, other times you’re plotting as a gnosia.
On the one hand, this leads to a lot of repetition. You’ll be reading through the same lines of dialogue regularly and living through essentially the same day more than 100 times. But the game does a good job of slowly introducing new elements to make things interesting. It’ll take many loops before you have the ability to calm everyone with some small talk or form alliances with other characters. Eventually, more roles are introduced, including a second alien type bent on destroying the universe.
The loop mechanic can get tedious, but it’s also integral to the story the game is trying to tell. Every time you start over, you learn just a little bit more about the characters, the gnosia, and the mystery of the loop itself. At a certain point I stopped even trying to “win” during the votes and instead experimented with new techniques in hopes of uncovering more clues. There’s even some RPG-like progression, as you can improve your skills across loops; I focused primarily on stealth and charisma, so that people wouldn’t notice me much but would always listen to me when they did.
Gnosia doesn’t quite replicate the experience of playing with real people, but it’s not really trying to. Instead, the game uses the framework of social titles like Among Us as a frame for its sci-fi horror story. After about 20 loops, I was hooked and pushing forward through the same routine like a detective in search of any clue I could find. And if I fail? Well, there are plenty of more chances to try again.
Gnosia is available now on the Nintendo Switch.