There’s something about games that have a core loop based on system optimisation that just tickles my brain right. I guess it’s just that feeling of getting a process just right, tweaking parameters here and there to try and find the winning formula out of a myriad of options. There’s also the monkey-brain calming aspect of it too, as being so focused on a bunch of different minutiae means I’m not getting distracted by the lures of easier entertainment like YouTube or another hour doomscrolling Reddit for the heck of it. So stumbling across (the) Gnorp Apologue was a nice surprise as it has just the right mix of challenge, progression mechanics and build variety to make for a solid optimisation experience.
These little dudes are Gnorps. That big thing there? That’s a rock. When you hit it shards fall out. Shards are great, they let you buy things. You have to collect the shards before you can spend them though. The Gnorps like getting rich though so they’ll gladly smash the rock and collect the shards, you just need to tell them how to do that. Why do they want to do that? Irrelevant, the only thing that matters is that they’ll keep doing it forever and you can make them do more and more unhinged things as the game progresses.
There are times where the visual stylings of a game are done by choice and, less often, by necessity. I feel like whilst the decision to make the Gnorp Apologue a low-bit pixelart game was likely a stylistic choice early on it likely became a requirement later on when the amount of nonsense that you’re able to put on-screen became apparent. Things start off easy enough, but it doesn’t take long for a rainbow of colours to start spewing forth from the rock, along with all the projectiles that you’ll likely have in the air as you get towards the end game. It’s quite something to behold of course and all the more impressive that my machine wasn’t screaming when trying to calculate all the interactions that were happening on screen.
I stumbled across a term I hadn’t heard for this kind genre of games: incremental which I think sums up the gameplay pretty well. You start off with only a handful of tricks up your sleeve, most of which are just you clicking on things to make it quicker for the Gnorps to do their job. That job is to beat shards out of the rock and then dump them in the collection place. As you build structures though you unlock better ways of doing everything and, thankfully soon afterwards, you can stop clicking and just figure out how to better optimise what you’re doing now. You’ll eventually tap out at some point as past a certain point the rock starts reclaiming shards faster than you can mine them. At this point you prestige, resetting everything back to the start but also gaining some talent points to spend. This cycle repeats as many times as needed until you find your broken build that absolutely dumps shards, at which time you meet the compression mechanic and a whole new slew of mechanics gets dumped on you once again.
The incremental moniker is apt here because every time you unlock something new you inch yourself ever so closer to unlock the next talent point, which is the real progression mechanic here. Each of the talents provides you another way to boost or control the way you produce shards and, of course, there’s a bunch of them that are highly synergistic with each other. Some are less obvious than others and there’s a few of them which I really couldn’t figure out how to build around. The good news is you’re not locked into your chosen build as restarting the game again will allow you to make your choices again.
My first few playthroughs were one of a number of quick wins. I was able to unlock 3 talent points on my first runthrough, which I gave up on because I wasn’t really sure where to go with it. Doing a couple more attempts led me to a fire based build which kept me going for quite a while. However after about 3 prestiges I found myself running up against a brick wall of progression so I decided to try a bunch of different builds based around mechanics I hadn’t used much to see if that’d get me going somewhere. The short answer was that it didn’t, and that’s the point I put the game down for a bit to figure out whether or not it was worth playing on.
Going through forums to see what build advice people had I found basically nothing for the point I found myself in which was disappointing. However I saw many people mentioning they’d used a similar build to mine and managed to get much further, so I figured it was just some minor tweaking in different parts in order to get me past the roadblock I was on. I also had a terrible habit of sticking with a run far beyond its useful lifetime, often not wanting restart for a single talent point when I felt like I was so close to unlocking another. This is, of course, the dumb way to do it as any small advantage you can get in a game with additive multipliers like this really adds up over time.
In the end I settled on an early fire-arrow based build, using the bombers and their time acceleration ability, to get me through the first compression stages. After that I mixed it up with both fire and ice arrows whilst pumping rockets as fast as humanly possible. The result is what you see above, an absolute whirlwind of rockets constantly slamming the rock ensuring it stays vulnerable whilst it’s both on fire and frozen at the same time. Most of the end game work done to improve this was just adding more of the same. I will admit that getting to the actual end took a bit more waiting than I would’ve liked, but if you’re able to get to the final compression stage then it’s quite likely you know exactly what to do to get over that final hump.
All of this makes for a great idle game, one that you can either let run in the background and check on every so often or, if you’re like me and want to optimise the living shit out of something, you can do that too. I originally bought it thinking I’d play it a bit whilst I was down the coast, in-between dips in the sea, but I ended up playing it glued to my seat for hours at a time. (the) Gnorp Apologue then is a surprise gem, one that’s basic enough to grasp quickly but will take a concerted amount of effort to complete. For what it is and the price of admission (the) Gnorp Apologue is great value and a strong recommend from me.
(the) Gnorp Apologue is available on PC right now for $9.99. Total play time was 9.2 hours with 64% of the achievements unlocked.