Thank You Save Sloth Studios for providing us with a review code!
Here we are with A Most Extraordinary Gnome tasked with protecting his home. He’s old, tired, and ready to move on, but continues to protect himself and the forest critters that live within the forest. A Most Extraordinary Gnome is part storybook, part boss rush, and part action platformer. It uses a charming papercraft style, made with real recycled paper so the whole experience looks very natural.
The player controls Gnome (whose real name is revealed at the very end). Throughout his home are the many animals that live with or visit the old man. They all have their woes and problems, but Gnome is the one with the arguably biggest burden of them all. He’s the last of his kind, all of his brothers passing away before him. He misses them deeply. He also has a mirror in his home which he refuses to look at. Gnome seems to have secrets himself, leaning more towards feelings of regret and self-loathing. The narrative overall is interesting, showcasing just how much Gnome cares about the forest animals and their safety.
After a tutorial that explains the simple controls, Gnome will find himself in his house. He can talk to the residents to find more insight about them and the forest, or he can talk to a massive jet-black chicken that sits outside his house, also in charge of protecting the forest. The chicken will let Gnome know of the dangers in the forest so that he can take care of them. One of these includes a hostile flesh-eating mushroom.
A Most Extraordinary Gnome plays in a 2D platformer style. Taking some inspiration from Cuphead (I presume), Extraordinary Gnome focuses on boss battles and challenges. Gnome’s means of attack is through a hat he wears. He can toss it in any direction he chooses after a small windup time. This hat also acts as his means of defense. As long as he is wearing a hat, Gnome will take no damage. This is also where the juggling act between offense and defense happens. You have to notice small openings so that you can safely attack while avoiding damage. If you focus too much on attacking, you leave yourself vulnerable to the many projectiles that will appear on the screen. On the other hand, if you focus too much on defense, you’ll never end up attacking. You may even find yourself losing your hat, making you extremely vulnerable. One cool thing about the hat is that it has its own physics, so the angle of how you throw your hat is important as well. And as long as it is actively moving while not attached to Gnome, it still counts as an attacking projectile.
While the experience itself is quite short, every level took me at least a second attempt to complete. At its default, Extraordinary Gnome is fairly challenging because of all the things you need to keep in mind. If the challenge is too much for you, there are some accessibility options such as increasing the number of hits you can take from 5 to 10, slowing down the game speed to half of its original, or just outright invincibility. On the other hand, there is Anvil Mode after the game is beaten that replaces your hat with an anvil. Anvils are, of course, much heavier than hats so they cannot be thrown as far. On top of that, anvil mode reduces your health to one making an already challenging game notably more difficult.
Not all levels are created equally as stage 2 has a gimmick where you have to seal the underground pipes with various items. Some pipes take one item, while others take three. The latter pipes can be annoying as the hit detection on them isn’t the best, so when you try to fill it with the third item, sometimes it will bounce off and disappear into the abyss below. I’d say it’s the only level out of the four that I don’t like very much. With small adjustments, it has the potential to be a pretty enjoyable level.
In terms of morality, there isn’t much to talk about. Violence is kept to non-deadly levels. Gnome throws hats, anvils, and various kitchen utensils at enemies and whenever Gnome is hit, he either flashes a white or red color. There is one instance of the word “h*ll” used in dialogue. Supernatural references are Eastern European-inspired with the gnome race and how some of them are created with mud, by a higher being only known as “Allknowing”.
Extraordinary Gnome is rather short, but for the price and its charming art style, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. It took me about 40 minutes to see the credits the first time so I’d say it’d take an average person around the 1-2 hour mark. Once the game is beaten, you can also replay any stages you want by talking to the stork hidden all the way to the right side of the second floor of Gnome’s home. Accessible for many in both skill level and morals, A Most Extraordinary Gnome will charm a large audience out there.