NORCO – Review – Games Room

NORCO is a dreamy journey into a future that feels both distant and relentlessly close at the same time.

She tells me not to pet the cat, because it gets a little too energetic. Of course, I do not stop. They are a cat, they are there to be petted. The more I pat it, the more it spins. In the end, it spins so that it vibrates like an angry bumblebee. The woman tells me one last time to stop, but it does not help. I scratch the cat behind the ears again, whereupon it vibrates straight up through the ceiling and out into the air. The woman refuses to talk to me again. Understandable.

She tells me not to pet the cat, because it gets a little too energetic. Of course, I do not stop. They are a cat, they are there to be petted. The more I pat it, the more it spins. In the end, it spins so that it vibrates like an angry bumblebee. The woman tells me one last time to stop, but it does not help. I scratch the cat behind the ears again, whereupon it vibrates straight up through the ceiling and out into the air. The woman refuses to talk to me again. Understandable.

This is not really a representative scene, but if you try to put your finger on what NORCO is, it does not matter which scene you choose. There is really no single, separate sequence that in a good way shapes what this is for a game, or what it conveys. At least no one who does not reveal more about the game than I am willing to do here. Because if there’s one thing you need to know about it, it’s that you need to play it to really understand what it is and why it’s so special.

It’s a sprawling game, in several ways, but without ever becoming a problem. The game is full of whims, both fun, gripping and fascinating ones, which together create a remarkable whole that feels more organic and cohesive than it probably really should be.

NORCO is basically a dystopian depiction of the future, but in a sea of ​​gloomy futures, this story stands out in several ways. The game is a noir detective story and takes place in Louisiana’s poisoned swamp, where various broken people try to create a life in the shadow of the refineries’ ominous silhouettes. NORCO is, however, generally more interested in existential nuisances than in social criticism, although there is a part of that commodity as well. But everything is shaped by a dreamy, often poetic filter. It is less about explaining social structures, and more about shaping the experience of living in them, and being human in such a fragmented and broken existence.

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Briefly

What is it?

A peculiar and surreal dystopia in point-and-click format.

Developer

Geography of Robots

Publisher

Raw Fury

Webb

norcogame.com

Approximate price

150: –

Tested on

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

RTX 3070

16 GB RAM

Also check out

Disco Elysium

The rocket cat likes you.

Gripping surrealism

In a way, NORCO has more in common with David Lynch’s films than with Blade Runner. There is a basic mystery, but the plot is mostly an excuse for the player to explore the world and its characters. If the game has a major shortcoming, it is probably in that case that the detective mystery as such does not succeed in being the driving force and catalyst for the narrative as it is probably intended.

If you compare with the first season of Twin Peaks, Kerstin Ekman’s novel Events by the Water, or for that matter Disco Elysium (which the game shares some similarities with, in terms of theme and literary ambition), however, these succeed better in using the tricks of the detective genre. NORCO does not succeed quite as well in adding that common thread in the detective story plot. Instead, the game relies entirely on the atmosphere, the ideas, the characters and the often well-written dialogues, and that is more than enough. This is a rare gaming experience that creates an elusive and difficult-to-describe feeling in me during the handful of hours that the game lasts. The aesthetics, music and script interact all the time, even in the sharp casts of tone and theme, in a way that makes the world feel both strangely alive and diffusely dreamy at the same time.

The plot around that you have been traveling for a long time, and now come home to your hometown again. Your mother has died and your brother has disappeared, so you start and try to find out in part what the mother did her last time in life, and where the brother may be. Along the way, you (in addition to that rocket cat) come across private detectives, strange sects, robots and all sorts of loose people who often have small stories to share.

Mechanically, it is a fairly straightforward adventure game in first-person view, not unlike for example Deja Vu, where you examine objects, talk to people and solve one or two puzzles. The puzzles are nothing special, but they fit in the context. They are usually quite simple, but often quite absurd in a way that works well in the comic, sometimes thoughtful, surrealism that the game so successfully conveys. They fulfill their function, quite simply, even if I had not objected to one or two thoughts that offered a little more resistance.

The only thing in the game I would have liked to have avoided completely are the pointless battles. They are extremely simple, so fortunately there is no difficult threshold to overcome, but it would really have been much more appropriate to let the player solve all possible violent situations with puzzle solutions of various kinds. Even if it’s just building a MacGyver-inspired weapon and clicking it on the enemies, it would have been better than the half-measure of battles in the game now.

Again, there is nothing that really detracts from the whole. On the one hand, you only fight on a few occasions, and on the other hand, as I said, it is so simple that it is quickly completed. There’s only one

NORCO benefit from knowing as little as possible about it in advance. That’s why I do not want to go into individual scenes, or even describe the game’s theme too much. It is part of the game’s appeal to gradually explore what the game has to say. Instead, I am content to say that the game manages to create a very tangible feeling of loss and loneliness, but also a kind of bittersweet longing and zest for life, in the middle of all the dirt and all the misery. It’s a game full of lost people, absolutely, but there’s something powerful and vibrant in the quest. Every single part of the game may not be perfect, but it stubbornly digs under my skin and lingers long after the subtitles have rolled.

Read also: Age of Empires IV – The review

There is a low-key but very obvious melancholy over the game.
NORCO – Review
Reviewed by on .

4.5

A distinctive gaming experience that paints a both visibly vivid and dreamily surreal vision of the future.