In the present, we get lost in giant sandboxes with an equally vast selection of plots driven by choices.
Norco should seem like a treasured artifact from an era of Sierra’s Golden Age of digital adventures. Geography of Robots’ debut title explores the unchecked nature of classism and capitalism at the core of America’s primarily ignored Deep South. In addition, Norco’s retrofuturistic net. Art aesthetic is supported by some of the finest surrealist writing ever since Kentucky Route Zero.
Norco reinvents the bayou in an interconnected network of points on the map. I traveled to various locations, read through old manuscripts in abandoned shops, bought dog food from the convenience store, snatched hallucinogens from dirty bathroom stalls, and conversed with residents.
Every scene is filled with psychedelic colors. Rivers shimmer in the shadows of trees while the dim light casts long shadows over grassy knolls, and watercolor clouds form over the empty freeway.
Norco’s words suggest that the city is deformed and infected; however, it’s beautiful to look at.
Protagonist Kay returns in time to find that her Louisianan community is at the edge of being wiped out.
Kay’s brother Blake has not been located, as is her mother, whom she has separated from, Catherine, who recently succumbed to cancer. In the days before her death, Catherine was conducting research on a floating anomaly in the lake next to her, which earned the suspicion of the evil petroleum conglomerate Shield. As Kay was gone, I walked through an odd, modernized Norco in the hope of finding Blake and finishing Catherine’s work.
Norco is full of delightful turns and terrifying revelations, which brought me face-to-face dirty detectives and bizarre machines and other oddities. There’s lots of dialogue and world-building. However, the prose’s dreamy and philosophical tone makes every line of text enjoyable to read.
In the rare instance that I was having trouble keeping on top of the story, I turned to Kay’s “MindMap,” an intelligent alternative to the traditional quest log in which important NPCs, objects, and places are connected. In this way, I can reflect on important events and connections for further details, move the plot, or even recall other goals. Norco mostly promotes puzzle-based games; however, don’t get fooled.
This game has a plethora of subtleties. There was a time when the multi-part challenge required me to watch over backgrounds using a smartphone camera to uncover hidden solutions, which gave previously explored areas an additional dimension and awe.
There are even puzzles in the peripheral that I would have missed if I had not meticulously examined the surroundings with my mouse, which could perfectly match the mysterious and illusory aspect of the tale.
My only complaint with Norco is its tacked-on combat system. At times, Kay and her ever-growing group of friends (e.g., a stuffed monkey e.g., a stuffed monkey, a missing security Droid, or a fugitive security droid. Encounter adversaries. Attacks are minigames ranging from replicating patterns on screen to pointing out enemies’ weak points at specific intervals. I became bored of these repetitive battles. In a game brimming with original design ideas, combat was a distant second, and I’m glad that there’s only a handful of these scenes.
I’ve never played a sport similar to Norco it is a game that elegantly highlights and challenges its historical roots while simultaneously describing the bizarre doomsday scenarios. Kay and Catherine’s devastation in America is not that dissimilar from ours – growing industrial complexes could displace low-income families as automated systems outnumber human laborers, and the wealthy constantly work to prevent upward mobility. It’s not all dark. On a cool evening, I was seated in City Hall and gazed at the stars with an acquaintance. The previous night, I was flipping through my precious memories on a flatscreen television that was not working. Norco is lasting, reminding me that there is a natural beauty in the chaos.