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The Norwood Suite

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Alliance Digital Media
Developer: Cosmo D
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

The Norwood Suite is a strange adventure game that either tries too hard to be off and obscure, or doesn't try hard enough to form a coherent story. The result is that your character's journey through the strange avant garde music-centric hotel is confusing and you never really have a feel for where the story is going, even once it's ended.

The graphics of The Norwood Suite are a far cry from top notch, but given the off-kilter nature of the game as a whole, there are times when it isn't clear if the visual quality is a result of an amateur hand or purposeful decisions. There are very obvious design choices that show the developers are going for strange and out of the ordinary. This is seen by twisty-turny hallways, characters in unusual costumes, and room decorations that are, simply put, weird. But when clipping occurs so you see "behind" the sets, and characters deliberately talk about not quite wanting to leave a room yet only to vanish as soon as your back is turned (I'm guessing to avoid the ragged and awkward walking animation seen twice in the game), there appear to be quite a few places where a lack of anything near polish is strikingly obvious and can't possibly be attributed to just being weird for the sake of weirdness.

As bad as The Norwood Suite's visuals are, it's audio aspect is the opposite. Music is a major component to the hotel and its patrons. Not only was the hotel created from the home of a former well-known musician, but many of the puzzles crafted into the very walls of the building are music-centric. So, it's a good thing that, for the most part, this aspect of the game hits the mark. The background music that is present in the different rooms of the hotel fits those locations pretty well, while the staccato musical notes that play as text is written on the screen perfectly replaces voice actors in a way that fits the mood of the game and neatly sidesteps the need for different voice talents.


Gameplay:

The Norwood Suite puts the player on a street outside Hotel Norwood. You aren't given any real direction except that the person who drops you off tells you that there is a voucher for a room ahead and you will get further instructions later on. While both are true and this does give you some direction, what it doesn't give you is any real idea of what your character is doing at the strange location. In fact, the first few people you meet pretty much tell you what your primary tasks will be; talk to people and do what they ask you to do. One employee of the hotel basically just tells you to act like you work there even though you are supposed to be a guest.

What follows is a long series of odd quests that would stretch the definition of puzzle in most adventure games. One guest asks for a sandwich with specific ingredients. All of those ingredients are found next to each other and the sandwich pretty much builds itself. Another character is looking for a strategy book for an odd board game, while another wants you to get something out of his locker. Why are you doing these random tasks? Will it somehow help you complete your goal? Well, yes it does, but there really isn't any logic as to why the series of jobs you do around the building end up gaining you access to all the strange little nooks and crannies of the Hotel Norwood, it just feels like a happy coincidence as you explore the strange old house.

Oddly, this makes for a game that feels directionless, but not one that ever left me wondering what the next task on my list was. At every point, I knew what my current goal was, and if I did happen to complete all the tasks I could think of off the top of my head, then a quick look at my inventory reminded me of a key to a random room or some item that I needed to deliver to someone and I was off to the next goal in my disjointed journey. The directionless feeling came from the fact that I had no real idea how all of these random tasks would add up to the character's eventual goal, much less why that goal was actually important.


Difficulty:

The Norwood Suite is not a hard playthrough for even the most casual of adventure gamers. There aren't any tricky puzzles or clever ways to use your inventory items. It's simply a matter of doing what each person in the hotel asks you to do. Guest A says to get something out of her trunk, go do that. Guest B says they need a particular item, when you find it, bring it to them. The hardest part of the game might be remembering who needs what, but the world isn't so large and filled with so many people that you can't quickly go talk to everyone and refresh your memory on who needs what.

Game Mechanics:

While many aspects of The Norwood Suite stray far from the ordinary, it does stick to its core point-and-click game mechanics pretty solidly. With the exception of a few interactive set pieces, all of the puzzles in the game consists of inventory-related tasks. As a result, The Norwood Suite is easy to pick up and play, it's just understanding what your character's goals are and where the story is taking the player that makes it an odd game.

Honestly, The Norwood Suite is a tough game to recommend. As an adventure title, it's story isn't that satisfying and it doesn't offer much in the way of a challenge. What it offers is a collection of strange characters and an odd location centered around the music industry. Personally, I know I don't get avant garde and that could very well have spoiled my overall view of this game, but if you are like me in that respect, you won't find much to enjoy from The Norwood Suite, even at the game's current $10.00 price tag. If, on the other hand, the disjointed aspects I've described catch your attention, then maybe the game is worth looking into for you.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 7 and up, Intel i5, 3.0Ghz, 8 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 700 series Graphics Card, 2 GB available hard drive space
 

Test System:



Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3,Windows 10 Home 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB)

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