Initially I was rather excited to play The Norwood Suite, a first-person adventure game by Cosmo D (who also created the popular feeware game Off-Peak) set in a rather trippy-looking hotel with lots of odd pick-ups and somewhat bizarre characters. The story is very non-linear and initially you’re not entirely sure as to what you are supposed to be doing – though is this really any different than real life?
On booting up the game there are few options to set and basically, you’re dropped right into it. My first observation as I walked up the road to the hotel was the first collectable, which is a cycle helmet, there is a brief intro of the controls and operations of the handles, switches etc and you get your voucher for a free night in the hotel. While wandering around the hotel the whole feel is very psychedelic, then I noticed the jazzy soundtrack (also available to buy separately) which sets the scene well and massively adds to the atmosphere and ambience. Not long after the realisation set in; I had absolutely no idea of what I was supposed to do!
After several hours of gameplay I discovered several hidden rooms and hallways, collected lots of things and even returned some of them to their apparent rightful owners. This is pretty much the crux of the game, talk to someone, go find something for them. Repeat. Done. It’s oddly relaxing compared to the general trend towards high-octane games these days and the soundtrack does work with creating this scene and setting. As the story developed I couldn’t help but draw metaphorical parallels with the characters and happenings to that of the real music world, probably the point, glad I didn’t miss it!
Graphically the game looks slick and runs very well. The decor is psychedelic and colourful, the character models are detailed enough and there are no obvious clipping or environmental issues, the mechanics of the game are good although the character animations could use some further care and attention to really polish off the game. If you’re running a mid-range gaming machine it will make light work of The Norwood Suite and run very fast and smooth. It’s worth noting that the 1.1 patch brought V-Sync, Anti-Aliasing and a brightness slider. If you’re unsure what Anti-Aliasing is, the guys over a tested.com did a great article on this
The soundtrack in The Norwood Suite is generally pretty easy going, the music is truly excellent and creates a beautiful ambience during gameplay. One missing piece for me is the character voices, in that there aren’t any past indistinct mumblings (much like characters in The Sims), all conversations are text based which is understandable in an indy game however kinda annoyed me as I find it restricted my playtime to around thirty minutes to an hour in a single session.
The controls are the standard WSAD, the same as one would expect from any first-person game regardless of whether you have a gun or not. The only bone of contention I had with the controls is the way you interact with switches, handles and drawers. The movement is not quite right, it’s almost like the motion tracking isn’t sensitive enough (it’s certainly not my Mad Catz R.A.T.9 @ 6400dpi, which admittedly I use at 4000dpi) and the same issue is not apparent while navigating the games many corridors and stairwells. Playing in this environment made me think this game would be far more immersive as a VR experience however yet again this is an Indy game and VR is still relatively new to the market so this is a somewhat unrealistic expectation on my part.
The question is, as always, is it any good as a game and I suppose that really depends on what you are looking for? Personally, I got frustrated with the walking around and talking to people constantly however that’s the point of the game so this is more a genre qualm rather than being specific to The Norwood Suite. Graphically and audibly Cosmo D has done a great job, the environment is well constructed and there is a good amount of depth to the story and in terms of play time for the dollar, it’s a great bang for the buck.
If you were a fan of the first game Off-Peak it’s really a no-brainer – you should buy this immediately. If you’re a fan of the genre, again, go buy it without concern. If you’re new to the first-person adventure game genre then this isn’t really an ideal introduction as its all quite surreal.