Played on Windows
Also Available for macOS
The Norwood Suite is an interesting game. The player explores an odd hotel, and meets the hotel’s peculiar guests. I have no way to really explain what drew me toward it, but something wanted me to play the game, and I found a unique experience.
The Norwood Suite starts with an odd loading screen with a skull-headed creature appearing on it as soft unsettling music is played. The screen appears with some soft music and stays on the screen far longer than I expected. Then there’s a tire screech and you are in the game. Apparently, the game loads everything during this boot process because there’s not another loading screen in the entire game.
That loading screen makes for a surreal opening, but it also perfectly sets the mood for The Norwood Suite. The three terms I would use for the game is odd, strange, and bizarre, and while they are synonyms, that’s just how weird this game really is.
A bit disturbing every time I see it.
The Norwood Suite game focused on The Hotel Norwood, a mysterious hotel that seems to attract musicians. The game starts with you being sent to the Hotel with a mission from an unnamed female accomplice with blue hair. Your exact task isn’t clear, you just are told to go up the hill to a cave to get a voucher. As the driver finishes her spiel, she drives off at top speed and you’re left to walk around. The game will start to hint about a mysterious Norwood Suite and the odd Mr. Norwood who built the Hotel as a home and lived in his suite until his disappearance. You are left to explore the Hotel as it stands today.
The writing for this game is really strong, but what stands out is the feeling this was made by musicians. There’s a strong love of music in the game. Each character has a musical instrument sound attached to them and many of them have musical accompaniment. The entire game has a musical feeling to it. During the game, you play on a special piano, have to get a book of Etudes, and even help a composer. Clearly, this is a “music game” but rather than be a game aimed at musicians, it’s a game about musicians. The music is a motif, not a specific gameplay element.
Most of The Norwood Suite is played by listening to people or interacting with objects. When you meet people, you usually find two of them together in a discussion and can eavesdrop on them. Most characters seem to have interesting dialogue to share without your interaction, however, most of the eavesdropping seems to only build the story and doesn’t add to the actual gameplay. It’s a shame because the game could give some information in eavesdropping alone, but it never uses it as anything more than window dressing. Instead, the game requires you to confront people and they almost always will directly tell you what they want, sometimes spelling it out for you so it’s extremely obvious.
Very specific, but interesting
Most of the conversations, whether eavesdropped or directly confronted, are long, with the eavesdropped conversations being a lot longer. Both types of conversations also will restart if the player just listens, which is useful if you miss something. The only difference between the two are the topics covered and the fact the player drives the face to face conversations by “interacting” with the characters or just clicking on them repeatedly. If necessary, they’ll repeat their request and usually a snippet of the story.
The downside to the story is that it never feels like it fully fits together. There’ are a number of events going on at the Hotel Norwood, but it feels almost like random events. I’m sure there’s actually a really good story, but it’s quite hard to discover. However, each individual story and event is well written and I enjoyed exploring the game because I wanted to see the next thing I was asked to do, or the next discussion happening.
I’ve heard this game is called “a walking simulator” and while I feel that’s a bit true, there’s a difference. In this game, there’s a lot of item manipulation and fetch quests. You need to find a lot of items to gather to give to the guests and help each one out. There’s a good amount of exploration and fetch quests but ultimately that’s what the game is. You meet person A who wants a six pack of a drink. Person B can get you the drink but wants you to complete task C. Task C requires you to do Task D. You then will do Task D to complete Task C, to get an item from Person B, so Person A can get the six-pack, and give you another item.
But yet, that’s the depth of the game, it’s not a very deep experience but I did enjoy exploring the entire hotel. So in a way it’s a walking simulator, but there are a ton of hidden and optional passages and a lot of interesting mini-puzzles. Other than that, it is mostly just a list of tasks for you to that’s usually go get an object for someone.
There’s even a guy at the concierge desk who is always willing to help you. All he really does is tell you all the “tasks” or “requests” that people have made of you and usually give a minor hint on how you might want to solve it or where you can go to check. It’s a solid hint system that doesn’t spoil much of anything, but it’s more of a memo system than required by any puzzles. It would allow a bigger game, but it doesn’t seem used for it.
As I mentioned before, the game is really bizarre and that’s why I kept playing it. I’ve seen the entire game including the ending. I’m still not sure I understand what the game is about. The ending is strange, the beginning is strange, and the middle is strange. I want to just applaud the developers for making one of the most compelling locations that made me want to keep playing.
But sadly, it’s not that easy to only applaud them for that. You see, The Norwood Suite is short. I have a full playthrough that I did in one hour and forty-nine minutes. That’s a bit fast for a 10 dollar game. I wish I could tell you it’s worth 10 bucks, but it’s hard, it’s just too short to really make a strong case for it, and as bizarre as it is, I don’t expect to be playing this game again any time soon.
Yet, I like the game. If I had to choose if it’s a bad game or a good game, I believe it’s a good game, but it’s a good game that ends too fast, and that doesn’t have enough in it. I don’t want to see something to artificially lengthen the game, but I could have used more content, more rooms, more development. Maybe a less absurd ending.
I want more because The Norwood Suite is so good for the time I spent with it, but after those 2 hours, it’s over. I’ll think about it because of that absurdist style, but it’ll stay in my finished games. I doubt I’ll give it a second playthrough, and that’s a shame because I want more of it. Ultimately I have to give a passing grade because for the time frame it works, but it doesn’t do enough to really warrant more. It’s a good game if you like “Walking simulators” or just want to see something unique.
Final thoughts: It’s over too fast, and it’s very strange and bizarre, but it’s one of the better walking simulators even if it might not be one of the longer choices. Still, I like it a lot, and I wish there was more.
Stats: 1.9 hours played 17/17 achievements earned.
I got this game in February 2018 Humble Monthly bundle but didn’t know I was going to get it.