NORCO 2022: Unravel A Mystery In A World Haunted By The Past And Threatened By The Future￼
March 24th, 2022
Geography of Robots
Immerse yourself in a surreal and uncanny South Louisiana.
Unravel a mystery in a world haunted by the past and threatened by the future.
Explore alongside sharply drawn characters with deep roots, rich backstories, and complex motives.
The game contains instances of violence, suicide, substance use, and mature language.
Ghosts linger in the bayous of Norco, Louisiana. Not the kind you see in horror movies, jumping up in your face and screaming incessantly, not the kind you see on bizarre found films and then show all your friends. These ghosts are relics of the past, relics of a bygone era. A moment that will never be repeated.
Kay was raised in Norco and is familiar with its eccentric residents and rural scenery. But one day, she decides enough is enough. She packs her belongings, leaves the only home she’s ever known and hits the road. She spends the next five years aimlessly traveling from state to state, doing nothing, her existence reduced to a shadow. Her mother, however, dies of illness. Kay returns to her hometown of Norco, overcome by a sense of sorrow.
But home is not what it appears. A power corporation is gradually but surely taking over the nearby communities, and the Norco she knows is being overshadowed by its capitalist ideas and futuristic machines. Her home is also in disarray, with the cluttered kitchen and living room serving as portals into the past, a stroll down memory lane, if you will. Kay remembers these occurrences with apathy as if they belonged to someone else; the person who vanished when she went away. Her spirit. She’s a “young woman without a face floating indifferently across a world trapped in time,” as one character puts it.
Many games have addressed the homecoming trope, but none do it as well as Norco. Typically, this return to a prior existence is largely concerned with what has already occurred, the information that the protagonist already knows but we don’t. Kay’s new home, on the other hand, is different. It has transformed, shaped into a horrible shape by family tragedies, disease, and possibly even occult events.
And this is just the start. The peculiar circumstances surrounding Kay’s family and the events in Norco are gradually exposed, and a mystery emerges. Norco changes into something considerably different and far stranger, a stunning composition that maintains a good balance between the uncanny and every day, carried forward by quick, precise prose.
The story is told not only from Kay’s point of view but also from the perspective of a figure from the past. A premise is frequently established in the past and then expanded upon in the present, integrating these two points of view and making the transitions between them practically smooth. As a result, you never get the impression that an exciting aspect of the plot is being interrupted, or even delayed, by something else. It’s quite brilliant.
The gameplay varies as well, with cascades of various thoughts and notions colliding. When you confront guards in cutting-edge armor, the game transforms into a turn-based battle reminiscent of a JRPG, with each round requiring you to either strike or heal a character to prepare for the following turn. Then, after watching a puppet presentation about a hunter exploring the marshes, you’re transferred into a top-down view of the area, where you can control the direction of the boat and make a few discoveries. In possibly the most clever portion, you are subjected to a reading of your memory and must choose which memories to keep and which to discard. Few of these segments are novel, but they give Norco a fluid and unpredictable personality when combined.
What makes this story so great is how it manages to wrap everything up by the conclusion. A seemingly random interaction early on turns out to be tied to a significant plot point, and every surreal aspect, no matter how strange, holds a deeper meaning. These elements don’t feel like they were tossed at a board like darts, but rather like deliberate judgments made by the storytellers. We were so engrossed that we began taking notes in an attempt to grasp the symbolism’s deeper depths.
The game is similar to the mythical Kentucky Route Zero in its juxtaposition of rural America with the spooky. The characters of Norco, like the ragtag group traveling the dreamy highways of Kentucky, face life’s uncertainties. They’re traveling down hazy highways in a car powered by doubt and suppressed by the changes taking place around them. Some try to resist it by looking for meaning, while others succumb to despondency.
“No one is happy here. We’re stuck in this limbo. Protracted dusk that spills out to the boundaries of time, where even the most fantastical things become mundane.”
It helps to put things into perspective. Can we, as ordinary people, hope to change anything in a world dominated by the wealthy and fortunate? A sign at the entrance to the oil refinery that dominates the skyline reads, “for a greener future.” Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar? The truth is, as pretentious as it sounds, we live in Norco’s universe. Faceless businesses govern our daily lives and ideas through bureaucratic algorithms and overwhelming technology, suppressing the little. Isn’t it depressing to think about it?
Nonetheless, we cling to existence, attempting to give it significance. One of the most intriguing Norco organizations is a group of religious extremists known as the Garretts. They want to escape their terrestrial confinement by building a spaceship and reaching for the stars. It’s a big undertaking that will probably fail due to its own ambition, but it has symbolic value. There are folks attempting to escape the mundane in our own world as well. But, on the other hand, we all start out striving for the stars; most of us eventually give up on that desire.
In theory, this game takes place in the future. People have abandoned traditional timekeeping methods, there is an android with what appears to be real emotions, and even the local gas station, which is located on an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere, is administered by an automaton. However, we frequently forget that this is merely speculative fiction. It certainly doesn’t feel far from our own world, both in its representation of towering businesses and in the technology, which, when you think about it, isn’t all that far-fetched. That is an accomplishment.