I have to admit to an ignorance of who Cosmo D is, I never encountered Off-Peak, a free, and seemingly memorable game Cosmo D put out a year or so back. Hearing the synopsis for The Norwood Suite, your night in a strange remote hotel, full of odd-ball characters; I was expecting Twin Peaks, what I got was a fever dream Jazzpunk
I guess the comparisons with Jazzpunk are inevitable but truth is The Norwood Suite is its own thing. Jazzpunk was thick with gags and laughs, The Norwood Suite, while not lacking in humour, itís just odd. Itís not wacky, thereís a coherence to everything, it just looks a bit off kilter. The plot is fairly simple, you arrive at the hotel with the intention of getting in to the DJ set in the basement, to do this you have to help the various guests with their problems. A lot of the conversations are fairly normal too, believable even, certainly my reservations that the game might be a bit of a hack job were laid to rest by the interactions being so well handled. The more I played the more I looked past the garish visuals and odd models and started to be reminded more of Flower, Sun, and Rain (the Suda51 adventure game).
To give The Norwood Suite some context, rather than just bang on about how odd it can be, itís actually a fairly straight forward 3D adventure game. Before I even got inside the hotel I met a couple in the carpark, we talked a while, then they asked me to get them a 6-pack of energy drink. To get it for them I had to solve maybe 3 or 4 other tasks, certainly because of the order I was picking stuff up in it was towards the end of the game I got it for them. Thereís not too many out and out puzzles, itís mainly hunting for objects, which usually have some indication that theyíre important, but there are a couple of moments that require some brain power
The look and sound of The Norwood Suite are certainly itís own. All conversations take place next to a music source, the game focuses on music for its story, and the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp. The game world has a look; bright, garish, neon colours, characters made entirely of clashes. Objects exist in the world in places they shouldn't, statue heads inside drawers, that sort of thing. Itís a bit of a mixed blessing, one one hand the game has its own feel, yes everyone who reviews it is going to scrabble around for the same couple of games to liken it to, but that really says more about how we review things, it bears repeating, The Norwood Suite is definitely its own thing
The flip side is that it set me on edge. Not in a horror sense, thereís nothing especially creepy going on, more that itís hard to look at, a bit too much for the senses. Itís that feeling when youíre still hours away from the end of a night thatís taken a turn, like you've been in a club too long and the air is making you nauseous. Donít take that to mean I didn't enjoy The Norwood Suite, but itís probably more accurate to say I ďenjoyedĒ it.
As clichťd as it is, I've got to finish this review by saying The Norwood Suite isn't for everyone. The tone, look and feel to the game is enough to put some off, I liked it, but itís painfully easy to see how many wouldn't. Itís a shame its not funnier, at least that would give people a bit of a hook to latch on to. The gameplay is fine, nothing to write home about, but it works, it gets you to explore the hotel and experience the characters. If you go in knowing what to expect, if youíre the kind of person who likes an experience as much as a game, The Norwood Suite is worth a look