The Norwood Suite (2017)
Developer: Cosmo D
Disclaimer: I received this game for free from the developer.
Only a few weeks ago, I wrote a review about Off-Peak, a short experimental-like game by Cosmo D. Since then I've been looking forward to playing The Norwood Suite, which was described to me by friends as a longer, more involved game that still feels very similar to Off-Peak. The Norwood Suite is a first-person adventure game taking place at a very unusual hotel and where you do errands for the hotel patrons, while finding out a whole lot of the hotel's history and secrets along the way.
You arrive at the Hotel Norwood with an extremely vague indication of what your mission is. You're simply given a hotel voucher and told to help the other patrons of the hotel, since everyone there is "looking for something". Despite off-putting the designs can be in this game, there's a beautiful landscape you can look at right as you arrive. You realize from this view that the Hotel Norwood is sort of tucked away in the mountains, far away from the city.
The Norwood Suite can be considered a sequel to Off-Peak, but the stories aren't clearly tied together in a way that you would need to play Off-Peak first. Having played both does allow for some theorizing about the overarching story and themes of these games, though. The Norwood Suite plays very similarly to how Off-Peak did, and is full of the same type characters, often disproportional or moving in unnatural ways. The Norwood Suite also builds on its predecessor's focus on music, as it shapes the story that plays out as well as the history of the hotel that you come to learn about. Peter Norwood, who originally lived where the Norwood hotel was established, was a renowned but not well understood musical genius. Everyone here has a different story about him and how they aspire to be able to play his music.
The Norwood Suite is one big collection of fetch quests - I figured I should say that upfront. Now, personally, I love fetch quests, especially long ones where you have to put together items or figure out how to make something. It means you have to really talk to every person at the hotel, and they do all make it pretty clear what they need from you. Also, as you do these quests, you find out more about the hotel, it's history, and what everyone's motives are. My personal favorite was making one patron a sandwich, because the way you make a sandwich in this game was so over the top and probably not actually the best way to do it. Throughout these quests, you find out more of Norwood's dark secrets and why his legacy attracts so many musicians to the hotel.
The Norwood Suite took more time give the characters dimensions and some interesting backstory as well as relationships to one another. I feel like if you asked me (at least at the point of writing this), I could describe almost every character and what their deal was. Many of them do sometimes do move in very unnatural ways, purposely, but I respect the amount of work that went into making this guy in the video below really dance right. He's dancing like he's having the best time of his life at this one-man dance party. It makes you feel really bad when you have to turn the music off and essentially ruin his day.
This game is full of surprises and sometimes disturbing little details, but it's definitely not a horror game. There's some images that might make your skin crawl some, but no jump scares or monsters. There's a constant feeling of being watched, much like Off-Peak, and sometimes you do actually see eyes on the wall following you. For the most part, you are actually doing your best to make everyone happy and do what you're told, so it's not as much of an ominous feeling that you're being judged for your actions. However, I will warn that the ending is pretty creepy and a little confusing. I had some interesting conversations after the game, theorizing what it all meant in the grand scheme of the Norwood Hotel and the different characters' hidden motives.
The Norwood Suite really pulled me into its mystery and it felt like a longer journey than the 3 hours I played it, somehow. Putting together the pieces of the story through your quests is really satisfying. It's definitely an experience that is very unique and hard to compare to other games, but if you liked Off-Peak or you just like exploring spaces that don't make a whole lot of sense, this is the way to go. There's actually another game in the works by Cosmo D, Tales From Off-Peak City, which I'm hoping will connect and explain some of the story of the previous games. I'm already a fan of his work, both games and music, so I'm excited to play that one in the near future.
The Norwood Suite is available on PC.
Played on: PC
Playtime: 3 hrs