Here comes the usual first paragraph! Norman’s Great Illusion is essentially a choose your own adventure with a little extra interactive elements that tries to show the bad side of capitalism, government rule, and war. It releases August 19th on several platforms. I received an Xbox code from the publisher for free with no expectations for this review. As I am mostly blind, some things I have trouble with may not affect your experience. I played for about 2.5 hours, which was enough to see three different endings.
The game is split into three sections interspersed with pop up choices to make. The first section is your home, where you start and end your days. During breakfast and supper, you talk with your family about the goings on in your area. This gives you an idea of how your choices are affecting your family. I was disappointed that you had such a large home, with very little to interact with. The second section is driving to and from work.
This is really just glorified quick time events, which I dislike. It’s hard for me to see when to press the button. Every time you miss one, your car takes damage. Take enough damage and you must pay to have it repaired out of your very limited savings. The last section is at work. You are an engineer and must complete several equations in a limited amount of time. This is basically glorified flash cards. I hope you remember your order of operations!
The art style is reminiscent of the 8 bit Era, which works fine for this game. The color palette has enough contrast to see well. The world changes as you progress through the levels, cycling through seasons, which is a nice touch. I don’t think there is a save system, so you must get to an ending in one sitting. It took me about 90 minutes on my first playthrough, but only about 30 minutes on successive runs. So the one sitting stipulation isn’t horrible but seems like an outdated practice. The controls don’t work perfectly unfortunately. This means that you may miss a driving QTE or answer to a work equation due to it. Although you are allowed a few mistakes either way without detriment, I wish those mistakes were due to skill, not faulty controls.
The story is very political and gets darker the further in you get. Of the three endings I saw, I wouldn’t call any of them good or happy. The closest I came to that was having lots of presents under the Christmas tree on my last run. There is a lot of reading to the story, with no voice over. Luckily the text boxes are high contrast and easy to read. I would say that the story is only for mature audiences although there isn’t any explicit detail to anything.
Overall, I guess I’d say I’m disappointed. Disappointed in the length of the game, the bad controls, boring game play, and no real consequences to your choices. The choices seem important when they happen, but the game ends one of two ways. The first, most common way is that you run out of money. Regardless of if it is by choice or circumstance, this way gives 4 final choices independent of previous choices. The other, more difficult way to see an ending is to survive long enough for war to break out. This only gives you two final choices regardless of prior choices. I guess it’s trying to show you how bad it can get, but I think I’d rather just read a book on the subject instead of playing this.