“This game is for the intelligent, conscious users”
Well, that is the description the developers of Normans Great Illusion provided for their title, which sadly ruled TBG out straight away. Fortunately, we are mighty and pressed on with our review of said title, so let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer.
For capitalism, war and peace are business and nothing but business
In Normans Great Illusion you play as an engineer who works for his local plant and must live through a whole year doing a tedious job where no matter how much you earn, you never seem to have enough to cover the constant wave of outgoings. During this time, social tensions are rising and you must make decisions whether to remain a well-oiled cog in the fascist machine to keep your head above water or break away and think for yourself at the risk of upsetting the fat cats. Be warned though, having your own opinion will lead to punishment, it’s a bit like working for Disney if they were owned by the soviets.
The core gameplay is extremely repetitive and that is the whole point, as a cog in the machine Norman lives a life of routine. Each morning you wake up, get dressed, sit down for breakfast with your wife and daughter, drive to work, do a mundane job, drive home, have dinner with family, go to bed, rinse and repeat.
The driving to work and day job are split into respective mini-games. For driving, you must arrive safe and adhere to the rules of the road by stopping a moving arrow within a box when it turns green, failure to do so will result in potential crashes which will damage your car, costing you money and potentially losing your ability to get to work.
The price of success
The day job as an engineer requires you to solve a series of mathematical equations and it is here that many might be put off. Depending on your skill at math’s and whether you can be bothered to grab a calculator if you are not very good will determine whether you play this title for more than five minutes. The equations come thick and fast and must be solved within a few seconds, solving them will earn you a bonus for a good day’s work which is a beneficial reward and will greatly assist you in getting through the year. If you earn enough bonuses and make no more than two mistakes a day you can even earn a promotion.
However, making too many mistakes will cost you both financially and reputationally and if money wasn’t enough to worry about, you will also need to be careful when making decisions as they can have severe consequences for you and your family. In our first playthrough, we lost our job and decided to get our own back by burning down the factory owners mansion. As a result, the police collected evidence, we were hung as a traitor, our wife was imprisoned as an accomplice and our daughter was sent to an orphanage! still, could have been worse, she could have been sent to the BBC.
A broken message
To be honest, we really were not sure what we were supposed to gain from playing Normans Great Illusion. The minimal amount of “gameplay” on offer across the two mini-games was janky and uninspired, to say the least, but we understood what it was trying to do. The story itself, however, is far too heavy-handed and if you want to see the intelligence that has gone into the title you will have to trudge through several times to witness the seven different endings that are available, unfortunately, the game just isn’t fun or interesting enough for us to recommend anyone doing that.
Visually the title is the standard indie/retro throwback presentation that is commonplace and certainly not a bad thing but nothing stood out as being unique here, to be honest, the whole experience outside of the core plot design feels like a mix of stuff we have all seen before and seen done better. Loading is blissfully short which is always very welcome but the controls themselves were clumsy, we experienced latency during the driving mini-game and oversensitive reactions when solving the mathematical equations which often resulted in annoying mistakes which we didn’t have time to rectify.
It is unclear if the developers want players to enjoy Normans Great Illusion of if it is some fourth wall breaking masterpiece that is supposed to make you feel like everything you are doing is just frustrating and pointless. If it is the latter then bravo but we still can’t recommend anyone going out of their way for this one. As a great man said, this feels like a fantasy simulator for parliament members.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, Xbox
Release Date: 19/08/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Puzzle, Adventure
Developer: Civil Savages
Publisher: Sometimes You
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop