Modern point-and-click developers Geography Of Robots unleashed the sleeper hit of 2022 with Norco, a pixel art adventure set in the depths of Louisiana. Norco is part science fiction, part horror, part dramedy, and part climate fiction. When that many genres come together in a single story, they often produce something unique, and Norco is no different. While the elements may be familiar, the overall product stands alone, and Norco was nominated for the Best Debut Indie Game at the 2022 Game Awards because of it.
The game follows Kay, who returns to her hometown of Norco, Louisiana after the death of her mother. Shortly after arriving, Kay uncovers some research that her mother was doing around the massive petroleum plant that dwarfs the town, and players will help piece together the evidence that Kay’s mother left behind. Although its point-and-click design may feel familiar, Norco rarely holds the player’s hand. Here are all the missteps to avoid when getting started.
Norco opens in Kay’s bedroom the morning after she returns to town. Players can click around the space and glean some information about Kay’s upbringing, as well as the history of the town. They can also investigate Kay’s stuffed monkey, named Monkey.
Monkey is actually the first party member that players can access, but he’s entirely optional. To have him join Kay’s party, players must win a staring contest with the stuffed creature. It sounds easy enough, but the matching minigame isn’t a cakewalk, and it needs to be completed flawlessly. The good news is players can repeat the game until they win, so don’t give up on Monkey!
Clicking on Kay’s character portrait (the emotionless smiley face) in the top left corner of the screen will open up her mind map. This will keep track of all the information she has gathered so far, as well as the people she’s met.
RELATED: The Most Frightening Tutorial Bosses
While some of the information displayed will simply be a rehash of what was said in conversations with other characters, other parts will be items that players won’t learn about anywhere else. It’s best to return to the mind map regularly, and definitely worthwhile to click through every icon that’s available at the game’s outset.
8/10 Check The Control Scheme
Norco is a point-and-click game, so it should be simple, but the game itself gives players very little indication of which buttons do what. Instead, it throws them straight into the game and lets them learn on the fly.
Outside of clicking, there are a few other functions available that players might go the whole game without using. One button will open the inventory, which is much faster than having to click the backpack icon to the right of the screen. More importantly, another button will highlight every “clickable” area in a given scene, ensuring players don’t miss any important information before they move on. It’s worth taking a peek at the controller layout screen just to pick up on some of these other functions.
7/10 Don’t Sweat The Decisions
Most situations in Norco only play out one way, with Kay getting all the information available and then moving on. However, some scenes will present the player with a choice (or several choices), and their decision will determine how that scene plays out, as well as influence other scenes down the road.
While the game does have a few different endings, none of them are “good” or “bad.” They’re just different outcomes to the story. The player’s decisions will determine which ending they get, but it’s nearly impossible to know how those decisions will play out when making them. When it comes to situations like how to get into Dimes Discount, or who to side with during the puppet show, players should just go with what they think is the right choice and not worry about how that choice will affect things on a larger scale.
6/10 Pet Crouton
Right at the outset of Act 2, Kay and Million the Robot will visit a bookstore in the East end of Norco. Inside will be Erica, the store’s owner, and the store’s resident cat, named Crouton.
RELATED: Cyberpunk 2077 Mod Lets Players Pet V’s Cat
Erica will warn Kay not to pet Crouton, but players should do it anyway. A minigame will start to play out, much like the one players dealt with when facing Monkey in a staring contest. After the first successful pet, Crouton will begin to vibrate. Players should keep petting the cat by completing the increasingly challenging minigames, and they will be rewarded with an…explosive result.
5/10 Don’t Fixate On Objectives
In the beginning, Norco throws a lot of different objectives at the player. Finding Blake, getting into Dimes Discount, learning the secret of the Virgin Mary Statue, and many more will swirl around the player’s head.
Unlike other games, these objectives are not all meant to be resolved before moving on. Some will get cleared up in a few moments of gameplay, and others will last for the whole game. It’s impossible to know which ones are which, so it’s best if players don’t worry about clearing everything up as soon as they find it. Keep pushing forward and all the solutions will eventually reveal themselves.
4/10 Explore The Bayou
During the puppet show towards the end of Act 1, players will explore the Louisiana bayou in a fishing boat (a sequence that appears to be a nod to the Lovecraftian sailing game Sunless Sea). It’s pretty easy to find the individual that the fisherman was sent to track down, but it’s worth exploring the other corners of the map anyway.
During these sequences, some extra exploration can reward players with a variety of collectibles. More importantly, when this same type of scene returns later in the game, exploration will reveal a few hidden figures who make their home in the dark recesses of the bayou.
3/10 Don’t Dismiss Santa
In Act 1’s flashback, players will find themselves in the French Quarter, where they can give their last dollar to any one of a few different individuals who populate the street. One of those individuals will warn the player about giving that dollar to the man dressed as Santa, painting him as a scammer.
However, don’t write Santa off because of the words of others. Giving him a dollar will present a workaround to a puzzle later in the flashback. Not only that, but when players encounter Santa later in the game, he’ll remember their generosity, and reward them with a gift (because he’s Santa, of course).
2/10 Remember The Little Things
Much like the game’s objectives, there are items that can be examined early in the game that, at the time, won’t have much relevance to the story or Kay’s current situation. That doesn’t mean they never will.
RELATED: Classic Point-And-Click Games That Still Hold Up Well
As often as possible, players should try to make a note of any items that they examined but didn’t seem to serve a purpose at the time. More often than not, those items will become key to solving a problem later in the game. It’s very satisfying to piece together that solution without needing to wander around town looking for the answer.
1/10 Check In With Characters
Norco boasts a fantastic cast of unusual characters. Every single one will stick in the player’s mind for a different reason, and while not all of them will be major players in the game’s overall story, they’ll all find a way to leave their mark.
As the game progresses, some characters will get left behind by the plot. It’s not a bad thing, the story has simply moved on. However, it’s often worth the player’s time to check back in with those characters. Many will have things to say about recent changes in the story, and occasionally they’ll have collectible items to give the player as well.
Norco was released on March 24th, 2022, for PC and macOS, and on November 17th, 2022, for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
MORE: Point-And-Click Games That Fans Of Monkey Island Should Try