More games should be set in hotels. We’ve seen plenty of home and mansion interiors over the years, as well as countless space stations and industrial warehouses, but the humble hotel is its own special beast, especially when you’re dealing with the mad fever dream that is Cosmo D’s The Norwood Suite.
Like the abandoned locations of Gone Home, Tacoma and What Remains of Edith Finch, Hotel Norwood is a confined space you get to know intimately over the course of your stay. As you wander its bizarre hallways and encounter its baffling architecture, you quickly realise this place is unlike any other you’ve ever visited before, or are likely to visit again, so distinct and eccentric is its design that it couldn’t possibly be aped or replicated by another so-called walking simulator.
There are half-human torsos sticking out of the ceiling for starters, and weird blue animatronic hands that curl and beckon you down a staircase toward a strange fancy dress party where only those with very specific multi-piece outfits may enter. And let’s not forget the fridges decorated with skull motifs in the kitchen, or the many secret piano key laden tunnels that house giant dioramas of events from the hotel founder’s past between different guest rooms. Those things alone are worth booking a night in The Norwood Suite, and I guarantee you’ll have never seen a stranger or more surreal hotel than this.
What really sets hotels apart, though, is that they thrust you into contact with a melting pot of weirdos and wanderers that often don’t want anything to do with you (never mind find you sneaking around their room because, hey, it’s a locked door and you must therefore open it by any means possible). Instead of tasking you with poring over what’s been left behind, hotels are all about dealing with the here and now, and it’s often only by earning someone’s trust that you continue nosing around without alerting suspicion or getting everyone’s backs up.
And man alive is there a freaky bunch of individuals staying at the Norwood. To say too much about them would be to spoil the surprise, but there’s something about their relentless, dead-eyed stare and the way their heads snap round to look at you whenever you approach them that always manages to chill you to the core.
They’re an uncanny lot, but to make them more human would be to destroy the illusion. I can’t think of a more perfect set of inhabitants for this unnerving mish-mash of cacophonous music and upside-down furniture. And the longer you spend running around fulfilling their peculiar requests, the more you feel like you’ve accidentally slipped into some kind of otherworldly dreamland from which there is no escape.
Simply put, there is no other game like The Norwood Suite, and no other place that even comes close to matching its heady assault on the senses. It’s a mad, confounding experience, but a trip I absolutely urge you to take. I promise you’ll be a wiser, more worldly traveller on your return.