We’re back from our short break here at Average Joe Games HQ after celebrating our Lead Writer, Tom’s stag party this weekend. Our heads are sore and our bank accounts empty, but we’ve still had time to squeeze in a game or two. Here’s what we’re playing this week.
Joe – Editor & Lead Writer
Playing on PC via Game Pass
Norco is a point-and-click narrative adventure in the Southern Gothic style that immerses you in the industrial swamps of a distorted Louisiana. Its real-world counterpart and namesake, Norco, Louisiana is home to a major Shell Oil refinery (as well as some 3,000 residents) – the land originally purchased by the New Orleans Refining Company (NORCO).
You begin in search of your brother, Blake, who has been missing since your mother died. With the help of your adopted security Cyborg, you journey through the beautifully bleak refineries, strip malls and drainage canals in search of answers. Wherever you end up, each scene is realised in exquisite pixel-art that’s drenched in the melancholic dusk of smoke stacks and oil fire.
There’s a similarity here to Kentucky Route Zero. Both games use magical realism to examine social class and those living on the outskirts of society. Both are partial to esoteric musings on occasion, too. And in parts, Norco’s writing is as sharp and poetically crushing as ZA/UM’sDisco Elysium. But it’s most definitely its own game.
Like the bayous that cut through the town, the story meanders towards the end. But despite that, I was left with a profound sense of hope in a world that’s carved out by geography, climate change and the self-interest of global corporations.
The Outer Worlds
Playing on Xbox Series S via Game Pass
Okay, so this game looks a mess. It’s graphics are dated, textures are low res and the colour pallet is made up of varying shades of mud. But why can’t I stop playing? Granted, looks aren’t everything, and, as I’ve found in life, it helps if you have a smashing personality.
Luckily, The Outer Worlds has it by the bucket load. In some ways, it’s a spiritual successor to the Fallout series; from the retro-futuristic technology to the satirising of corporate America. Hell, even the gunplay has a time-slowing feature which lets you pick off an enemy’s weak points. And there’s more than a nod to the Mass Effect Trilogy with the party selection screen popping up each time you leave your space ship.
But perhaps this all helps to make the game comfortably familiar. Quests aren’t overly complicated either and the skills tree is a simplified version of a classic RPG progression system. Couple that with the generally solid writing, and you’ve got yourself a (roughly) 15-hour romp through space that’ll do more than enough to entertain you. Just don’t expect anything out of this world.