Norco: A Bizarre And Beautiful Journey Into The Heart Of Louisiana’s Refinery Town


Like a dream that lingers long after waking, NORCO is a video game that takes players on a surreal journey through the heart of Louisiana’s refinery town. With a haunting narrative that blends autobiographical elements and magical realism, the game explores the town’s dark history of slavery, corporate indifference, and reactionary politics.

NORCO’s creators have fashioned an experience that is both bizarre and beautiful, challenging players to confront uncomfortable truths about the world we live in.

In this article, we delve deep into the world of NORCO, examining its themes, gameplay, characters, and soundtrack. Through an objective lens, we analyze the game’s unique atmosphere, exploring its use of symbolism and allegory to convey a powerful message about the destructive forces of capitalism and the impact they have on marginalized communities.

As we explore the game’s bizarre and beautiful narrative, we will also look at its development and release, as well as the history and context that inspired its creation.


Key Takeaways

  • NORCO is a video game set in Norco, Louisiana, featuring magical realism, societal heartbreak, and bummer coolness, with autobiographical elements from the lead writer who grew up in Norco.
  • The player takes on the role of Kay, who returns to Norco after her mother’s death and tries to uncover the final weeks of her mother’s life and the whereabouts of her missing younger brother, with no skill checks, RPG elements, or inventory items required.
  • NORCO cements its overall tenor of both penetrating sadness and resolute weirdness, blending past and present together in exquisite, beautiful detail, drawing direct comparisons to other luminaries of the ‘video games for wonks’ genre, such as Disco Elysium and Kentucky Route Zero.
  • The game’s soundtrack is drawn from somewhere between ambient space odysseys and a persistent highway hum, and the game features detectives, oil pirate transients, ditch-dwelling zealots, and an android with a face of stars, among others, inviting players to have gamified spiritual awakenings, watch shadow puppet parables, and go fishing for severed heads in a bayou.

Norco Gameplay and Storyline


The gameplay mechanics in NORCO are centered around conversation and information gathering, allowing the player to uncover the broader mysteries and characters involved in the story without relying on skill checks or RPG elements. The player takes on the role of Kay, who returns to Norco after her mother’s death to investigate the final weeks of her mother’s life and the whereabouts of her missing younger brother.

Moving forward in NORCO is primarily dictated by the player’s ability to connect information to unlock dialogue options, rather than relying on traditional gameplay mechanics. The lack of skill checks and RPG elements in NORCO allows the player to focus on the game’s narrative and characters.

The game features conversations that peel back the layers of the broader mysteries and the characters caught up in them. With exquisite, beautiful details, the game tells stories that never pull a punch and blend the past and present together.

Overall, the gameplay mechanics in NORCO provide a unique and captivating narrative experience that immerses the player in the world of Norco, Louisiana.

Themes and Atmosphere

Themes and atmosphere in the video game NORCO are characterized by a blend of humor and beauty, interwoven with moments of penetrating sadness and resolute weirdness, creating an immersive experience that draws comparisons to other games in the ‘video games for wonks’ genre.

See also  Roberta Williams' Colossal Cave Reimagining Falls Flat

The game’s magical realism and societal heartbreak are prominent themes that are explored throughout the game. The game’s characters are constantly buffeted by the material consequences of unhinged ideological expression, adding to the overall atmosphere of the game.

The game’s use of past and present blends together, creating a sense of timelessness that is both eerie and captivating. NORCO tells stories in exquisite, beautiful detail, never shying away from difficult subject matter.

The game’s overall tenor of penetrating sadness and resolute weirdness is a testament to the lead writer’s autobiographical elements, as well as the history of Norco itself. The game’s themes and atmosphere are a reflection of the complex history of the area, and the game does an excellent job of exploring the various themes and issues that have plagued the town for decades.

Development and Release


Geography of Robots developed and Raw Fury published a video game set in a town with a complex history, exploring themes of societal heartbreak and unhinged ideological expression, which was released on March 25, 2022.

NORCO was a project that began in 2015, with the lead writer, Zach Sanford, growing up in Norco and wanting to create a game that captured its essence. The game’s development was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $60,000, and it took seven years to complete.

The game was built using the Unity engine, with its unique art style created using a combination of hand-drawn images and 3D models. NORCO features a cast of talented voice actors, including Cissy Jones, who voiced Delilah in Firewatch, and Jason Spisak, who voiced Joker in the Batman: Arkham series. The game’s haunting soundtrack was created by composer and sound designer, Laurence Pike, and adds to the game’s eerie atmosphere.

NORCO’s release has been met with critical acclaim, with many praising its unique story, characters, and art style.

History and Context


With a history dating back to European colonial settlers and their sugarcane plantations, Norco, Louisiana has been marked by a series of tragic events that have left a lasting impression on the town.

One of the most notable incidents was a Shell pipeline leak in 1973 that caused an explosion, killing a sixteen-year-old boy and an elderly woman and completely incinerating a house.

Another explosion at the refinery in 1988 resulted in the death of seven Shell employees and injuries to 48 others, sending debris eight kilometers away from the site and being heard as far away as New Orleans.

Reading into the history of Norco reveals a disturbingly clear picture of American wounds that remain open to this day, including slavery, murder, corporate indifference, economic collapse, widening inequality, and reactionary politics.

Despite these tragedies, the town is also a testament to the resilience and strength of the people who live there.

The creators of Norco have captured this complex history and context in their game, using it to create a rich and immersive experience that is both beautiful and confronting.

Norco Frequently Asked Questions

What is the objective of the game Norco?

The objective of the video game Norco is for the player to assume the role of Kay, who returns to Norco after her mother’s death and attempts to uncover the final weeks of her mother’s life and the whereabouts of her missing younger brother, through conversations and uncovering information.

See also  SNK Vs Capcom: Card Fighters' Clash - Simplicity At Its Joyful Best!

Are there any combat or action elements in the game?

The game Norco does not feature any combat or action elements. Instead, gameplay revolves around uncovering information through conversations and unlocking dialogue options. Norco is a poignant and surreal point-and-click experience, devoid of traditional gaming mechanics.

How long does it take to complete the game?

The game’s completion time is approximately 8-10 hours, according to various sources. However, the exact duration may vary depending on the player’s gameplay style and their ability to solve the game’s puzzles.

What kind of themes are explored in the game?

Themes explored in the video game Norco include magical realism, societal heartbreak, and resolute weirdness. The game blends past and present, telling stories in exquisite detail and drawing comparisons to other notable “video games for wonks”such as Disco Elysium and Kentucky Route Zero.

What inspired the developers to create a game set in Norco, Louisiana?

The inspiration behind Norco’s setting in Louisiana’s Norco town is not explicitly stated by the developers. However, lead writer and Norco native, Chance Agency’s Kee Chi, drew from personal experiences and the town’s history of environmental and social injustices.


In conclusion, Norco is a video game that provides players with a surreal journey through the heart of Louisiana’s refinery town. The game explores the haunting history of slavery, corporate indifference, and reactionary politics, through a magical realism twist and autobiographical elements. Norco’s bizarre and beautiful narrative, coupled with its atmospheric themes and gameplay, offers an immersive gaming experience that is captivating and thought-provoking.

According to a report by Statista, the video game industry generated a revenue of over $159 billion in 2020. This staggering figure is a testament to the growing popularity of video games as a form of entertainment and underscores their potential as a medium for storytelling.

Norco is an excellent example of how video games can be used to explore complex and sensitive issues while providing players with an engaging and immersive experience. As the gaming industry continues to evolve, it will be exciting to see how video games like Norco push the boundaries of storytelling and offer new ways for players to engage with the world around them.


PlatformsPlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One
DeveloperGeography of Robots
GenresAdventure game, Indie game, Adventure
ModeSingle-player video game
NominationsThe Game Award for Best Debut Indie Game
PublisherRaw Fury
Release Dates: macOS, Windows: March 24, 2022. PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S: November 17, 2022
Keep your eyes open for more articles on Club Penguin Hero and read more great game reviews here.