Does life’s daily grind ever get you down? That monotonous feeling that your life seems to revolve around eating, sleeping, and working? Well, you’re in luck, you can finally beat the system and feel like a winner in Norman’s Great Illusion! Or, well you might die in a few horrific incidents instead, but no-one ever said revolution was easy.
Publisher, Sometimes You, released this unique game, in which you play Norman. A normal family-man, who is tasked each day with getting up, eating breakfast with his family, driving to work, completing various maths questions at work, and then driving home. Rinse and repeat and that’s basically the game, with a few moral dilemmas thrown in for good measure. In this non-descriptive world, you live in, you live with your lovely wife and daughter and it’s election season. Your family are strong supporters of the NSP, the party who won the recent election, and it becomes clear that as time goes on you’re starting to live in a dictatorship. However, your family doesn’t seem to mind, and depending on what decisions you make throughout the game, you won’t be too bothered either. You can either help the secret Marxist organisation to prosper and take over, or you can do everything in your power to keep the NSP in power, resulting in one of two fairly unsavoury endings.
In-depth story aside, the gameplay is very simple. You can walk around your little 8-bit house, drive your car and do some basic mathematics. The driving segments of the game require you to watch the bar on the screen, a line will move up and down the bar and you need to click it when it’s touching the green. If you miss, you will damage your car, which will put a big dent in your wallet. You start each run through with $300, and as time goes on it becomes very clear that your job isn’t cutting it, as you run out of money constantly. The ways to prevent this is to not mess up your tasks in the day, like driving. While at work, you have to complete maths questions to a timer. Get the wrong or don’t answer quick enough, you get a warning. Get more than 2 warnings and you’ll be warned, and get more than five and you’ll be sent straight home. But there’s an upside, get them all right and you’ll a bonus. Good luck with that though, as if you’re anything like me and haven’t thought about maths in a few years, you’ll find yourself making silly mistakes that deplete poor Norman’s savings. (Hint: Remember PEMDAS, otherwise you’ll spend 10 minutes getting progressively more annoyed when you answer 2+3×6 as 30 and not 20.)
Other than those two main components, there’s not much else to do. The game seems to do this on purpose, to really prove how uninteresting Norman’s life is. Your tasks will only just manage to keep your attention while in the background your pay is dropping and your family is growing upset by the fact you’re never around. You can wander your house, which immediately reminded me of Stardew Valley due to its 8-bit style and fairly wholesome aesthetic. I was disappointed to see you couldn’t interact with anything in the house, other than your bed, wardrobe and dinner table. (Yes, I did try and interact with everything I could in the house, I’m pleased to report that you can also open the fridge and sit down on the chairs, but I was really hoping for the chance to pet the cat or watch some TV.) The music also goes well with the game, there were two different tunes, one for the house and one for work. Both suits the tone of what’s happening; at home, the music is peaceful and communicated that you’re in your safe space, while the music at work is energetic and puts you a little more on edge as you do some basic multiplication.
The biggest let down of the game for me was the control system. Everything seemed to lag a little for me, which really matters when all the game mechanics are hinged on a time limit. The rest of the game I enjoyed, but I also really enjoyed Papers Please, which is another game where you play as someone working under a corrupt government. This is one of those games that isn’t going to be for everyone. Would I recommend that you play this? Yes. Because even though it’d not flashy or particularly challenging, there’s an interesting story there and many routes you can go down and explore.
However, if you’re generally not into dystopian games where your GCSE Maths will be tested, I would say that this might not be your thing. It’s the chance to have your very own Groundhog Day, in which you can also dismantle the government. If that’s not for you, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe to our mailing list
Get the latest game reviews, news, features, and more straight to your inbox
Thank you for subscribing to Bonus Stage.
Something went wrong.
Norman's Great Illusion Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Wake up, eat, go to work, and go to sleep. Rinse and repeat that with a little Marxist revolution mixed in for variety and you get Norman’s Great Illusion.
- An interesting story with different endings and playthroughs.
- Retro 8-bit graphics.
- The controls can lag.
- The lack of intense gameplay might not be for everyone.