Oh Cactus. You devil. There is no one who messes up my senses like Cactus. This game is mad NSFW.

Nominally, Norrland is the northern region of Sweden. The basic premise of the game is that you are going on a fantastic red-neck hunting trip. From there everything goes mad. The closest I could compare it to would be Every Day The Same Dream. But where Every Day is sterile, Norrland is visceral and frankly disgusting, rendered in blaring dismal (is that possible?) pixely tunes and graphics. If you want to go down that path, so be it.

Spoilery-analysis ahead:

Again, this game is about a hunting trip. You do go hunting quite a bit, with the pixel animals exploding into bits of gore, and dropping. Where things go mad is in the mini-games. Just about every screen length, your character has some urge that needs to be fulfilled. First, it’s being bitten by a mosquito. Then, feeding yourself. Then, shitting and pissing. Next, masturbating to horribly pixely graphics. All of these are completed mostly by mashing the action button or using the arrow keys. Before every mini-game there is a garishly colored screen explaining in English and what I assume is Swedish, what you are doing. Nothing hurt my eyes more than the screen that said “Because No One Is Watching”, whereafter my character proceeded to fuck in the ass a bear that I had just shot . Cum came out of the creature’s mouth. Cute. *shivers*

Then there are the dreams. Weird dreams. Dreams that seem like actual dreams. The protagonist announces his need to sleep, and away he goes. Then similar screens to the minigames shows up. And most of the dreams are minigames, but they are stranger and more disturbing still (for the most part) than just masturbating (arguable, I know). Most of them are self-deprecating, horror dreams. Playing Russian roulette and blowing your head off, or stabbing your self in the head, having someone possess your arms and beat you in the face, and so on.

Altogether the seemingly endless hunting trip, disturbing bodily urges, and freakish dreams, the game starts to wear on you. You wonder how long you’ll have to do this, downing beer after beer, amassing a larger and larger collection of animal corpses, even as your dislike and disgust in your own protagonist grows greater and greater.

Even in the minigames there is no way you can lose. For most the game is merely tapping a button fast enough. For the others, even a mediocre gets you past. There’s no incentive to do anything really. The only exciting bits are when the animals fight back for several brief moments, but they last only for a moment against your rifle. So what’s the point?

Do you see now why this is better than Every Day the Same Dream? At least in my opinion. The game sets itself up as purposeful, but it takes a while to realize that there is really no point to any of it. Sure you can pick up mushrooms or harvest meat from the felled animals, but it doesn’t get you anything. Also note the way that I have had to be rather crude in describing Norrland. That’s the point. Sure it’s another satire of life as a whole, portraying it as shallow and full of masturbation, but it does it in a damn powerful way.

So what becomes of the protagonist? Eventually the game drags itself on, until eventually, after a particularly shaming dream, the game announces “This can’t go on” (paraphrase). Just as you grew tired of the game’s antics, so did the protagonist, and in a cruel way, without realizing it, your desires become one with this “person” who you thought was unaware of his circumstances.

I was surprised to find myself hurt by this death. I actually felt empathy. Again this could all be taken as an allegory for brutish life (the opening sequence is a person looking like the protagonist putting on a stag mask and brandishing a butcher knife), but it means something. Damned if I know for certain. And it sure is fucked up.

Side Story:

A while ago a game called Edmund was announced as TIGSource’s winner of the Adult/Education Composition. I do not recommend you play it. You play as someone called Edmund as you approach a woman at a bus stop. You’re only interaction is to jump and punch. If you punch the woman you end up raping her. Not cool. As Anthony Burch pointed out, there is no “real” player input that causes that result. You don’t realize what you are about to do, you just press a button. And then… kndfskldf. Arguably, Norrland has a similar sequence of events. You never have any real choice, it’s either finish the minigame or leave the game. In that sense you are very restricted in your play of the game. However, I feel that Norrland utilizes that restriction to actually mean something. Edmund was literally only that one sequence, plus one of killing in Vietnam. That doesn’t make the actual events within Norrland alright, per se, but atleast the player isn’t just being “forced” to do something that doesn’t have import on the game as a whole. Again, all speculation.


~ by prolixpostoffice on August 18, 2010.

One Response to “Norrland”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the game so extensively, it’s very rewarding to see people who actually care enough for your work to spend some time writing about it.

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