Norna on PC
I’ve had a pretty solid love for puzzle games since my early days as a gamer. With a unique puzzle element and an interesting take on fate and the role a player takes on while playing, Norna presents a pretty unique and curious take on the genre. Focused on controlling characters across a number of boards, Norna is really a game about guiding each of these characters to a predetermined end, whether by reaching a destination or the end of their existence.
Each level of Norna allows players to control the game’s characters in interesting ways. Rather than directly moving any given individual, players must set the direction of travel for any or all of the tiles that make up the play area. These can be changed at any time between turns, and can be shifted to any direction that’s not facing a wall. Once these are set, players can advance all characters and objects on a turn-by-turn basis. Each moving piece will follow the path set before it, regardless of any dangers. While the aim is to guide each moving part to its end goal, each level is as much about figuring out the required result as it is about guiding the characters to it.
The level selection in Norna is curious, unfolding in a largely non-linear way that allows players to jump between different tracks of levels. While unlocking tracks requires completing a certain number of levels, the variety offered by each of these tracks, and the levels within them, keeps things interesting. It may not be the most coherent approach, but it does mean that there’s almost always options to try out if players find themselves stuck on a certain puzzle. Since the objective isn’t always clear, this can come up quite a bit, but for me this discovery method proved entertaining. The variety doesn’t just come from new level designs, but entirely different goals that include helping characters avoid deadly fire, orchestrating combat scenarios, and things more esoteric.
Norna may not have cutting-edge graphics or sophisticated story, but it still weaves a curious tale that’s as much about the nature of a game as it is anything else. It can be disorienting and confounding, but the fun of it is in solving largely ambiguous problems. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but for those who enjoy thinking outside the box, it’s well worth the $5 price asked for via Itch.io. There’s a free demo, as well, and if you find yourself liking the curious play, you can help the game get listed on Steam Greenlight, as well. As a steadfast supporter of things that stray from the norm, I found myself enjoying it despite the lack of flair and bouts of confusion requiring trial end error to complete.