Introduction and Storyline
You are Kent, and you
live in the city of Neutropolis, sometime in the future. Your leader, Paul
Nystlix, has enforced strict behavior patterns on the inhabitants of your
city. Anyone who is found to exhibit any type of behavior against the
"norm" is taken to the Blue Pen to be "normalized." You, in fact, have
just been released from the Blue Pen for the abnormal behavior of
whistling a happy tune. During your stay in the Blue Pen, you receive a
note from a member of the "anti-norm" resistance with information about
where these like minded people hang out. But first you have to find a way
out of your apartment.
The game plays in
first person with either the mouse or keyboard. I will mainly discuss the
mouse. Using the mouse, you hold the left button down and move the mouse
in the direction you want to go in order to move forward, back up or turn.
You sort of glide. To look up or down use the page up or down key.
Your inventory is a
spinning satchel suspended from the top of the screen. Accessing the
inventory is easy, you just click the satchel and it opens. Resting the
cursor over an item reveals its name and the items can be combined.
To interact with a
person or object in the game world, you right click to bring up a voodoo
doll. You choose his eyeballs to look, teeth to talk, one hand to use, and
the other to pick up. Takes a bit getting used to, but easy to use. One
constant irritation was that Kent had to assure me that he picked up an
item even though it was rather obvious since the item disappeared along
with an accompanying sound. Just got old after a bit.
The puzzles are many,
and range from fairly easy to very hard. And for the most part, they are
whacky, zany, off the wall, but there were usually hints.
There are several
locations to visit which can be accessed through a map (M) key. Locations
open up as tasks and conversations are completed. F9 brings up the save
menu, F10, the load menu. Escape key to quit.
Normality can take quite some time to play, not because the game content
is huge, but getting stuck on the puzzles really eats up the time. I would
suggest having a walkthrough handy if you wish to maintain your sanity,
for some of the puzzles defy even the most convoluted logic.
Graphics and Acting
Normality is 3D with
colorful, cartoonish and primitive looking graphics reminiscent of the
Island games. It is also quite pixelated. The voice acting is okay in spots,
but unfortunately, the voice you hear the most,
Kent's voice, is a rather
generic sounding voice without character, and worst of all, is intrusive.
Kent looks anything but generic and is certainly quite a character. Some
of the other voices seem to be recycled, just taking on different accents.
The music is quite mundane, and does not suit the mood of the game world.
The game installed
easily in Windows, just follow the prompt box. The game was very stable,
no bugs, no crashes. My system: Dell PIII, 933mhz, Windows 98SE
So what kind of game
is Normality? Well, it's as mixed a bag as you would ever want to play.
Its core premise of a political satire is at times ingenious and creative
in its execution. There is a lot of exploratory freedom in the game, and
the graphics -- although primitive by today's standards -- are colorful
and inviting. It is fun to explore the game world. Game controls are easy,
fluid and straightforward.
On the other hand, too
many negatives have insured this game a spot in the relative obscurity it
finds itself. A game that could have been excellent, suffers greatly from
a serious lack of attention to important aspects of the game: acting,
writing, humor and ambiance. As a result, one is stuck with too much empty
dialogue, humor that falls flat, voice acting that doesn't fit or is
downright bad, a script that wanders into loose ends and music more
suitable for waiting rooms.
Bottom line: If you
like this type of story, it might be worth a play if only to take a peek
at what it could have been. Better yet, play Feeble Files.
Final Grade: D+
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