I finished playing Normality
recently. I don't see a review of it in here yet so I thought I'd provide
Most reviews I've seen for Normality have been very positive. So I
expected to like it a good deal more than I did. It has some irritating
things about it which may or may not bother other gamers. And I'll try to
cover them in this review as well as some good things about the game. I'm
afraid this won't be a terribly amusing review. Alas, I did not find the
game to be terribly amusing either.
The pictures on the Normality box suggest that it is a 3rd person game.
Every single one has Kent, your character, in the picture. In actual fact,
Normality uses a 1st person viewpoint and you only see Kent during cut
scenes. One of the small blurbs on the back of the box says "First-Person
Viewpoint...", but it is easy to miss it due to the hodge-podge design of
the box. Except for the confusion about whether it has a 1st or 3rd person
viewpoint, the box gives a pretty good idea of what you'll find in the
game. It's colorful and zany and cartoony and grungy. The box also
suggests it will be funny. Though it had occasional moments of humor, I
did not find this to be the case overall.
The movement system is somewhat unusual for adventure games. Your movement
is 3D and can be controlled either by the arrow keys or by holding the
left mouse button down and steering with it. This is not snapshot movement
or node-with-panning. You truly move through space and the background
changes perspective incrementally as you move. You can move to nearly
anywhere in the game environment. Page Up and Page Down keys enable you to
look up or down. There is a lot of freedom. Unfortunately for me, I get
motion sickness with 1st person 3D movement, which diminished my potential
enjoyment of the game considerably.
The movement system is very smooth. But the pixels are large. At least
they are larger than what we are used to with non-3D games from 1996,
which is when the game was published. I suspect the pixel size is due to
the fact that the game was made for slower computers with older graphics
cards that had negligible hardware acceleration compared to those of
today. The pixels are smaller than what you see in the first two Monkey
games or the first Gabriel Knight game, but they are certainly larger than
what you see in most other 1996 adventure games. But if they'd increased
the resolution, the movement might not have been so smooth on the slower
computers of 1996. The game's minimum specs call for a 486/66.
Normality is played with a combination of keyboard and mouse. Using the
"I" key will bring up the Inventory. The "M" key will bring up the Map,
which you use to change location. "F9" and "F10" are for the save and load
screens. But for interacting with objects, you have a choice (usually).
After moving the mouse over an object to highlight it, you can either use
the keyboard or right-click to access the "Voodoo Doll" Interface. You
click on different parts of the Voodoo Doll to Pick Up, Talk To, Use, or
Examine the object. To use the keyboard, you'd press the P, T, U, or E
keys to accomplish the same thing. Usually... I say usually because there
were at least 3 areas in the game where it was impossible to get Kent to
use one object on another unless I used the mouse/Voodoo Doll method. The
keyboard U for Use only seems to work for interacting objects when you
have at least one of these objects in your inventory. And sometimes Kent
can't lift an object or refuses to pick it up, so you can't get it into
your inventory. I'm not sure if this would qualify as a bug or as an
aspect of the game that wasn't sufficiently explained in the manual.
The inventory is large enough to see all objects clearly. It is not in
view at all times and appears in the middle of the screen when you use the
"I" key. Kent will tell you about an object in inventory if you
right-click on it. You can use the left-mouse button and drag objects onto
the playing screen to use them on other objects. Clicking on any area
outside the inventory window will close it.
Normality is a fairly long game and (I thought) difficult. I had to resort
to 2 walkthroughs, UHS, and the GB Hints & Tips Forum in order to get
through it. Sometimes I wasn't able to do things I thought I should be
able to do. For example, at one point I thought Kent should be able to use
a fire extinguisher. But it wouldn't highlight, so he couldn't.
Considering that he'd been able to use it before, this didn't make sense
and I consulted a walkthrough to discover if it was a bug. It wasn't. For
some reason he had to get someone else to use the fire extinguisher for
him. On the other hand, the puzzle where you figure out how to make the TV
stay on made for a great sight gag and made perfect sense (once you'd
solved it anyway).
There is one point where the game path branches and later converges. If
you destroy the evidence against you, you get one plot branch and if you
don't, you get a different branch. Both branches converge again when you
complete your rescue mission. The plot branches were different enough that
both are worth playing through.
Normality is basically a DOS game though it has an option for a Windows
install. There were directions for a Windows install in the manual and the
CD has an autorun file on it so it will automatically launch the install
screen in Windows if you have autoinsert notification enabled for your CD
I had no crashes or freezes with Normality, but it was not without a few
minor bugs. Besides my problem with the inventory, there were a few
comments that weren't voiced. Kent comments on everything you do. If you
pick up an object, he'll make a comment. If you use it, he'll make a
comment. Text shows on screen while he talks (if you use the default
settings in game options). But in a few places in the game, I'd see the
text of Kent's speech on the screen and not hear Kent say anything. And
sometimes the text would only flash on the screen for a split second
before disappearing. Also, comments could be inappropriate or out of
sequence, such as Kent saying he might be able to do something with an
object after he'd already done so... or saying he "could use one of those"
when he had one sitting in his inventory already.
Game options let you adjust volume for voice, sound effects, and music
separately. To access options, you press the "O" key. I left the options
at the default. Text is not displayed during the cut scenes, which is the
reason I hesitated to turn off the volume of Kent's speech even when I got
sick of listening to him. There are other game options, such as gamma
correction, autosave, screen saver, graphic detail, dialogue, screen
resolution, and object names. "Object names allows you to set the game
options to show text descriptions of items or not. If you choose yes, a
text description of an item will pop up if you run your mouse over it. If
you choose not, you can still get Kent to comment on them so you will know
what they are, and your cursor will highlight if you place it over the
item. For the most part, hotspots are not difficult to find.
I've seen a lot of reviews complaining about Kent's speech. He talks with
a silly, overblown, surfer-dood kind of accent. The game is meant to be a
comedy, but after a while some things aren't funny anymore... like Kent's
accent. At times I found Kent's remarks amusing, but for the most part
they tended to grate, especially when I was hearing them repeated for the
I did not care for the music. It is midi music, but that isn't what
bothered me about it. It just seemed very banal and uninspired to me and
after not too long a while it got on my nerves. I've read a couple of
reviews that claimed the music was good. Though it may be appropriate to
the game, I would have preferred more variety. So much of it sounded like
elevator music or what passes for music with arcade games. Other humorous
games manage to have humorous and appropriate midi music with some
I haven't mentioned the plot yet. It's probably better not to, but I'll
make an attempt anyway. Basically Kent has to figure out how to overthrow
an oppressive, mood-controlling government. He is thrown into some sort of
brainwashing facility for having whistled a bad tune in a public street.
While in prison, he receives a mysterious note with a clue as to how to
find out why everyone in the city has been turned into zombies. After Kent
is released from prison, he's thrown into his apartment and ordered to
watch TV 24 hours a day. The trouble is, his malfunctioning TV keeps
turning off on its own. And when it shuts off, the guard out in the hall
yells at Kent and threatens to throw him in the "blue pens" once again. So
Kent's first tasks are
1. figure out how to keep the TV from turning off
2. figure out how to escape the apartment
3. conquer the evil that has taken over the city of Neutropolis.
Task #3 pretty much takes up the rest of the game. Kent eventually links
up with a group of "revolutionaries" who share his wish to complete Task
#3. But though they give him some advice, for the most part they just send
Kent out on errands and he is on his own.
One of my problems with Normality was that I didn't like any of the
characters. Kent's exaggerated accent became annoying. Most of the other
characters were also annoying in some way. I think how much you enjoy the
game would depend a lot on your sense of humor - what you find to be funny
and what you don't.
Here is how I'd rate various aspects of the game:
It was certainly adequate for a humorous game. Was it original? I seem to
recall similar plots, though not in comedy games.
GAME CONTROLS A
It's very easy to learn how to navigate. Except for the problem I had with
the keyboard U key not working the way the Voodoo Doll interface did, I
had no problems learning it.
GAMEWORLD DESIGN and GRAPHICS B+
The graphics may be a bit more pixellated than we're used to, but they
were original and appropriate to the game. I got a bit tired of them
though. Every location was decrepit and trashy and/or commercialized or
institutionalized. It got to be a bit much by the end of this rather long
game. That may not be a valid argument considering the nature of the game,
but I did get very tired of the graphics so I'm docking the graphics score
by a letter grade.
Most were rather hard and I usually had to solve them by shot-in-the-dark
experimentation (or cheating). Of course what I find hard someone else
might not find hard. One strategy seems to go everywhere you can and pick
up everything you can find. There is no telling where an item might be
useful in a crazy gameworld like this one... and with a crazy character
like Kent to operate with. Most of the puzzles make a sort of sense after
you solve them though.
There were 2 maze-like areas in the game - in the ductwork at the
furniture plant and in the sewer underneath the stadium. Neither one
required mapping. They weren't seriously bad mazes.
I don't think there is a limit to the number of saved games you can have.
And Normality is not a game where you have to be saving all the time. You
can't die in the game. And I only discovered one location in the game that
I couldn't get out of when I found I was missing a necessary object from
inventory. I was unable to find a way out of the Ordinary Outpost when I
discovered I was missing a scissors in my inventory. The giant can opener
didn't work. So make sure you have the scissors and you're all set.
I would suggest saving when you are in the Ordinary Outpost before you
choose to destroy the evidence or not so you can play the other plot
Maybe it was appropriate for the game, but I found it monotonous,
unimaginative, and ultimately annoying. There was much room for
SOUND EFFECTS A
The sound effects were one of the more amusing aspects of the game.
Kent should get an F for being so annoying. At times he was funny but
usually I wanted to throttle him. A lot of the other characters were also
annoying in their way. They weren't all annoying. Maybe there were 2 that
weren't. But other than Kent and his "revolutionary" friends, the
characters and their voices were generic.
It had its moments but overall I didn't find it to be very funny.
Apparently others do. So I'm not going to give its humor a rating.
Is Normality suitable for children? I don't know about this. The puzzles
are difficult, but no worse than games like Monkey Island 2. Nobody is
naked in the game. You can make Kent use a urinal, but he only uses it to
wash his face in. (Ew!) But one question you'd have to ask yourself is "do
I want my kid talking like Kent?" That would indeed be a nightmare.
GAME ENDING D-
I'm not sure how other people would feel about the ending. I certainly
didn't like it. Even considering the game was sort of wacky, I think they
should have tied things together better than they did.
The final scene with Paul, the zapping brain, and Paul's unexplained
transformation suddenly shifts to Kent and his friends dancing in a disco.
Apparently I'm not making a connection. How did they get in a disco? Was
Paul's brain taken over by Saul's? What happened to Saul afterwards? Then
the credits roll and after the credits you see the morning after. Kent and
friends are sprawled around his trashy apartment in a stupor. Even the
supposedly scientific genius Heather is totally wasted. There are numerous
bottles that once no doubt contained alcoholic beverages. Kent gets up
groaning and the last thing you see of him is a toilet's eye view of him
barfing green gunk right at you. If playing in DOS, you'll be back at the
prompt. If playing in Windows, I suppose you'd see your desktop. It's just
one of those "Huh? Is that it?" type endings.
OVERALL GRADE: C
Although Normality has its good qualities, I can't give it more than a C
due to its annoyance level. Kent's surfer-dood speech was funny at first,
but quickly became irritating. It's something you're subjected to
throughout the game and it detracted significantly from my enjoyment of
the game. The elevator music didn't help either. It's probably impossible
to give Normality a grade everyone will agree with. I'm sure some people
won't mind the speech and music, while others will hate it even worse than
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