Genre:     Adventure

Developer:   Gremlin Interactive

Publisher:    Interplay

Released:   1996

PC Requirements:   DOS 5.0 or Later, 486DX2/66, 486DX4/100, 8 MB RAM Minimum, 20 MB Free Hard Disk Space, Double Speed or Faster CD-ROM, VGA or SVGA Graphics card required, Mouse.




by Jenny100

I finished playing Normality recently. I don't see a review of it in here yet so I thought I'd provide one.

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 drive.

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 umpty-umpth time.

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 variety.

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.


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.


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 branch.


Maybe it was appropriate for the game, but I found it monotonous, unimaginative, and ultimately annoying. There was much room for improvement.


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.


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.


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 I did.


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