Normality from Interplay
Paully Shore meets 1984 (The horror)

Rating: graphics 88, sound 84, interface 91, fun factor 89, overall 88

Yo, Dudes! You have no idea how hard it is to be an individual with a free-thinking thought when Paul Nystalux has made everything so... ya know, normal. Neutropolis has been this way for well over 30 years, so I can't remember anything interesting ever happening. I was recently released from the dreaded pit of despair--the Blue Pens. I don't ever want to go back to that place. I was thrown in there because I was whistling a particularly annoying tune of my own design while strolling through town. In the Blue Pen I was tortured with music that can only be described as elevator music that was constantly piped into my cell. After suffering for a week a mysterious note was slipped under my cell door. The note said I could meet some like-minded individuals behind the Sofa Factory who want change. I'd be there now, but I have one of those o-so-boring (and not too bright) Norms outside my apartment door monitoring me. Maybe you could, like, help me, dude!

Normality In Normality you play the role of Kent--the misunderstood youngster who only wants to have fun, listen to rock music and be, well, different. Unfortunately, the *ahem* "glorious" leader Paul Nystalux has deemed that everyone must remain normal and dull. Since Kent is such an interesting fellow (he has orange hair which offsets his lime-green T-shirt), he's considered a troublemaker. Heaven forbid anyone have a thought of their own. In short, you can think of Normality as a game where Paully Shore is thrown into the world of 1984 from Orson Wells. While the "dude" factor is quite high, it's still a fun game.

Normality is a first-person adventure game that is unlike any other adventure game currently available. The interface is Doom-like presenting the world in first-person perspective. The music is okay, but could have been better if it wasn't limited to FM synth. Most of the voices were done well but a couple could have been better. The graphics were pretty good in the interactive part as well as the cut-scenes. The puzzles in Normality are of the grab anything that's not nailed down genre. Unlike most adventures however, not everything you get may be usable--it all depends on what you do.

The game engine to Normality is a wonderful mix between the freeflowing movement of Doom and the pop-up interface of Full Throttle. The 3D engine runs in 320x400 VGA which makes the graphics look crisp, but it isn't so high-res that it makes the game run slow. Unlike Doom, you can peer down into rubbish-bins or look up to towering buildings. Press the left mouse button and move it forwards and backwards to walk forwards and backwards. Press the right mouse button brings up the Voo-Doo doll of Kent which lets you look, pick up things, use things and talk to people. There's a rotating backpack in the upper right hand corner where you access your inventory where you can store anything (as usual).

Normality The music is pretty good, but could have been better. The music does create the mood for the game which is good; it's light-hearted most of the time and serious in times of crisis. The disappointment was that the box clearly states that it supports the Soundblaster AWE32, implying that wave-table synthesis was used. It wasn't. I was limited to FM synthesis throughout the game. Only during cut-scenes when the music went to .WAV playback did I get to enjoy my high-end soundcard. It's a small gripe, but touting support for a card and then not using the features of that card is unforgivable.

Most of the voices in Normality are very well done, but some voices should have been re-done. Kent's voice is the one to measure whether or not you want to hear everyone talking. Some people may not be able to handle the cross between Southern California Valley-speak (Paully Shore) and the Australian inflection (Crocodile Dundee). It can be a frightening experience at first. While most of the other character's voices are well done and professionally executed, there's a character who's voice isn't. It sounds like the synth-voice from Creative Lab's text-to-speach program. But on the whole, playing the game with voices on is the only way to play.

Normality The puzzles in Normality are slanted more towards beginners and intermediate gamers while advanced gamers will be left wanting more. As with most adventure games you'll need to pick up anything and everything that you can get your hands on. What's refreshing with Normality is that not everything you pick up will be used. There are many different ways to work through all the different puzzles in the game so you end up with a lot of red-herrings that throw you off the solution to other puzzles. It's so diabolical, inventive and wonderfully original that every game should take this approach. Another great idea was the inclusion of cryptic clues in the CD insert for each section. If you get stuck, check there first; most likely you'll get a nudge in the right direction and continue on your way. Advanced gamers will get the feeling that this game is a little short--like it was 2/3rds as long as it should have been. But beginners and intermediate gamers will have a great time. Normality is anything but normal. With a wonderful interface, good voice acting, and an interesting storyline, you have a game that you don't want to stop playing. The music is good, but not exceptional. The graphics are pretty good in the 3D environment but shine in the cut-scenes where you get to see Kent stumble along--much to your amusement. If you're looking for an adventure game to spend a few evenings on (up to a week or two for some people) Normality is for you. If you're looking for something that will take from 1 to 4 months to conquer, keep looking down the software aisle.

-- Louis Stice

System Requirements: 486/66, 8MB Ram, 20MB Hard Drive, 2x Cd-Rom, Ms-Dos 5.0 or later (The game is Windows 95 compatible in a DOS window), Sound Blaster or Compatible
Recommended: 486/100 or better, VLB Video card, 4x Cd-Rom

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