A weird mix of 3D exploration and point-and-click adventure, Normality was developed and published by Gremlin Interactive in 1996.
In some respects Normality is the predecessor to Realms of the Haunting – a 1997 release from Gremlin. Both games use the same game engine, and gameplay-wise they also share a lot of similarities.
Normality is essentially a quest and puzzle-based adventure with quirky characters and bizarre humour. You play an orange-haired man called Kent Knutson, a dreamer and a misfit in a futuristic society gone wrong. Kent has just spent a week in the cells for “whistling in public” and is now under house arrest. It’s up to you – as Kent – to escape his suburban prison and solve the riddle of the nation’s apathy… And to do this you will have to find and pick up lots of items on the way. And endlessly try clicking them on each other, to see if they do anything… Or make another character do something…
Luckily Kent has an inventory into which he can store his items… On a piece of paper… Yes, a piece of paper. He also uses a ‘voodoo doll’ to perform his actions… Normality is the kind of game where anything that can happen often does happen, so a piece of paper for an inventory or a voodoo doll for a verb list shouldn’t shock you.
What may shock you are the state of the graphics – compared to what we see today. Normality is… erm, a little… dated? The pre-rendered cut scenes are pure ’90s cheese, as is the 3D engine, which is post Doom, but still very basic. At least the 3D seems to have perspective, though, which is something… 3D models and texture-wise: Normality is primitive. The character graphics are not too bad, even if a few of them do look like they’ve been designed by a six year-old.
Thankfully the strange presentation doesn’t mar the game too much. The important elements such as dialogue, menus, movement, and general playability are all surprisingly good. Most importantly: the story is engaging. Normality is a humorous, satirical take on authoritarianism, society, and individuals – and every shade of the human condition – and although it may be viewed as childish on the face of it, it is actually subtly humanistic and compelling.
If you like weird adventure games then Normality is worth a play. It probably won’t knock your socks off, but it may surprise you to learn that it’s actually not as bad as it looks. And it’s currently available on Steam and GOG, so very easy to pick up for a few pounds/bucks/roubles.