Normality (1996)

I was trying to think something to say about normality and usually, that's not a good thing, as if something has an impact, itä's usually easy to write about it. In the case of Normality though, it did have an impact on me, even back in the 1990's when it came out, as it was, even back then and especially now, a bit rare kind of a game. So why is it, that I have some difficulties finding something to say about it?

The way I see it, it's because it represents a rare game type: flat out, no bars hold, comedy. I know what you're thinking: there's a lot of humour in games. And sure, I don't deny that, but most games only have some humour in them, sprinkled here and there and some, like Monkey Island, rely more on funny dialogue and situations. In Normality, everythig is a joke. Be it the voice acting, the dialogue, the overall world building or even the graphics, it's all a joke. Everything about it tries to be a punchline or at least a funny little detail.

Comedy games like Normality are rare. It's because out of all forms of entertainment, comedy is something that relies the most on cultural knowledge. Things that are funny in the USA don't necessarily translate as funny in China for an example. The most recent comedy game I can think of is Daedalic Entertainment's Deponia-series, which I didn't like myself, as the humour it had didn't work for me; I found it dreadful rather than amusing.

So, Normality, did I find it funny? Yes and no. See, it's such an onslaught of comedy, that it's bound to have something that tickles your fancy once in a while. It might be a line of dialogue or some ongoing situation or just a small, little detail on the graphics of the game. As a whole though, it's not the funniest thing I've ever played, as the style of humour it has ranged from sheer absurdity to juvenility. At times it's just strange, at times it's throwing something like Teena Mutant Ninja Turds around. At times, Normality does manage to be a clever and pretty solid parody of a dystopic sci-fi genre. At times though, it just succumbs into depths of juvenility that feel out of place.

But like I said, it did have an impact on me, especially when I was younger. I'd even dare to say it had a greater impact on me than something like Monkey Island. But that impact came from how the game was made and how it looked like, not what was in it. I don't recall if I ever was bursting stitches because of the style of humour the game offered, nor was I ever amazed by the puzzle design it had going on.

What did amaze me, and still does to day, is the amount of detail the game has going for it. Starting from the rundown flat of Kent's to the detention centre of Blue Pens, every scene is bursting with detail. Like I said, the game is filled with jokes, so the world as well is filled with them too. Every crook and cranny of this pixelated 3D-world are filled to a brim with small details. It's amazing, really, the amount of work that has gone into it.

Another aspect I've always admired, and what really made me a 3D hobbyist, was the pre-rendered cutscenes, which are, unlike in most games, not revolving around sci-fi cliches but the oddball characters of the dystopic city of Neuropolis. To this day, I still like them and the character design going on in them.

I guess this would be a proper point to finally say something about the story of the game as well as what kind of a game it is.  Well, it is a 3D point 'n' click game, where you move around in a 1st person world, like in Doom, but instead of shooting anyone, you do regular point 'n' clicking in order to solve puzzles, pick up items and all that what goes into the genre.

Thes story takes place in a dystopic city of Neuropolis, where a police force called Norms make sure that everyone is acting normal. The jokes here is, though, that no-one really is normal, as everyone you meet seems to be odd in some form or an another. A bit of social commentary there, I think.

In any case, the hero of the story, Kent, has just ended his sting in the Blue Pens, after being arrested for whistling too happy a tune. In the slammer he got a message, that leads him to a resistance movement, that is aiming to free Neuropolils from the hands of the oppression. And that is the basic story, that takes Kent through several locations to fight the power.

So, yeah, despite Normality isn't the prettiest looking game from a modern point of view, nor is it something I really love, it still has a special place in my heart because it did have an impact. Not necessarily the way the game developers themselves meant it, but still, it made me truly aware of what was possible with 1st person engines.

And I do know, Under a Killing Moon came out before Normality, so it's not like it was the first free-roaming 1st person adventure out there. It just is, that I played Normality first.

If you want to play Normality, you can get it from GOG or Steam. Perhaps the humour it has works better on you than it did on me.