It Was Bound To Happen, Sooner or later, somebody was going to take the plunge. Ever since people started deconstructing the Doom code and working out how the programmers put it together, we've been given first-person perspective games by the bucketload - but the only adventure titles we've had in anything approaching that style have been pre-rendered (in other words, shite), and you haven't exactly been free to wander about your surroundings as the fancy takes you. In fact, it's usually quite the reverse: you have no choice in the matter at all. You go where the game decides you're going (or you fall into a pool of cyber-acid and die).
Work is freedom
But now we have Normality, a point-and-click adventure which is viewed from the first-person perspective, and which isn't pre-rendered. In fact, it features a smart 3D system called True 3D that gives you texture-mapped environments in which you can stroll about with all the freedom of a 'care in the community' victim who's searching for that perfect, gentle-faced victim to engage in tedious conversation about the problems they're having ironing their collection of London Underground memorabilia. (And yes. since you mention it, it probably would be you. And it serves you right for being too well brought up to tell them to knob off.) Oh all right then, you're not quite that free - you are free to walk about within each location, but you're not free to walk about from one location to the next. If you've completed a section of the game, or you need to go somewhere else, or whatever, you can either call up the map and click on where you want to go or - if the location allows it - you can walk outside to the bus stop and catch a bus. It's a shame that the programmers couldn't have found some way of loading each location in such a manner that you could actually walk to it like a sort of first-person perspective Alone In The Dark or Ecstatica. because it would have done a lot for the atmosphere. Still, we'd only complain about having to walk everywhere if they did. Unless they put everything you need really close together. Or used travellators.
Where the approach to the gameplay is fairly imaginative, the plot... well, isn't really. Normality is one of those gloomladen futuristic jobbies that are all too feasible for comfort: the city in which your character lives - the delectable Neutropolis - has been turned into a very dull thing indeed, by a powerful organisation who have imposed strict standards of behaviour upon everyone else (no doubt while spending all their time with under-aged Filipinos and amusingly-shaped fruit). Everything that might raise the pulse, the eyebrow, or any other part of the anatomy, is banned. The only thing on TV is Teletext (and even that's only got the business news), and Freddy Mercury tribute albums are the only music you're allowed to listen to. These people make Oliver Cromwell look like Liberace.
You are a tree-thinking 'dyood', imprisoned in a Norm cell at the start of the game by the Norm Police (merely for the simple reason that you won't conform), a heavy mob used to ensure that everyone complies with the dictates of those in power.
You seem surprised at your arrest, by the way but to my mind it's thoroughly justified. In a game where everyone else talks in a variety of regional English accents, you witter on in what is meant to be a cool and laid-back voice for hip gamers to identify with. In fact, it sounds like a cross between Greg Proops and an adenoidal California brat. Anyway, basically from there you have to escape, and do other stuff. You know, have an adventure.
Although the gameplay is viewed from a first-person perspective and you can look around all over the place including up and down, it's very traditional point-and-click: explore your surroundings; pick up everything you find because you'll probably need to combine it with something else later to solve a problem (and even if you don't, at least it looks like you're trying); talk to other characters; get hopelessly stuck; beat your head against the desk until your forehead looks like John Merrick's... you know the score. And all in all, it's damn good. The variety in the puzzles is up there with the best of them... there are some where you have to stick things together to make useful contraptions, and there are others where you simply have to find something that a character needs (or in some cases doesn't). Everything is pretty much 'objective' based, though.
Once you've made it through the initial stages and escaped from your flat, you'll soon find a resistance movement fighting against the Norm Police and the tyrant who is ruling the city. The leader of the resistance will set a number of tasks for you that will take you all over the shop, and each of these overall objectives is made up of a number of interlinking mini-puzzlettcs. The in-game graphics are punctuated at regular intervals by cut-scenes - usually when you achieve a solution to one of the puzzles, but also when you perform certain actions or set off a chain of events. These rendered sequences are nicely done, and the look of the 'real' game manages to tie in neatly with the look of the rendered characters. To top it off all the animations have been produced with the aid of Gremlin's rather clever motion capture system that records the movements of'real' people so they can be integrated in with 3D Studio generated animations. The result is something far more realistic than anything you would see generated purely by a traditional 3D graphics system. We've mentioned the thing before - and we went into some detail when we talked about Actuu Soccer - as all the players were animated using the same system.
Laugh? I nearly died...
The game's sizeable, and pretty good, too. It isn't easy, by any means - some of the puzzles have solutions obscure enough to please the most lateral-thinking of players... now you're waiting for a 'but', aren't you?
But (there you go) it isn't without its little foibles. As a comedy adventure, it isn't up there with the likes of Sam And Max, or even Discworld (if you find Terry Pratchett amusing, that is). It has its moments, and raises the odd chuckle but sometimes the dialogue really drags on. Often, you feel that you don't really need to listen to much of it, which is fine if it's entertaining anyway, but sometimes it's just a little bit tedious.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP