I'll have to admit that when I first saw the ads for Normality, I was a little put off: making the hero of an adventure game a "grunge-head" seemed like just a clever marketing ploy aimed at grabbing the 17-25 market share. Well, maybe it is a clever marketing ploy, but I couldn't care less. Because the truth is that Normality's a very good adventure game--and, surprisingly enough, it was not designed for novice adventurers. Some of the puzzles here are definite hair-pullers even for veteran gamers, though part of that difficulty can be laid at the feet of some extremely sublime hints and clues. In other words, there's a logical reason for the things you do, but whose logic and how it was arrived at is subject to debate.
Set in the dull, polluted city of Neutropolis, Normality casts you as Kent (the aforementioned "grunge-head"), who's just been released from jail and locked in his apartment for some prolonged therapy in front of the ol' idiot box. While he was in the pokey, though, someone slipped a note under his cell door that hinted at a group of "like-minded people" (read: slackers) wanted him to join their ranks. Your immediate goal is to escape from your apartment; the ultimate goal is to uncover the conspiracy that keeps the citizens of Neutropolis dull and downtrodden.
You play from a first-person perspective ("like Descent, fool" as it says on the back of the box), using the cursor keys or mouse to move about and look up and down. To perform the usual adventure-game commands -- Look, Use, Talk, Open, and Pick Up -- you can either call up the Kent "Voodoo Doll" and click on the appropriate body part, or position the icon over an object and use a hot-key command.
Getting used to the first-person movement takes a little time, but once you've gotten the hang of it you'll be exploring just as efficiently as in a traditional 2D graphic adventure. My only complaint is that you can get confused as to when you should select certain commands; at one point you climb onto a toilet by simply walking into it, then a little later you have to select the Use command in order to climb onto a conveyor belt. That's a pretty minor quibble, though, and overall the interface works very well.
There are several 3D-modeled characters to interact with (there's also some non-interactive 3D scenes as well), but it's nothing to write home about: usually the characters simply bob and sway like automatons as they talk. Traditional 2D animation would probably be better suited to creating distinct personalities for these characters, but at least the voice acting is good. And while he gets on some player's nerves, I personally think Corey Feldman, who does the voice of Kent, may have finally found his true calling. It's nice to hear Corey enthusiastically yell, "I have it!" and "Now it's mine!" when you pick something up; you can tell the guy's a real actor, and if he should get on your nerves you can always turn him off.
Make no mistake: there are a lot places in Normality where you can get stuck. Fortunately, there are all sorts of sites online where you can get hints and tips (including the Interplay Web site), so there's no need to be stuck forever. If you're looking for an adventure game that'll deliver your money's worth, you ought to check this one out.