Developer and publisher 98DEMAKE primarily makes videos showcasing new games in the style of the original PlayStation or Game Boy. OK/NORMAL is the developer’s first foray into creating games, and it surpasses all expectations.
From the beginning, the 90s era of 3D games shows its evident influence. The screen is even reduced to an artificial, smaller one once the game starts up, in the shape and style of an old CRT monitor. Everything from the font to the fuzzy feel of the textures instantly transports the player back in time. However, OK/NORMAL runs at a smooth 60 FPS and is polished all around.
Players take the role of a statue who at first must go around levels merely collecting food and medicine. A cloud companion follows and provides colorful text commentary, but it does not take long for the journey to descend into madness as you collect keys, platform, and evade monstrous entities.
Maps become more and more maze-like, and vast. The floor beneath contains moving images, cubes swirl on the sides, and weird, low-fi noises call out amongst the darkness. Eyeballs look around on certain surfaces, and colors begin to change and flash. Giant disembodied skulls and figures with eyes haunt the player and threaten death when too close. Fortunately, the game controls like a dream despite there being throwback tank controls.
The addition of a sprint-like button and a jump button speeds up the process of navigating these figurative and, at one point, literal mazes. Though items need to be collected for the majority of levels, some involve continuing on until the game warps into the next area. The best way to play is to allow the game to be an experience and follow along with everything that happens. It defies expectations in the best way possible and is best played in one sitting.
The style here is one of many highlights. It harkens back to LSD Dream Emulator but stands on its own with no issue. Everything fits the look and genre 98DEMAKE was going for and, without knowing anything, the game could easily be mistaken for a lost demo or gem from the original PlayStation era, especially given the bizarre and downright creepy visuals in the latter half as the game descends into a nightmare that could easily be from the mind of David Lynch.
Colors all pop, and the player statue is never lost among the graphics quality or environments, allowing for plenty of contrast and unique textures in each area. One nice feature is that any point, the game can be played in both third person by default, or first person upon pressing the G key to switch. It’s seamless, and allows the player to take in all the game has to offer.
Many ambient tracks accompany gameplay, which, according to the credits, are sourced from other artists. The synth sounds accompany the game’s aesthetic very well and undoubtedly contribute to the increasingly-foreboding atmosphere. That said, silence is also used to great effect, and the game is better for understanding the balance. Since the game was very recently released, no updates have been released thus far. However, the developer is in constant contact with the community on Twitter and their YouTube channel.
98DEMAKE’s debut stands out amongst the genre we at Indie Ranger hold dear. Looking at the store page, a player may think they know what they’re in for, but there is so much more waiting beneath the surface. After completing the game, there is little reason to go back through again, but given the game’s one hour length, that is not a bad thing. It is quite cheap, coming in at $2.99, and is worth picking up if any of the above is of interest. OK/NORMAL is a wholly original, refreshing addition to gaming that deserves your attention.
OK/NORMAL is available on Steam.
DISCLAIMER: Indie Ranger received a free copy of OK/NORMAL for review purposes. This does not affect the outcome or final score of the review.
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Colton is a computer science student at SUNY Fredonia who hails from Buffalo, NY and would much rather be writing articles, scripts, and poems than code. Find him stressing in your nearest coffee shop. A few of his favorite games are Half Life/Half Life 2, Resident Evil 4 and Super Mario 64.