OK/NORMAL

How about that Petscop, huh? Well, if you love the aesthetic of PS1-horror games with the masquerade of a cutesy collectathon, do I have a game for you!

OK/NORMAL is a game by 98demake, a developer that is also known for making concept videos of how modern video games would look like if released far earlier. The video creator has since decided to jump to making actual, fully-fledged low-poly video games, starting with this game.

You play as a statue that is constantly tailed by a cloud companion, your charming tutorial character friend. Your goal is to gobble up all the food and medicine strewn about the level until you’re “OK” to head down to the next level.

If it weren’t for the repetitive subdued loop, the unsettling pause screen of the ticking clock and the dark look given by the filters, OK/NORMAL could probably pass as a normal old 3D platformer. It’s got the surreal platforms floating in nothingness, it’s got basic collectathon stuff. Like if the game leaned more toward bright abstract elements, it’d probably be some vaporwave game.

But of course, things start going haywire as OK/NORMAL plunges into becoming a true horror game. The atmosphere grows darker and darker until you’re thrown into a new situation. The food and pills are forgotten as their displays are glitched away. The simple platformer levels expand out into large and disorienting mazes, the vast spaces giving a sense of loneliness and dread.

Movement is done solely with the keys and you can switch to a first-person mode that makes the game feel a bit more like LSD: Dream Emulator than a platformer. I prefer playing in this mode because it lets you get a good look at the ambiguous models and textures that gradually morph. It feels good and makes the most out of being a PSX horror.

There is a sense of mystery in the game with the narrative it starts building up, but as the game can be finished in under an hour, I don’t want to outwardly say it. I will however add my interpretation of what’s going on, translated through ROT13:

Nf gur tnzr cebterffrf lbhe pybhq sevraq fgnegf tyvgpuvat bhg naq lbhe cynlre punenpgre tnvaf gur novyvgl gb fcrnx, erirnyvat n qvfqnva sbe gur zhaqnar. Gurl’er gverq bs gur ercrgvgvir gnfxf, gurl’er gverq bs gur qnl-ol-qnl. Gurer’f vzcyvpngvbaf gung gur punenpgre vf va gur ubfcvgny naq gur pybhq znl or gur ercerfragngvba bs n jvyy gb xrrc ba yvivat, rapbhentvat gurz gb fgnl urnygul, gb or cbfvgvir. Ohg ertneqyrff bs jurgure gurl’er va gur ubfcvgny be abg, gur znva punenpgre jnagf gb qvr.

Gur jnl V frr vg, gur tnzr jbeyq zbecuvat gur jnl vg vf vf obgu orpnhfr bs gur punenpgre’f erwrpgvba bs yvsr naq nf n qrsrafr zrpunavfz. Gur jbeyq ercerfragf gurve cflpur, ohg vg nyfb orpbzrf vagragvbanyyl znmr-yvxr naq sehfgengvat gb cebybat gur znva punenpgre’f yvsr, sbe ng gur irel raq bs gur ynfg znmr, n tnzr bire unccraf naq gur fgnghr pehzoyrf, jvgu gur pybhq nggrzcgvat bar ynfg qvgpu nggrzcg gb erivir gurz sebz gurve fhvpvqr.

I think OK/NORMAL is an enjoyable time. It has an excellent visual style and a great sense of atmosphere that I really got into. Unless you’re one of those gamers that gets fidgety about price-to-playtime ratios, OK/NORMAL is excellent.

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