App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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’Normal Club is anything but normal. It’s a game book that plays out a lot like an after school special. You play as various members of a high school paranormal club as they try to sleuth out what the club from their rival school is up to. What starts as a really cool setup though devolves into a lot of trial-and-error that doesn’t give you as much freedom or choice as you might want.
The world of ’Normal Club is one where all of the tropes of paranormal fiction are part of everyday life. There are ghosts. Mummies exist. UFOs are real. You get the idea. Despite the confirmation that these fantastical creatures exist, people in ’Normal Club still have a fascination with them. That’s where you come in.
The West C. High School paranormal club is full of a bunch of misfits who want to prove they’re better than spoiled brats at The Academy who always win awards for their paranormal findings. In ’Normal Club, you get to pick a squad of three kids from West High to take on a grand adventure full of adolescent antics, academic rivalry, and—obviously—otherworldly oddities.
’Normal Club is a game book, meaning it’s more like an interactive experience than a traditional game. Most of the time when playing, you’re reading text on a plain black screen as it describes exactly what’s going on. That said, there are times where the game calls on you to make decisions for your band of misfit students and decide what twists and turns the overall plot takes.
Sometimes, these choices are simply a way of letting you choose the order in which you want to experience certain things. At other times though, certain choices are locked behind a timing-based mini-game that can be easier or harder to complete based on the stats of your party. If you end up failing these choices, you may not be able to proceed forward as planned, or it could even end your story prematurely.
On paper, all of the things going on in ’Normal Club feel like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately though, this game has a lot of dead ends and no checkpointing system whatsoever. This means that if you fail a challenge or simply choose a wrong dialogue choice, you can hit a Game Over screen and have to start the entire game over again from the beginning.
’Normal Club isn’t a terribly long game, but tapping through prompts quickly just to zip back to where you were is still pretty annoying. If that weren’t enough, ’Normal Club doesn’t really give you satisfying endpoints to get to. The “true” ending of the game in particular feels kind of cheap and lame in a way that I really wasn’t expecting.
The bottom line
I love ’Normal Club in concept, and I almost love it in practice. The writing is fun, it has some great art, and the light puzzles sprinkled throughout the experience are entertaining. That said, all of these things wear thin when you have to tap through it time and time again in search of an ending that is confusingly dissatisfying.