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Crossworlds Part 1 - Normville Reviews
Author: BBBen
Date: 2004

What does AIF stand for? Adult Interactive Fiction. If you likely to be offended by games with sexual content, you are advised not
to open these files.

Reviewed by David Whyld

I wish I lived in the same world as the one portrayed in many AIF games. I really do. You see, in AIF games it’s so easy to have sex you practically have to beat the women off with a stick… and even then you'll probably end up doing the deed whether you want it or not. Yes, a great world fuelled by the dreams of adolescent school boys. Nothing like the real one, of course, but if only it was. 

Two minutes into playing Normville, I was exchanging pleasantries with my girlfriend’s mom and then, before I knew it, she was insisting I have sex with her. Unrealistic? Hell no. The same thing happened to me three times just last week. 

Normally at this point in the review I’d give a brief outline of the game’s storyline, but as I don’t have a clue what that might be it'll just have to wait. On with the sex with my girlfriend’s mother then… 

Or attempted sex anyway. This being an AIF game, it’s got the usual guess the verb issues. Just typing **** [name] would be far too easy, I guess. Strangely, this version of the game I'm playing purports to be a “Gold” edition and the README says that the game has been improved since earlier versions. Hmmm… Just as well I didn’t play any of the earlier versions is all I can say. KISS JESSICA results in me and the aforementioned Jessica engaging in a bit of kissing. Trying to take things a step further and I'm hit with a message telling me I need to work my way up with some petting first. Back to the petting. Still getting the same message. Try something else. Still told I need to work my way up from petting first. 

At which point I went to the walkthrough and discovered I needed to RUB (a certain part of her anatomy). Ah. Where does AIF’s poor reputation among the rest of the IF world come from? Complete mystery to me. 

After that, the sex scene progressed to its inevitable conclusion and ended with my girlfriend’s mother advising me not to “strain” her daughter too much (love that phrase by the way) and then even offering the name of a friend she has who will have sex with me so as not to “strain” her daughter. 

I came pretty close to just deleting the game right there and then but something made me play it a bit further. Probably sheer damn masochism. It has to get better, right? 

Fortunately the game does get a bit better later on, if you're willing to persist. The usual errors that mar almost every AIF game I've ever played are still in abundance though. The game understands the bare minimum of commands required so if you type OPEN CLOSET and opening the closet isn’t required to finish the game, you're going to get an error message saying you can’t do that. Trying to climb through an open window also got me the same error message. When you’ve tried a dozen or more different things along these lines and been hit with an error message for ten of them, you really start to despair. It’s things like this that really show AIF in a bad light and are probably the main reason why it’s such a poorly regarded genre. While the majority of people playing the game are most likely playing it solely for the sex and don’t give a hoot about the game itself, it would still be nice to include the extra commands for those few of us who are approaching this from the “it’s an IF game” point of view. 

There were a number of bugs in the game which obviously escaped the update to the Gold edition. Outside one house there's a dog called Muttley who won’t let me into the house. I wasn’t sure why but the room description stated he was eating a steak I’d given him. I hadn’t given him a steak at this stage but later on I happened to find a steak in the fridge and gave it to him. The room description stayed the same but this time the dog let me pass. Strange. 

No AIF game would be complete without its sex scenes. In fact, take away the sec scenes and it’s doubtful anyone would play them. Normville has its fair share of them alright. Are they good? Bad? Indifferent? Well… my eyes tend to glaze over after I've read the eighth sex scene in a row but they weren’t especially horrible. The writing was certainly better than usual for an AIF game and while none of the characters came across as the least bit believable, that’s kind of a given in a game like this. I also had the sneaking suspicion that they were all the same woman, albeit with a name change. Or do they just all have identical personalities? 

The sex scenes followed the strange convention of sex scenes in quite a few AIF games that I've played. Simply typing **** [name] isn’t enough. No, you have guess the verb through the roof as you try to figure out just what needs doing to advance the game to the next part of the sex. Often you're forced to carry out four or five different sex acts just to move on. Some people might find this a turn on. Me? I was too busy yawning. It’s also not helped that certain sex acts can only be performed in a certain order and sometimes the game will lock down until you figure out what that order is. I wasn’t able to leave the room at the start until I guessed the verb my way past Jessica, and the scene with Lin was equally troublesome in the way the exit just mysteriously disappeared until I had had my wicked way with her. 

As for the storyline, there really isn’t one. You wander around town, you meet lots of women who are just dying to have sex with you for reasons that never seem to be specified – are you some kind of super stud? Or the only man in town? Or are the women just the usual brain dead stereotypes that generally populate AIF games? You know the sort: beautiful, busty and without an ounce of common sense to their name. For once, it'd be nice to actually have a woman in an AIF game who could add 2 and 2 together and get the right answer. No wonder there are so few women writing AIF games if this is how the ones in them are portrayed. 

There were a couple of times when I felt the game might turn into something a bit more interesting. When I spanked one of the brainless bimbos, a strange light seemed to emanate from the paddle I was spanking her with. I tried it again (to see if the light was produced once more and what would happen if it was, not because of any perverse desire to spank someone on a computer screen (honest!)) but no such joy. Towards the end of the game, everything started getting a bit bizarre. A gremlin turned up and when I defeated it, the bed I was lying on had moved itself to a field in the middle of nowhere. All very eerie. Unfortunately, by this time my enthusiasm for the game was completely shot. The game ending a moment later with a note about a sequel soon to be released didn’t help either. 

So another AIF game, another bad review. Maybe there's a connection between the two. Alas it seems that for every decent AIF game I've played – of which only two were games I’d recommend to anyone else (Ghost Justice and The Backlot) – there are a dozen others that leave so much to be desired that it’s hard to find a positive thing to say about them. For the most part, Normville was regular run of the mill AIF. Minimal storyline, minimal gameplay, guess the verb issues, overly long and tedious sex scenes, poorly done characters and not much else. The only puzzles seemed to be a case of figuring out how to have sex with a variety of similar seeming women. The only time it got remotely interesting was right before it ended and it’s perhaps doubtful anyone not obsessed with the AIF genre is still going to be playing it by that stage (I was only still playing it myself because I intended to write a review of it and I had the walkthrough to hand, thus allowing me to sidestep the horrendous guess the verb problems). Hopefully later games in the series will show a marked improvement on this one because this really wasn’t an impressive start. 

3.5 out of 10 

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