The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I still remember the first time I played Another World. As an Amiga owner, I was already familiar with games that tried to emulate movies. Cinemaware had done a fantastic job with its games, transporting me to a ‘50s-style creature feature in It Came from the Desert, letting me live out my medieval fantasies in Defender of the Crown, and even allowing me to throw pies with The Three Stooges. Another World was different. It wasn’t merely aping a genre; it told its own imaginative, sophisticated story, using the language of cinematic storytelling. It was a revelation to my younger self, who had grown accustomed to poorly localized expository text and talking-head cutscenes, and it’s stuck with me decades later.
Another World (released in North America as “Out of this World”) turned 20 a few years ago, and the milestone was commemorated with a 20th Anniversary Edition on iOS. It included the original game, with enhanced visuals and a remastered soundtrack. Now, 23 years after the game first hit the Amiga, the 20th Anniversary Edition is coming to several new platforms – joining the dozens that the game has previously appeared on. I’m relieved to say that the game is as good as I remember it.
It begins with a sports car tearing into view, skidding to a stop near a small trailer-like structure. A man emerges, and descends down an elevator. You learn he’s a physics professor working on an experiment with a particle accelerator. Everything seems like it’s going normally, until lightning strikes the facility. This sets up a catastrophic chain of events that ends with the physicist being teleported to, well, another world.
You begin your adventure as you and the remains of your desk suddenly blink back into existence underwater. I recall playing the game that first time, watching as my character slowly descended into the watery abyss and then drowning. It never occurred to me that I was playing the game at that moment. It seems silly now, but there was a time when Another World’s simple graphics were considered revolutionary. They’ve aged surprisingly well, too, even if you don’t take advantage of the smoothed-out update (accessible at the press of a button). It’s funny – the enhanced graphics look like how I remember the game appearing, but even the original visuals hold up in this era of pixel art and the indie-retro aesthetic.
The game is still tough and depends on experimentation and failure to progress. One of the joys of playing the game for the first time is not knowing anything about this planet. Nearly everything you encounter is hostile, and you aren’t given any clues on how to proceed. You meet up with an ally early on, but you’re unable to communicate beyond using simple hand gestures. You pick up a weapon, but you aren’t given a tutorial on how to use its various modes. While the answers are only a walkthrough away, I strongly encourage new players to take their time and figure things out themselves. Even though death can instantly come from falling down a spiked pit or getting slashed by a goofy-looking worm, the quick reloading times reduce the sting. Failure doesn’t feel punitive, but it’s simply a part of learning how the world works.
The game isn’t without its faults. Shootouts can be frustrating, which is sometimes compounded by the old-school checkpoints. They’re often generous, but you will have to repeat some tedious sequences if you botch your shield placement or aren’t paying close-enough attention. Or, if as sometimes happens, an enemy just seems to refuse to die.
Some might bemoan the lack of new content, but I’m happy with the 20th Anniversary Edition. I’d rather play a faithful recreation of a classic than an attempt that tried, and failed, to tinker with what made it great and the first place. Another World holds up well all these years later, and it remains a captivating must-play for sci-fi fans.
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