Never have I been so happy to revisit a classic as I was when approaching Eric Chahi’s 16-bit classic, Another World. This was the game I cut my teeth on back in 1991. After spending hours watching my elder brother battle with the punishing, sometimes demeaning puzzles, traps and baddies – I finally decided I was ready to play ‘a grown up game.’
Returning to the game as a 32 year old family man with children of my own, I found myself feeling as nervously excited as the 9 year old playing it ’91. After a lackluster Flashback reboot, there was an air of worry about revisiting another of Delphine Software’s landmark games after over 20 years. However, these fears were entirely put to rest within the first minute of play.
Another World is almost exactly how you left it in the 90’s. The visuals have been updated, but just to smooth out rough edges, improve a few textures and make the gorgeous rotoscoped animation even more fluid.
The sublime tale of Lester Knight Chaykin, brilliant particle physicist and victim of the unforeseen explosion that sends him hurtling through the space time continuum into ‘Another World’, remains gleefully intact. Untarnished by the needs of a modern audience, it is just as subdued and low key as ever.
One of the amazing things about retro games, especially games like Another World, is how little support they gave you. Today’s games give you a 12-20 hour narrative, but hold your hand every step of the way. They don’t want you to be stuck, they don’t really want to challenge you in the same way. If you get stuck, a prompt appears, or there are characters in game that will pretty much tell you what to do or where to go.
Another World does none of this. In fact, aside from the words on Lester’s ‘high-tech’ computer screen in the intro, there are no intelligible words spoken or printed until ‘The End’ at the game’s closing. After winding up on the alien planet, to find himself alone with no friends and limited understanding of the dangers around him, Lester’s chief goal is survival.
Which is challenging, because everything on this world wants to kill you. The humanoid inhabitants, the local beasts and even the landscape seem to want to you dead at every turn. Of course, nothing in the game spells this out for you – you discover this through repeated deaths and game over screens.
This hold true for the puzzles in the game. Nothing is telegraphed at all. You have to pretty much use trial and error to find your way through each and every puzzle. And some of these are HARD to work out.If, like me, you’d invested the hours as a child, a lot of this comes back to you quickly. I was able to clear the game on Normal Mode in around 2 hours, having a fresh awareness of how all the puzzles work meant that my play through on Hard Mode was even shorter.
However, to say that a new comer to Another World could clear this game in two hours would be massively misleading. Another World, for a first timer, could easily stretch to a 12 hour experience. For me as a child, it stretched well beyond this! In all honesty, if you are a younger gamer, you are not prepared for this game. You will almost certainly need to ask for help or guidance at more than one point in this game. Either that or you’ll need the patience to repeat section after section working out what you actually need to do to progress for yourself – which can take hours.
The precise nature of the game means that even when you HAVE worked out what needs to be done, your skill and patience will be tested considerably again, just trying to pull it off. Some sections require dexterity and timing that – again – is seldom a requirement of modern, triple-A titles.
This is where the PS4 version, for me, just comes up short. The controls have kept all of their original console iteration simplicity: one button does run and shoot, another does jump. However, the precise inputs required are sometimes at odds with how well they register on the dualshock 4. I found that, unless I pressed the analogue stick precisely to the left of right, not a degree out of place, Lester would occasionally freeze on the spot. In a game that sometimes requires perfectly timed running (for those that remember the game, I’m thinking beasts and water), this was a problem.
Lester’s laser pistol in Another World is a versatile weapon, it can shoot, put up a shield or charge a massive blast that will destroy walls or enemy shields. But behind the awesome weapon stands the same sticky frustration. On more than one occasion, when pressing the fire button on Lester’s pistol too quickly, it wouldn’t register properly, thus making some of the gun fights decidedly more difficult than they already were. This was forgivable of Normal Mode, but occasionally turned Hard Mode into a nightmare of frustration as I’d time the duck and roll perfectly, only to have Lester fail to shoot and I’d die anyway.
That said, I DID complete it on Hard Mode, so it can definitely be done – just be prepared for the occasional failure were you feel like the hardware has let you down rather than your own ineptitude. Interestingly, given that Another World is cross-buy and cross-save across PS4, PS3 and PS Vita – I found that these ‘sticky’ control problems didn’t appear at all on the Vita version. Which means my hard mode speed run is certainly a possibility – just one that’s harder to broadcast.
Overall, an amazing, untarnished trip down memory lane that gamers old and new should definitely check out. Be prepared for frustration, because that’s how these games work. You get lost, you get stuck, you eventually get past the section that’s had you feeling demoralised and you feel elated, skillful and clever all at once. Games that are challenging in this way don’t really get made any more, which is a shame, because this is one of the most rewarding and awesome games I’ve ever played. PS4 controller issues aside and with only a few tweaks to get it looking less hideous on a modern TV, it totally stands up today.
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.