Have you ever been transported to a faraway planet after your particle accelerator melted down and become best friends with a giant mud alien? If you have, call me, we should talk, because that is too cool, but let’s be honest with ourselves, you’re probably never going to do anything that cool.
If you want to pretend, though, you should maybe play Another World, because it has all that, a pterodactyl creature, and more. A refresh of the 1991 game, called Out of This World in North America, the 20th anniversary edition of Another World has all the charm and unexpected comradery that made the original so poignant. But is Another World still worth another look after all these years?
Take Me Away
You play as the protagonist, Lester Knight Chaykin, who may have the best name ever. Lester is a particle physicist, so obviously his experiment goes wrong and he’s pulled through space and time to another dimension. He finds himself on a barren planet with toothy slugs to begin and all sorts of other critters later. Imprisoned and forced to break out with a fellow captive, Lester and his new friend “Buddy” attempt to make their way out of the prison and to freedom.
Lester begins the game completely defenseless, and though he picks up a weapon that can provide some protection, any amount of damage causes instant death. Luckily, checkpoints are numerous, because even the best players are going to die a lot. Lester can respawn from the same checkpoint indefinitely, though, so not to worry.
Once Lester finds a weapon, scavenged from a fallen enemy, you’ll really start to make your way. There are three firing modes, the first being the sort of pew! pew! you’d expect from a side-scrolling platformer ported to the Mac from the Amiga. Once Lester has the gun, he can use it to create an energy shield, useful when you’re as vulnerable as this guy. The third mode is a charged burst that can really do some damage, even knocking out walls.
If you’re wondering how you get Lester from Point A to Point B, it’s not so bad. I’m always concerned that platformers are going to feel awkward on a keyboard, but this one didn’t. The arrow keys move you around, and you’ll set a command and a jump button. It’s actually pretty simple without a lot of mapping to remember, but Another World supports a controller (called a joystick in settings) if you’re inclined.
Running, Jumping, Shooting
No one can say Another World isn’t a platformer. There’s running and jumping, you’ll have to avoid enemies, and other enemies with have to be killed. Lester has to make it through a couple of different environments which definitely feel like beating dungeons or Mario worlds. If you’re a fan of platformers and that’s what you’re here for, Another World definitely has everything you’re looking for.
Beyond the platforming aspects, though, Another World turns out to be a bit of a puzzler. You can’t just push Lester and “Buddy” through the maze of tunnels, relentlessly killing enemies, and expect to make it through to the other end. Solving the puzzles becomes part of survival, so while straight platformers are fine, there is a bit more meat on this bone.
The Magic of Video Games
The graphics still look phenomenal, even after more than twenty years. Part of that is definitely the feeling of nostalgia that comes from playing a retro game. If you played the original for the Amiga or one of the ports when you were a kid, the nostalgia will be even stronger. More than that, though, the graphics are surprisingly smooth, and I didn’t find myself wishing for more polygons, the building blocks of video game graphics, the way I usually do with refreshed games.
That’s likely due in large part to how the original was created. Another World had a particularly high frame rate for the time and used vector outlines to create impressive graphics using less storage. Much of the movement in the game was achieved using rotoscoping, a process in which animators trace over real footage. The original rotoscoped animations created smooth graphics then and kept the game from feeling dated even today.
I ran into a few problems, playing, though. I run Mac OS X 10.8, and had no problems getting Another World up and running, but it’s supposed to be compatible with 10.7, too. Unfortunately, when I tried to install and run it on my husband’s machine running Lion, Another World said his OS was outdated. Which would be fine, if Another World is only supposed to run on 10.8, but the system requirements support 10.7. There was also sometimes a lag even on my Mountain Lion machine when I would be shooting, especially if I wanted to quickly run away.
Despite the few technical issues I ran into, Another World is just a fantastic looking game with a great story, if you pay attention. Follow it through to the end, and you’ll see a beautiful friendship formed against the bleak backdrop of the alien world. If you played it when you were a kid, it’s worth another playthrough, not just for the memories, but because it’s a great game. If you’ve never played Another World, well, it’s still a great game.