Another World: 15th Anniversary Edition PC Review
Another World is a 2D adventure game which sees you explore, jump and shoot your way through the story. The game was originally released in 1991 on Commodore Amiga, back when game culture was very unestablished. In 2007 it’s impossible to think one man could design a game but this is what young Frenchman Eric Chahi did at his parents’ home. But make no mistake this is no amateur development, back when it was released Another World was heralded as one of the greatest games around and awarded critical acclaim.
The dreamlike story of Another World happens in a parallel world, to which the main protagonist Lester is transported after lightning strikes his lab during a particle acceleration experiment. It is not known whether events were in the present, past or future, the gamer is left unsure and the mystery adds to the desolate atmosphere. Another World offered an immersive audiovisual style never seen before, and even today the graphics and sound are highly effective. The minimalist style – of both arty visuals and audio – leaves much to the imagination and draws on the loneliness of the main character. It’s a reminder of how important music is and the synthetic notes of Another World are supremely effective.
In-game controls are a simplistic joy as you only require one button and directional controls. Aside from regular laser shots your gun can act as a shied by holding the button down momentarily and you can charge up a powerful shot by holding it longer. You’ll need quick reactions and to be on your toes when entering a new room.
Upon release, and especially now, Another World is a very challenging game to play. You won’t find in-game help or hints and a lot of experimentation is required. In 1991 gamers did not have an easy ride and difficulty was seen as part of the challenge; you could always expect to be punished for making the smallest mistakes. After dying you get given a 4 digit code to that acts as your save system, they are fairly frequent but you won’t get one after every scenario. Luckily this new version allows you to pick a scene based on your progress through the game, so entering the code is option. Despite this you will find you are having to repeat some tasks again and again until you don’t die, which can grow tiresome; if you’re very inpatient you might want to think again. This is something in game culture that has changed over the last decade and gamers don’t need the patience they used to. Whether you have a lot of fun with the game depends on whether you can overlook the ageing aspect of the game, but I’d advise you to stick with it. If you’re stuck it could be you’re approaching the problem incorrectly and should try another solution.
Rather than simply port the game directly, some effort has gone into re-releasing Another World. Visually the game offers support for the latest widescreen resolutions and upon comparison with the original there is actually a big leap in graphical detail, though graphically it will look sparse to newcomers as it’s easy to forget how much has changed in 15 years. There have also been a few gameplay tweaks, including additional ‘save points’ so you don’t have to replay too many events after dying. Personally I thought there should be even more save points, in one instance where you have to outrun flowing water I did this successfully but died afterwards and I had to do the whole run again, when to me it felt like a separate challenge. On the bright-side those who had the Amiga version will also be treated to a new level that didn’t feature in the original.
With this anniversary edition you get an 18 minute Making Of movie that sees Eric and his composer friend Jean Francois Freitas – responsible for the Another World’s music – discuss the game and its development. It’s highly insightful, in particular where we see the game’s visuals edited on the fly using Eric’s purpose built editor.
There’s also a 42 page Development Diary PDF featuring a chronological set of drawings, notes and sketches back. The document looks like it has been knocked together in MS Word but there’s a lot of interesting content. It’s surprising to see how true to original conception the visuals turned out, indicating that the fewer people involved in making a game the greater chance of it turning out as intended. Lastly, in the box you also get the original soundtrack on CD.
For some it’s a chance for reminiscence, and for others a chance to experience one of the most absorbing adventure games around. Another World offers a glimpse of what gaming life was like back in 1991. It’s available in the shops RRP £14.99, though you can probably find it for £9.99 online – great value for money. Anyone who classes themselves as a true gamer should experience it and modern developers could learn a lot by revisiting the game. Another World shows you can achieve amazing things with a low budget that turn out to be very rewarding experiences.