It’s funny the things that you can remember from your youth, and the things that you can’t. I remember clearly being around a friend’s house when he showed me Another World on his Commodore Amiga 500 and I remember being completely blown away. I was thirteen years old, and gaming was still an evolving art form, but even I knew that this game was special. It attempted things that had never been done before and left the fans and critics alike purring for years after.
Over twenty years later we finally get a chance to experience Eric Chahi’s title once again on PlayStation, in the guise of a “20th Anniversary Edition” which actually released a few years back almost everywhere else, and for many this was a standout example of the genre. Has it stood the test of time?
To truly appreciate Another World, you will need to have a couple of things. One is a preference for nostalgia, or even a love for the title from way back when. The other is patience. A tremendous amount of patience. You could be forgiven for thinking that this was just another indie title with the look, but this was state of the art back in 1991. There was no such derision from the flanks, and it was lapped up by critics and gamers alike. You even get a choice to play with the “HD” visuals or by pressing triangle, revert to the original look. As the game starts you are treated to a cut-scene with the protagonist, Lester Knight Chaykin, who is a genius and has his own version of the Large Hadron Collider. Whilst attempting to create his own big bang, a freak lightning storm during the same night creates an explosion which ensures he awakens on an alien world, with no clues or help. This is probably why everyone was so worried about the scientists turning the real one on – they played this back in the day!
Another World is a platform game with some clever puzzles thrown in, and is linked with a cinematic pieces along the way for the “story”. With very little narrative and even fewer clues you are left to figure out your escape by yourself with the aid of a very simplistic control scheme. The key with any platform title is the controls, which have to be incredibly tight and unfortunately they are not here. In the “old days” you had a two button joystick and in Another World it used a button for jumping and an action button which controlled your kicking, running and later on shooting and creating shields, so timing is incredibly crucial.
These controls are presented with X as your “action” button which will do almost everything, with Square being used to jump. Unfortunately they can be unresponsive or too fiddly to press in succession –when needing to take a running jump, for example. A lot of what happens around you requires some crucial timing, failure will result in death and the “press the action button to continue” screen, which you will see a lot. Unfortunately, this cycle of continual deaths leads to a tremendous amount of frustration, and if DS4 controllers weren’t so expensive it would have been thrown at the wall, many times over. The continual deaths also artificially inflate what is actually an incredibly short game.
You find yourself needing to create a shield in every area, then charge a power shot from your weapon before firing another to slay the hostile forces that do not want you to leave. With all these actions being controlled by one button you can quickly see why you would want to give up. The crucial factor here though is that I did keep playing, and I did keep trying. Initially born from a desire to complete that section I was stuck on, I actually started to care and wanted to ensure that Lester escaped from his surroundings. The charm had finally caught me, which is a shame as the game is about ready to finish by that point and there is very little to do afterwards.
The game sports Sony’s Cross-buy initiative and despite the fact that you get the PS4/PS3 and PS Vita versions here, the game is over three times the cost of the (almost) identical mobile version. It’s an example of Cross Buy not working too well, as you are effectively paying for all three versions anyway, regardless of whether you own all three. It also supports cross save but the game is so short you probably won’t find yourself needing it.
Despite the shortness and issues with the controls, there is something to enjoy here, especially for those that remember the title from earlier in their life. It will undoubtedly frustrate you and is probably too expensive for what you get, but it’s a piece of gaming history. Perhaps it’s just about worth it.