Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition / 30th of July 2014
Eric Chahi’s highly regarded 1991 masterpiece, Another World, was given a HD lick of paint by a combination of French publisher, The Digital Lounge, and Martial Hesse-Drévill, along with Mr Chahi himself, before being sent on its way to delight and entertain the ageing gamer on almost every platform around today. Packed with crisp, clean new lines and a remastered soundtrack, Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition was surely bound to a success, wasn’t it? Well, yes, assuming that is, that the game itself has been able to withstand the rigours of time since we now arrive at the twenty-three year anniversary of its original release. And that, unfortunately, is where the problems start…
Rewind back to the start of the 90s, when the arrival of Another World was something special, pushing the boundaries of what was deemed possible in a videogame with its mind blowing visual quality. Eric Chahi worked tirelessly to ensure that the look of the game met his exacting standards, and he spent much of his time looking for ways to circumnavigate the shortcomings of the Amiga hardware, for which it was originally developed. Using his technical knowhow, he managed, through the use of the Amiga’s genlock feature, to create rotoscoped graphics for the game, which could not only run in a solid enough framerate, but give his animation a stunning, lifelike feel to it, thereby cementing the first step towards the cinematic project that he wished to create. There really is no denying the fact that upon its release, Another World was a ground-breaking feat, but personally it was not a game that I was ever overly fond of, preferring the more action packed Flashback from Paul Cuisset, which would follow only one year later, and perhaps unsurprisingly, after playing this latest re-release of the game, I still do.
In terms of its story, players assume control of a young physicist known as Lester Chaykin, who arrives at his high-tech laboratory to conduct an experiment using a powerful particle accelerator, but things do not go according to plan, and Lester finds himself transported across time and space, to another planet. It is an alien, hostile world, and the game’s hero must fight for his very survival as he seeks to find a way off its surface in order to return home. Now, with the relative highpoint of Another World out of the way, there are several issues that simply need to be highlighted.
The problems with Another World start almost instantaneously though, naturally there is no tutorial, but there is also no in-game option to even look at the controls, so bypassing the game’s first challenge can prove to be a highly frustrating affair in itself, and that merely sets the tone for the pain that is to follow. Once players have learned the controller layout, they will soon realise that controls are hopelessly unresponsive, which makes something as necessary as a quick succession of jumps an almost impossible task to pull off, especially when Lester has a particularly nasty habit of turning around to face the wrong way for no particular reason, and likewise, simply ducking to fire your weapon can be a truly excruciating experience, as Lester insists on standing in the line of enemy fire for the majority of the time, and that leads me on to another major problem, the gunfights.
Combat in Another World is an altogether traumatic affair, with almost every single aspect of the game being entirely inconsistent, fighting is certainly no exception. Pressing the attack button will fire a simple, low power shot, whilst holding the button for varying levels of time will result in either the creation of an energy field or a high power blast respectively. Barriers are essential for surviving some of the confrontations found later in the game, but sadly, once erected, Lester has a nasty habit of simply running to the other side of it (and therefore out into plain sight of his enemies) when the player simply attempts to cock their weapon, ready to fire again. During the remastering process, it would have made much more sense to remap the controls around the vastly expanded range of buttons available on modern controllers, instead of using one button for interacting with the environment, using one’s weapon and for running. A great deal of Another World’s problems probably could have been avoided by doing so, but as it is, it ranks as being one of, if not the most frustrating videogame ever created. Of course, just because Lester does fire his gun when the player commands it, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to do him any good. Gunfights feel almost entirely random, as though the outcome of each depends entirely on a roll of the dice. Hammering on the shoot button regularly sends a flurry of gunfire towards an enemy, but nine times out of ten, they probably won’t even record a single hit, ensuring that Lester’s death is not merely likely, but rather an inevitability. To a certain extent, these shoddy mechanics are lessened by reasonably generous checkpoint placement, but not by much.
The overarching difficulty level of Another World is fairly unforgiving as it is, before taking into consideration the horrendous flaws that result in this re-release finding the mire where it truly belongs. Back in 1991, Eric Chahi created a visually stunning cinematic adventure whose impact was felt across the globe, but in 2014, his magnum opus has been reduced to a game only worth purchasing for the easy achievements and trophies that offers gamers for enduring its two hours or so of torture. Is that really a viable trade-off though? Probably not.