Another World

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1991; vt Out of This World US; vt Outer World Japan). Delphine Software. Designed by Éric Chahi. Platforms: Amiga, AtariST (1991); AppleII, DOS, MegaDrive, SNES (1992); Mac (1993); 3DO, Win (1994); Phone (2005); rev Win (2006).

Another World is a platform game (see Videogames) set on an alien planet, much influenced by cinematic conventions and visual storytelling techniques. Its design echoes that of such predecessors as the martial arts game Karateka (1984 Brøderbund Software, AppleII, Atari8, NES; 1986 Amstrad, C64, DOS, Spectrum; 1987 Atari7800; 1988 AtariST, PC98) designed by Jordan Mechner, and prefigures the more sophisticated narratives of the dark fairy tales Ico (2002 Sony, PS2) and Shadow of the Colossus (2006 Sony, PS2), both designed by Fumito Ueda. All of these games excel at telling a purely linear story (see Interactive Narrative) without words; emotion is conveyed by facial expressions and body language alone. As in Ico, there is no visible interface in Another World; all indications of the game's state have been removed to enhance the player's immersion (see Game Design). Unlike that later game, the visuals of this work are entirely two-dimensional, seen from the side.

The game begins with the player's character, a young physicist, running an experiment on a particle accelerator. Lightning strikes the laboratory at a critical moment, and the experimenter is transported to an unknown planet. There they are captured by humanoid Aliens; with the assistance of an imprisoned alien they can escape and attempt to survive in the hostile environment of this ultramundane world. In the end, the wounded protagonist and their speechless friend are allowed to fly off together into an endless blue sky. The gameplay combines the need to perform sequences of perfectly timed actions typical of a platform game with the solution of inventively diverse physical puzzles, in a manner reminiscent of such action Adventure precursors as Metroid (1986). Success can be difficult to achieve; the game demands that the player execute a series of extremely precise movements, many of which can only be discovered by experiment, if they are to progress through its simulated world.

Nevertheless, Another World is remarkable for its ability to convey a striking sense of otherworldly beauty, while depicting the player's movements with an air of balletic grace. It could be said to epitomize the "French touch" – the flair for visual design displayed in many early Gallic Videogames, including Captain Blood (1988) and B.A.T. (1990).

Related works: Heart of the Alien (1994 Interplay, MegaCD) designed by Jeremy Barnes, Michael Burton, Doug Nonast is a sequel built by other hands. Here the central relationship of the first game is inverted; the player adopts the role of Another World's Alien friend, while the human physicist appears as a computer controlled ally. Unfortunately this seems to work less well than the original's design, perhaps because players find it harder to identify with the alien than with the familiar. The game begins with an introduction which shows the events of its predecessor from the alien's point of view, as well as parts of his backstory; play then proceeds directly from the end of Another World. Arguably, this forced resolution of the original's deliberately ambiguous ending is less than felicitous. The mechanics are similar to those of the first game, but overcoming the various challenges presented by Heart of the Alien is noticeably more difficult. In the end the alien can free his people, imprisoned by the villains of Another World, but the human must die. [NT]

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