More than 25 years later, Another World still is a great escape – but I wager only for some
Retro Gaming. It is definitely in full swing. Many blasts from the pasts are appearing, as recently discussed with Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. It’s a fine line between reliving past greats or experiencing them for the first time and falling for the nostalgia cash grab. So a couple of weeks ago when I saw Another World appear on the Switch eShop, I was both excited and nervous.
It’s hard to describe the sense of awe the first time I started the game. At the time, gamers had two ‘normal’ starts to a game. You were greeted with a wall of text for backstory or simply dropped into the game and left to explore.
Loading up Another World from floppy on my PC, I hit start and was greeted with a sports car skidding to a stop outside a building during a storm.
This was the stuff of wishes back in the day. I had to start the game two more times as I ran out of the room to grab my brother and parents, so I didn’t get to see the rest of the introduction.
The opening was simple, yet dramatic. After your character (who you learn is named Lester) arrives in hot shot style, you discover that you are some form of scientist about to conduct an experiment.
At the time, I didn’t realise the equipment. The large hadron collider wasn’t news back then. But now it’s obvious you are working with a particle accelerator.
You start your experiment and everything seems to be going well until the accelerator is hit by lightning. This causes some sort of accident that transports you to Another World.
Now it’s fine for me to type all this today. But back in 1991, this sort of introduction just didn’t happen. It was something special. There was no wall of text to try and put you ‘in the mood’. Another World drew you in from the get-go and made you need to know what was happening.
Now today, something is almost considered wrong if you don’t have some Hollywood standard cinematic introduction. Metal Gear Solid 4 has close to 9 hours of cutscenes and the Guinness World Record for the longest Video Game Cutscene at 21 minutes.
Today, games tend to spoonfeed you to story and background but minimise the lore unless you go searching for it yourself. Another World is a great example of where games today got this inspiration from.
The story of Another World was unique in a lot of ways. The most unique way was that the story was up to your interpretation. There are many different versions I have heard over the years, but a canonical version has been confirmed from the games creator, Eric Chahi.
You team up with an alien (nicknamed Buddy) to escape an alien prison. Why do you do this? Because Buddy helps you after you free the two of you from a cage. You don’t know why you are in prison. You only know for sure that until you were captured, everything on the planet was trying to kill you. You don’t know Buddy, why he was in prison, or anything else that was happening. The small amount of verbal communication in the game is garbled – Buddy is an alien, after all.
But continuing through the story was and is a satisfying experience. The game was made up of puzzles that you have to decipher yourself. No tutorial mode here.
The best way I can describe it is Another World was my first souls game, and this is still the case on the Switch.
The puzzles are clever but generally involve a lot of backtracking and experimentation. Platforming demands pixel-perfect timing. The combat requires split-second timing and understanding of the animations involved.
This was the first game that made me want to rage quit and finish it at the same time.
The great part is this has all come across with the Switch version. Everything is the same as I remember it, and I mean remember without the nostalgia filter.
But that is part of the problem. Everything is how I remember it. I still remembered most of the puzzles in Another World and thought that I could spend a lazy half hour reminiscing as I flew through the game.
Almost ninety minutes later, I once again completed the story. Once again, I had a sense of joy at completing the game, and a sense of joy that it was over.
This is where Another World falls over in today’s market. Back in the 90’s, controller input lag was not something we even really knew about. Sure, sometimes you would hit a button and nothing happened, but that was just gaming.
Today, gamers understand animation frames and when you can hit the button and expect a reaction. Tweaks in games like Street Fighter controls aren’t just power settings and options, but on exactly which frame the game will begin accepting inputs again.
What was frustrating in the 90’s is now rage inducing. We have been spoiled, and this is a game that proves it.
Another World on the Switch really is just a port of the 20th Anniversary Edition for PC, Consoles and even Mobiles. The Anniversary Edition had all these same problems that are for better or worse a faithful reproduction of the controls used in the original game.
Visually though, the game looks amazing. It’s a novelty to switch (haha – puns!) between the original graphics with the newly redone backgrounds and smoothed out characters. Even the soundtrack has improvements.
But in another case of nostalgia, the ‘new’ version looks the same as the game I remember. Graphically there are titles today that look ‘worse’ than this – even the new craze Dead Cells with its pixel retro art looks plain compared to Another World. Control and game length is completely different of course 🙂
There is no save system in Another World, but there are no password continues either.
Instead, there are a series of checkpoints that are automatically created as you progress through the game.
These checkpoints are also pretty close together too. You usually don’t have to replay more than 2-3 screens if you are unfortunate enough to die or make a mistake.
The problem is though that you must play Another World in the exact right order to have a checkpoint created. You can unknowingly miss a step and play for quite some time, only for a misstep or a surprise enemy to undo quite a bit of work. And because there are no obvious cues as to the correct order, this can be very frustrating if you are playing the game for the first time.
There are just so many games coming out on the Switch. I am still making my way through Octopath Traveler. For example, I just picked up Okami HD and Dead Cells, and I will be getting Minit and possibly Mini Metro as well.
Coming soon is the continuation of a franchise I fell in love with on the PS3 – Valkyria Chronicles 4. The latest instalment made me almost give up on the series, but the demo on the eShop has made me excited again.
Why am I talking about other games? Because to play Another World, you have to really want to. It is a great showing of a landmark game from yesteryear, and still a hard puzzle to beat. But you will get frustrated with it. You will finish it in a dedicated afternoon, or in an hour or two with a walkthrough.
I don’t regret my purchase at all, but I can see many others wishing they had bought something else. While I really enjoy Another World, as demonstrated there are a lot of games that I can see players enjoying more.
If you interested at all, grab it by all means. I am in no way trying to say this is a wasted purchase, just one that people are probably not expecting. You can also grab the Another World 20th Anniversary Edition for next to nothing next Steam sale as well.
I really like Another World. It has taken me back in time more than 25 years and is a beautiful game. It’s just I can’t recommend this game to everyone.
Until next time,