Its Another WorldA Favorite Entry    

Or: How I learned everything I need to know about games from Another World — In which I dive into one of my all time favorite games and just praise the shit out of it. At the end of this entry you will find all the necessary tools to try all this out for yourself, and I'll tell you what the sequel to Another World is, and I'll go as far as to say: it's not Flashback.

Hi, my name is Michael, and I'm a nostalgic.

Somehow it's crept into my blood over the last 10 years, and now there's just no turning back... Personally I blame Star Wars and TCM, but then again I'm sure my affection for zombies, aliens and mind-control devices play in to the whole thing somehow. That, or perhaps it's just something that slowly slips into the blood of mostly everyone as they pass their mid-twenties, and slowly—though unnwillingly—join the reverred 'adulthood'.

Regardless, it seems that I have been lucky enough to surround myself with people of the same mindset as myself. And so we can be found, from time to time, huddled around a computer aweing things that would instantly classify us as 'over the hill' in the eyes of modern teenagers. Such is the life of the nostalgic, and this is the tale of one such time.

Inspired by the recent unearthing of the Flashback soundtrack CD, we had some sort of conversation going over lunch the other day. One thing let to another and as we got up we had a bet going on who could procure and setup the venerable classic 'Another World' the fastest.

Our protagonist climbs out of the water

Though it should be noted that I already have the brilliant DOSBox installed on my machine, it took me a mere 2-3 minutes to get this 15-year-old classic up and running, complete with sound and everything! Hurray for DOSBox! It's all the pleasure of ancient times, but without the hassles of autoexec.bat, config.sys and the ensuing base memory, himem, ems and emm bullshit!

Anyway, to make a long story short: A quick 'glance' at Another World soon turned into an 'uh, 'ah' and 'cool' fest of sorts; and before we knew what had hit us we had completed the damn thing!

A few facts though. First of all we didn't complete it in the DOS version, but rather in the Amiga version. This is actually a crucial little bit of information, as I'm not sure DOSBox is capable of saving and loading machine-states, but WinUAE is, and we probably wouldn't have made our way through what is undeniably one of the hardest games I've ever played, without having the capability of saving. By and large the game itself isn't different, except for a curious little crab-creature which scuttles around in the first few frames, for no apparent reason...

Oh, I feel a tangent coming on: there are however various minor graphical differences between the different versions. If you're interested in such things, head on over to MobyGames's screenshot gallery and compare your day away. Of interest is for instance the different opening screens: The US edition where the title was Out of This World, the equivalent European and Australian title, which was Another World, and then two different ones with lightning here and here.

But to get back on track, Another World is hard in ways that only games of yesteryear could possibly be. Usually I like to chill out when I play games. Unless the game is of some particular interest to me, I'll just not play it if I feel it gets too hard and I have to replay sections of it. Take Prince of Persia for instance; great game overall; very very impressive! But it's hard as a motherfucker. I'm still stuck in a section of it after having tried to get through an insidious device setup by whoever it was that I was fighting, cutting me off a few seconds before I get to the door that'll let me into the next section.

And just stand back for a moment as I launch into a tangent on savegames: Saving is a human right; no seriously, check the official book on human rights and it's right there on page 17, next to sex. Games that do not allow the player to save should be taken out back and shot. That's my personal opinion, and I'm sticking to it!

We managed to cheat our way out of the no-save option by saving and loading the machine state of the emulated Aimga 500. And despite being able to save, we still had fun. Maybe it's because we used to play these games in more social setting back when we were kids. We'd have our moms drop us off at our friend's place, and we would proceed to spend the afternoon and night huddled over whatever the new hot game at the time was.

This had some of the same air, and despite me not touching the keys once during the game, I was entertained from beginning to end.

And just for the ones that haven't played it (and aren't going to): Another World isn't a side-scroller, it's just 'side'. There's no scrolling involved. So when you exit right, you enter left with no idea what's waiting for you. Bundle that up with the fact that one shot from their weapon will vaporize you in an instant (half-truth; that's only the case sometimes... More on that later). Suffice to say that yelps, clenched fists and stomping feet were dosed out in plenty. Contrasted to the fact that I hardly clenched my fist once after the first 20 minutes of Doom 3, and I suppose you can draw whatever conclusion you want.

I will say however, that while we enjoyed running through the classic, it was quite frustrating and certainly entirely unrelenting at times. I wonder how many people have been killed so many times at the second screen that they eventually decided to just scrap it and play some SimCity instead. But then, how can you really criticize a game which can be completed in 40 minutes, which despite that fact, is still so widely recognized 15 years later?

And it's not that Another World survives to this day only because of me being an old (goddammit, I thought I told you that I'm young still!) geezer thinking back to his glory days. It has some genuinely inventive gameplay ideas that games today could take note from.

First of all, it's not just a run-n-gun platformer like so many other carbon copies of the day. In one scene for instance, you're about to exit the screen right, as you're pushed back by an alien guard. You gun slides a few feet away from you, he picks you up; you panic, hit the shoot button, and lo and behold your alter ego gives our alien friend a kick to his nuts. And as he goes down you roll over to your gun, he tries to gun you down and so on and so forth. And it's not a cut-scene, it's all an in-game unique occurance. It's scripted of course, but considering the age of the game it's not too damn shabby.

Green lamps, hmmm

And that's just one example, here's another absolutely brilliant example: You come to a screen with 3 green lamps. In each of the lamps there's a reflection of a guard, doing his rounds on the 'screen below'. It's a 15-year old game, and there's an animated reflection! Now it's up to you to figure out what to do with that...

While the variation in what Another World lets you do with your alter ego is one of its main strengths, it's also one of the things that defines what the games industry is trying the hardest to overcome just now: finite gameplay and story. You'll never be able to overcome the alien guard who picks you up in any other way than by kicking him in the balls. You'll never be able to escape the beast in any other way than by jumping onto the vine.

It's linearity in a nutshell really. Now I'd love to get into linearity vs. emergent gameplay at some later point, but there's just way too much ground to cover for me to tangent into that just now. Suffice to say that my position on the two are: I like them both, bring 'em on.

Or how about this; one of my most memorable gaming moments:

Our protagonist is caged

Do you remember this? Remember how you're given a clue as to what you're doing is right, as one of the alien guards shoots into the air for you to stop, and another guard comes flying into frame in the background? It's so cool! I love the motionblur effect!

And here, as well as in so many other places throughout the game, Eric chahi shows that he knows how to use the fact that he's bound to a frozen camera to full effect. First and foremost, it manages to employ both fore- middle- and background all at once to convey the story. And secondly, notice how that wall on the right is made up of no more than 3 colors, not counting the blinking lights. A stylistic minimalism that goes throughout the game and just makes me all tingly inside.

As shown perfectly in one of the later scenes where you're making your way across the screen, as imperial troops suppress a rebellion in the foreground.

But hey, back up a minute. No one ever told me anything about a rebellion. In fact, no one ever talks during the whole game! Almost the entire story is delivered to the player in an entirely visual way. From the aliens in the background of the above shot, can be seen mining, to the palace and its harem. Yes, I said harem.

Alien poontang

And that, friends, is where Another World is at its uttermost brilliance! If you can look past the pixels and the lack of Direct-X support, this game actually transports you to Another World.

Sequel and Franchise

Now I promised that I'd tell you what the sequel to Another World is, and here we go: Heart of the Alien. Eric Chahi however was hardly involved in its production, and while I haven't played it myself, I hear that it falls somewhat short of its predecessor. While Flashback is also a spiritual sequel to Another World, Chahi wasn't involved with that production at all, and to be quite frank (and fanboyish), I think it does show.

Chahi, who's been out of the games industry for quite a few years now, seems to have been brewing something on the sidelines for a while now, of which he talks in this interview. And since there are strong rumors that Another World might see re-release at some point, who knows whether the franchise might see more action.

Personally I always liked to think of Outcast as baring semblance in some ways to a tribute to Another World. And quite frankly, if you haven't played that game yet, you're truly missing out (which reminds me, do yourself a favor and download Outcast soundtrack, it's one of the best game soundtracks ever done).

Playing Another World

If you want to give it a try, go download Another World at Abandonia and grab yourself a copy of DOSBox for whatever platform you're on. Read the instructions and share your experience with us. But please don't turn this entry into a support forum for DOSBox.

Related
Another World is #1 DOS game ever!
Another World Retro Review
Eric Chahi Interview
Another Eric Chahi Interview
I am Not an Atomic Playboy

The End

35 Responses to 'Its Another World'

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  1. Markus said,

    Even though I'm one of the people who got stuck very early into the game, I still consider it one of the greater games I've played. The atmosphere and the character animation is, (and this might be my nostalgia speaking) still to this day amazing.

    It is also, naturally, one of the hardest games I've played. Too hard for me at the age I was when I played it obviously, but this only added to the sense of greatness in some way. The unknown continued story ran amok in my imagination and added to both the frustration and the kick ass quality of the game.

    Time to give it another try, thanks for the links!

  2. God, I loved that game so much. Blast you, how do you expect me to get any work done today?!

  3. hah, last summer i went on a full nostalgia trip, installing winUAE and oodles of games i used to play on my venerable amiga 2000...and yes, this was indeed one of them. and playing through it (well, dying mostly) i couldn't help but think how much abe's oddworld owed to this title...

    good times :)

  4. Joen said,

    Beautifully written! I'm already longing for more "nostalgia" entries.

    As for the game itself, "it had me at hello". The mere intro is fantastic. It is one of the games that I so wanted to be lost in, unfortunately it was so hard that I stopped at level 2 (the prison block escape?). If only it could be made easier, because I so wanted to follow the story and see the beautiful scenery.

  5. Greg said,

    Awesome game... brought back nothing but good memories, but yeat to the comment above, it was a little on the difficult side

  6. Chris said,

    I swear to god I wanted to kill myself after the 100th time that one of those flipping one toothed snake things got me. My personal learning curve is apparently pretty much vertical.

    Thanks, so much for the write-up.

  7. perlworld said,

    I just want to go dust off my old Amiga and play some good games!

    Damn It! You've sparked the nostalgia off again, and i've had it under control for at least a few days :)

  8. Mike said,

    Thanks Michael for posting a link to download and play the game - you've successfully stolen all of my will to be productive today.

  9. matthew said,

    Ive just been playing this under snes emulation on my mac - emulation.net - great fun

  10. Olly said,

    Aye, brilliant game. Loved it back in the day. Contraversially though, I loved Flashback more :o)

  11. Andrew said,

    So will we be seening a retro-review of Fade To Black or perhaps Outcast itself? Great review. I heartily agree to the quality of some classic games. I've begun to drown myself in all things Scumm-based due to these articles.

  12. ColdForged said,

    Oh you sorry sack... I cannot tell you the fierce nostalgia that seeing that second screenshot brought back to me. And I have been periodically wracking my brain trying to remember the name of the game so I could track it down and somehow try it again. I never finished it -- hell, I don't think I got very far at all for that matter -- but those images are forever burned into my memory.

    You, my friend, have reached right into my skull and yanked out some seriously embedded stuff. Thanks! I must download and see if I can relive the glory.

  13. Manji said,

    Man....the memories....now I gotta go download that! ;)

  14. Andy Baio said,

    Have you played "Heart of Darkness," also by Eric Chahi? It's an underrated gem that critic loved to trash because it took so long to develop. (Largely because the entire game was composed of hand-drawn animation and hand-painted backgrounds.) I thought it was wonderful, though sometimes fraught with frustrating trial-and-error moments. But the same thing was true of "Out of this World," and that's one of my all-time favorite games.

  15. Vidar said,

    You dont have to thank me :P
    I enjoy a little nostalgia myself every now and then, and personally I think everyone should.

    P.S: GOOD nostalgia such as this, not 80s hair bands and the like :D

  16. Wow - haven't thought of that in a loooong time ;)

  17. DAve said,

    No talking?? What about the big fella at the beginning who greets you with "Matseruba!" (or something like that)? That was always my favorite part. But I, also of the vertical learning curve lot, never did finish the game.

  18. Kevan said,

    The sound was amazing, as well. I can still viscerally feel the voice of the alien that helps you when you break out of the cage. And speaking of the intro, where is the OS that the guy was running to manage his particle accelerator? That looked pretty sweet too.

  19. MiRRoRMaN said,

    And here you used it on a PC while the original of Another World was made on Amiga.

  20. Argyle said,

    I completely understand the path you're going down here. I've begun to look back at those games and programs, those long collections of moments I've spent, nostalgia. My brother and I've collected our favorites from the past, roms, emulators: TI/99-4A, Atari, NES, SNES, various arcade (MAME). I love the old 8 bit music. I can't get into the new stuff. I don't know what it is. Maybe the new stuff just doesn't leave enough to an active imagination.

    I just gotta know... "fonboyish" Is this a mistype, or a word I just don't know? What does it mean, what are its origins? I only see 2 other uses of it on google (and this page isn't one of them).

    -argyle

  21. mark said,

    I remember watching the intro on a friend's Amiga and being blown away [although I had to hide it at the time because I'd just bought a brand new 286 and... you know how it is]

    Trying to play it now I have to say it is way too damn hard. Those stupid poison leech things have nearly brought me to tears and I have yet to effect an escape from the black beast.

    Being an anti-aliasing fanatic I thought I should also point out that AW is ahead of its time in that regard as well: Note the birds flying smoothly in the distance, each one just a cluster of 3 or 4 pixels. Fine, it's probably not generated in real time, but considering there were games released a decade later that still weren't even anti-aliasing their star fields, I think that's pretty impressive.

  22. The original was made on an Amiga - but the PC and console versions are more complete as Eric expanded them due to demand for more game.

    I saw it on the Amiga originally, loved it, but bought it for the Mega Drive (genesis).

    Flashback is great, but only a successor in theme (and ITS sequel was awful). However I didn't even know about Heat Of The Alien.... must.. play.

    This, combined with good old adventure games, is why I think story and craft is the most important thing to a long lasting game. I can't think of a game that hold me like these ones used to - tho the survival horror genre started to.. its now crap.

  23. Isaack said,

    LOL I had no idea that the game was so important to you. I liked both Another World and Flashback, but they were a bit too difficult for me too. Perhaps I should add at least one of them to my list, though it probably would be Flashback. It was somehow a bit accessible than Another World was.

    Funny, I remember that cage scene... perhaps, I did play it more than I remember!

  24. nerdo said,

    Its a lot of fun to read your review, I remember playing this game at a friends house. He was stuck after trying to get passed the first level for days. Naturally this was all in the good old days when the AMIA rules graphics land. To be honest I finished the game that night, not sure how long it took but my guess is it must have been a couple of hours. (saved by the gamesave naturally)

    Recently I have re-played SUPERFROG! On an old Amiga 500 I found in the garbage somewhere. This kinda got me in the mood and I asked a friend who still had around 30 Amiga 4000's (from all this information systems he used to serve with Scala info Channel and Amiga's) Beneath a Steel sky is another classic I enjoyed re-playing.

    Its actually amazing how fast the old amiga still age, sure they take a whole 25seconds to boot and just bump and bounce hi-res full colors pics around as if its nothing.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing good times great memories and most of all: the days of real imagination. Personally I think because not everythig was rendered to perfection it is up to you to add your own visions.

  25. MiRRoRMaN said,

    "The original was made on an Amiga - but the PC and console versions are more complete as Eric expanded them due to demand for more game." - nah, Amiga is where it's at. Always.

  26. Ian said,

    I have not played this game since it was originally released, but I did in fact beat it inside of the first few weeks of having it. This was not with some frustration, but it did provide me a way of approaching every digital RPG since. This game was truly a trail blazer and after beating Halo 2 recently I surprisingly thought of Another World. Once I made it to the end, it seemed too short, but beautiful. Halo 2 was the same way sans the beautiful ending.

  27. necrodome said,

    i am planning to port another world to mobile phones using j2me. actually i am stuck between rewriting using a similar story or going with the same story line.

  28. MiCTLaN said,

    Anusta! Ochena!
    (think that's how it went)

  29. Dan said,

    I loved this game too, it was so effective, mysterious, and engrossing. I just loved one particular part where the hero is stricken and actually has to crawl along the ground to reach a switch, I think a guard might have been after him as well. I thought this was an incredibly inventive scene and it is still the most inspirational and truly cinematic thing I have ever seen in a game.

  30. Daniel said,

    You wrote too much, you broke my brain.

    I like the game, I've always been a sucker for that kind of classic games, but right now World of Warcraft owns me.

  31. I'll tell you one thing - I NEED to find the 3DO version of Another World.. check out these screenshots:

    http://www.cahudson.freeserve.co.uk/software/anotherworld.htm

    How good does that look??

  32. KATREyuk said,

    Simply perfect
    Simply unforgettable

    Regards from Spain

  33. indieb0i said,

    I just wanted to add that I loved "Another World", too. I never made it very far in the game, but my friends and I still marvelled over it. We must have played that opening sequence countless times. It's cool to hear someone else, especially someone from a rather different background, who thoroughly enjoyed the game, too.

    Now I'm inspired to go through that Abandonia site and try out DOSBox to see what other classic games I can fire up again. I think you also listed "Day of the Tentacle" as one of your favorites. I loved that one, too. First game I played when I got an EGA setup for my PC - that's right, 16 colors! All my friends were jealous.

  34. I want said,

    to leave reply

  35. ash said,

    how funny. i remember this game from right after we got our first mac. some performa, and my dad went out and bought me this game to keep me from wanting a console. he gave in, but i never beat that game...

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