Many of you are probably familiar with the Amiga 500, Commodore’s late 80s multimedia home/personal computer. I never owned an Amiga 500 myself, but many of my friends did and we spent countless hours in front of that computer. Although Commodore advertised the Amiga as a multimedia computer, we used it almost exclusively for computer gaming, and I’ve got the impression that was the case for most Amiga owners – except for the geniuses of the demo scene, who performed magic with the, at least by today’s standard, very limited hardware resources.
Tons and tons of games were released for the Amiga 500, so many, in fact, that it was hard to decide what to play. But in 1991, a game by Frenchman Éric Chahi was released that really stood out from the crowd. With vivid vector graphics, a great story and smooth animations, Another World was a game like no others at the time. In 2011, a 20th anniversary edition of Another World with HD graphics and remastered sound effects was released, and during Steam’s 2013 holiday sale, I finally picked it up, hoping to relive one of the great gaming memories of my childhood. Is Another World just another piece of nostalgia that’s best left alone or does it stand the test of time?
In Another World, you play Lester, a young scientist who, as a result of an experiment gone wrong, finds himself in a dangerous alien world where he is forced to fight for his survival. And there really are a lot of ways to dies in the alien world. Unless you’re extremely careful, you’ll find yourself dieing frustratingly much. While it’s not possible to save in Another World, the game is split into chapters with automatic save points, and whenever you die, you’re resurrected at the previous save point.
Another World is a puzzle based platformer, and the puzzles are often order based, meaning that you have to perform actions in a chapter in a specific order, or you’ll not make it through. Doing them in the wrong order might actually put you in a deadlock, where your only option is to get killed so you can try again. Some of the puzzles also come with very vague visual clues. At one point I was completely stuck and had to check a walkthrough for the solution. That’s kind of embarrassing. But I never would have been able to solve it otherwise, as the solution to the puzzle was more about dumb luck than reasoning and logic.
I played Another World with a keyboard and the keyboard controls feel very unresponsive until you learn to time everything correctly. You can’t jump when you think you should, you have to jump a few milliseconds before it’s natural to jump. This was something we noticed when playing on the Amiga as well, but I guess we dismissed it as CPU lag, thinking that it was busy with the awesome 1991 graphics. But since the same unresponsive controls are present in the 2011 version of the game, making it a weird game design decision instead. You’ll get used to it, though, but I wish the keyboard controls felt more responsive. The game supports handheld controllers, like the XBox 360 controller, but I didn’t have the chance to try the game with a handheld controller.
Since I bought the game on Steam, I got the chance to give the Steam achievements a try. There are 13 achievements in total, but unfortunately, some of them are pretty dumb. There is, for instance, a separate achievement for being killed in a specific way. How is that an achievement? Completing the game without getting killed is an achievement, getting killed is far from one in a game like this.
So, Another World is a lot of frustration, unresponsive keyboard controllers and stupid achievement. But under all that is a really good game that will keep you thrilled and engaged the whole time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long, though – I played through it in four hours and I died a lot. A better gamer could easily complete the game in less than an hour. But it would still be a very enjoyable hour. With the current 8/16-bit craze, Another World feels like any another other modern, indie game you’ll find on Kickstarter. Except Another World is actually finished and feature complete. With the game, you’ll also get the complete soundtrack, which I didn’t hear much of during the actual game, and a somewhat interesting video documentary about the making of the game, which is worth a look.