Ul­ti­mate Guide: An­other World

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Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS - by nick Thorpe words

lester Knight Chaykin is the sort of guy who, if he were real, would be the ob­ject of ev­ery­one’s envy. Not only is he clearly a gifted physi­cist, he’s the owner of a pretty neat Fer­rari and a proud bearer of gin­ger hair. In­deed, ev­ery­thing seems to be pretty great for Lester, un­til he re­turns to the lab one fate­ful night for a cheeky bit of par­ti­cle ac­cel­er­a­tion that goes hor­ri­bly wrong. One er­rant light­ning bolt over­loads the sys­tem and sud­denly Lester and his desk wind up un­der­wa­ter on a planet that is de­cid­edly not the Earth we all know. We hate it when that hap­pens.

But if the story of An­other World as a game is that of a sin­gle vi­sion­ary go­ing hor­ri­bly wrong, the story of the de­vel­op­ment is that of one get­ting things right. The game was pri­mar­ily driven by Éric Chahi, who had pre­vi­ously worked as a graphic artist for Del­phine Soft­ware on Fu­ture Wars. Though he wasn’t a pro­gram­mer on that game – that job fell to Paul Cuis­set, who would go on to cre­ate Flash­back and Shaq Fu – there was enough doc­u­men­ta­tion avail­able for the Amiga that Éric felt able to re­turn to pro­gram­ming, which he’d pre­vi­ously done dur­ing the Am­strad days. This al­lowed him al­most to­tal con­trol of the game, from con­cept to pro­gram­ming, graph­ics and even some sound ef­fects. His only ma­jor col­lab­o­ra­tor for the game was Jean-françois Fre­itas, who pro­vided ad­di­tional sound ef­fects and com­posed the game’s mu­sic.

As a re­sult, An­other World was not a nor­mal game at the time it ar­rived. Nor­mally, the sort of plot de­tail de­scribed above would be con­fined to a game man­ual or a text pro­logue, but thanks to its use of vec­tors, rather than pre­de­fined sprites, An­other World was able to show cin­e­matic fullscreen an­i­ma­tions in an era be­fore full-mo­tion video – and this meant that we were able to watch the events un­fold for our­selves. What’s more, the game looked the same, so when the player was un­ex­pect­edly thrown into the deep end and ex­pected to res­cue Lester from a wa­tery grave, the game looked just as good. Though

back­grounds were ul­ti­mately con­structed as bit­maps rather than from poly­gons, the world main­tains a match­ing min­i­mal­ist look through­out, which gives the game a strik­ing look. a

nother World is best de­scribed as an ac­tion ad­ven­ture game, which uses the plat­form genre as a base. Your goal is to guide Lester to sur­vival on a planet where all of the lo­cal life­forms seem in­tent on killing him – a kind of ‘Space Aus­tralia’ en­vi­ron­ment. Right from the off, even the small­est flop­ping worm can carry some deadly poi­son ca­pa­ble of killing our hero, and that’s to say noth­ing of the beast that chases you down if you can make it past those pests. It’s just af­ter this chase that you quickly learn about one of An­other World’s ma­jor strengths, con­text-sen­si­tive con­trols. Though Lester has a stan­dard set of ac­tions for most of the game, spe­cific sit­u­a­tions will re­quire him to per­form one-off feats like swing­ing a cage or pick­ing up an ob­ject. In such cases, the sin­gle-but­ton joy­stick con­trols re­spond nat­u­rally, with the ac­tion you’re sup­posed to per­form as a player match­ing up with your first in­stinct.

One of the great strengths of this sys­tem is that it al­lows the game to show you how things work, rather than telling you. Af­ter you first pick up a laser blaster, your in­ter­ac­tions with en­e­mies will teach you about its three ca­pa­bil­i­ties – shoot­ing en­e­mies, shield­ing your­self and de­stroy­ing ob­sta­cles. The game takes the same ap­proach to its nar­ra­tive, too. Soon af­ter Lester’s ar­rival on this hos­tile planet, he’s im­pris­oned with a large hu­manoid alien. Though you never learn his name dur­ing the game (he’s com­monly nick­named Buddy), you can tell from his ac­tions that he’s more than just some­one to es­cape with.

Of course, the strong fo­cus on the cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence does re­sult in a more rigidly de­fined so­lu­tion than most plat­form games. Be­cause Lester per­forms those con­text-sen­si­tive ac­tions rather than al­low­ing the player to tackle prob­lems dy­nam­i­cally within the game’s sys­tems, and be­cause en­e­mies have to be in spe­cific places at spe­cific times for cru­cial scenes, there’s no vari­a­tion from game to game. It’s a short game, too – in its orig­i­nal form, a per­fect game will take less than 20 min­utes.

Still, when An­other World ar­rived on the 16-bit com­put­ers in 1991 af­ter two years of de­vel­op­ment, it was a rev­e­la­tion. Praise for the game fo­cused on its unique con­trol sys­tem, strik­ing graph­ics and smart sto­ry­telling. Amiga Power’s Mark Ramshaw noted that “the in­tu­itive­ness of the con­trols is quite re­mark­able” in an 89% re­view, while CU Amiga’s Steve Keen gave the game 91% and opined

» [Amiga] Lester sips on a cool drink, shortly be­fore leav­ing Earth be­hind for­ever. » [Amiga] Lester at­tempts to be­friend his res­cuer. The alien is about to demon­strate how unim­pressed he is.

» [Amiga] You’ll be able to see Buddy in the fore­ground or back­ground, and some­times even need to help him.

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