Ultimate Guide: Another World
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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.