Playing through the cult classic Another World is, today, mostly an exercise in archaism; many of the gameplay mechanics that were relevant and groundbreaking back in 1991 feel out of place in 2018. Though it seemingly has inspired more modern titles, such as Limbo, and many of its puzzles still hold up in a modern gaming climate, Another World is simply too clunky and obtuse to warrant playing through nearly 30 years later.
Originally released in 1991 for the Amiga and Atari ST, Another World sees a young professor transported to an alternate realm where he must fight for his own survival. In terms of gameplay, Another World is essentially an action platformer with puzzle elements, where the player must interact with and change the surrounding environment to unlock the next playable area. The game doesn’t tell you where to go or what to do, and in that, Another World shines; that lack of direction fosters exploration and experimentation, but at times that can lead to frustration, especially when the same trap or enemy kills you time and time again. This, along with a finicky save system, makes death feel overwhelmingly repetitive and turns the game into somewhat of a slog.
Another of the game’s more archaic limitations is in its clunky controls. Too many times would I know exactly what to do to bypass a certain section of the game only to die because my character wouldn’t jump when I pressed the button. It’s not just jumping that’s an issue here, however; nearly everything you do is subject to the game’s finicky controls. Want to shoot your gun? Good luck. Want to run down that hallway? Hopefully you won’t accidentally shoot and cause an enemy to burst into the room. It’s something that feels glaringly obtuse in today’s gaming climate, and it’s certainly rough to go back to.
Still, when I was able to overcome the game’s difficult controls and forced trial-and-error experimentation, I felt a genuine feeling of accomplishment. There are many hidden barriers and objects you can interact with that only become evident if you simply execute on an idea. Oftentimes that leads to death, but when it doesn’t and you come to that lightbulb moment, it’s one of the most gratifying feelings you’ll find in Another World.
That said, it should be noted that this is simply a re-release of the 20th Anniversary version from 2011 (and that was ported to consoles in 2014), so no modifications or enhancements have been made to the controls or gameplay mechanics. This means that all of my aforementioned criticisms aren’t the result of a port gone wrong; rather, they simply come down to core design issues. If I can’t solve a puzzle because my character won’t jump when commanded or doesn’t run when I hold the button, why should I press onward?
The game does sport updated visuals, which can be toggled between with the original graphics at the touch of a button, but this simply reduces down to smoothing out the original pixelated art style. Still, the game is undeniably beautiful, even when seen through the lens of its original visual style.
Simply put, Another World is a fascinating game in its own right, but by today’s standards it falls into the trap of being arbitrarily difficult based mostly on its original clunky design. While it’s a great way to experience a defining era in the pantheon of historic game design, Another World simply is too frustratingly designed to be experienced and enjoyed alongside other hallmarks of modern gaming.
Disclaimer: A review code for Another World was provided by the game’s publisher.