The iPhone and iPad have proved fertile ground for remakes and remasters of old classics, from point-and-click adventures (Secret of Monkey Island, Broken Sword) and strategy titles (Command and Conquer, Z) to platformers (Sonic the Hedgehog), RPGs (Final Fantasy III) and old-school FPS games (Doom, Duke Nukem). We all love a spot of nostalgia, and there’s always some interest on how these things will play in modern times on touch-driven mobile hardware. Is the game in question really just a museum piece, or can it still feel relevant today?
Another World, however, is a very special case. The game arrived in 1991 for the Amiga and Atari ST and caused a storm for its innovative use of polygonal graphics, at a time when the vast majority of games still used 2D sprites. And also for the ingenious way it used cut-scenes, animation and AI-controlled characters to produce a game that felt more cinematic than any action game ever had before. In this respect, it was part of a wave of French games, starting with Cruise for a Corpse and extending to Flashback and Alone in the Dark, which seemed intent on blurring the boundaries between game and film.
Even playing it now, with its clean-cut, polygonal graphics rendered in lovingly-reworked HD on an iPad screen, it’s not hard to see what made Another World so very exciting. The tale of an earthly scientist transported and imprisoned on an alien planet, it’s weird and strangely atmospheric. On-screen clutter is kept to a minimum, so there are no health or energy bars to be seen, cut-scenes are used skilfully to push the storyline on or build tension, and there’s little, if anything, in the way of text-based exposition to bog things down. The visuals really haven’t been messed with, and while there are times in the cut-scenes where the flat-shaded, angular models are off-putting, it’s surprising how well Another World holds up. The alien landscapes and characters look more stylised than primitive, and there’s a consistency and magic to the design.
The touchscreen controls aren’t quite so brilliant. On the one hand, you have a system of screen-corner presses and gestures that makes it virtually impossible to pull off the right move with split-second timing – and Another World is a game that demands split-second timing. On the other, you have your basic virtual D-pad and action button combo. This works better, and the controls can be moved around the screen if need be, but the game still relies on a certain number of double-taps and timed presses to work. We’ll come to why this gets annoying later on.