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Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition Review

Pros

  • Enjoy a piece of gaming history
  • Stylish graphics and immersive atmosphere

Cons

  • Puzzle-based gameplay is full of trial-and-error
  • Controls, sporadic checkpoints and instant death

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £2.99

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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.

Another World

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.

Another World

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.

What strikes you now is how sophisticated the game’s blend of platforming, shooting and puzzle-solving was for the time. Another World isn’t a game of quick reactions, it’s a game of finding ways to deal with obstacles, whether that obstacle is a path made fatally slippery by water, an alien monster buried in the ground or a burly alien guard with a laser pistol. Pools of water must be drained from rocky caverns into wells, guards must be outwitted with doors, shields and falling chandeliers, and you’ll need all three functions of your triple-function laser pistol to get through. There are even elements that require cooperation between you and a friendly fellow escapee. Even now, it’s fantastic stuff.

Another World

But the simple fact is that we can’t go all misty-eyed about how wonderful Another World is without mentioning its failings – the vast majority of which can be put down to the age of the underlying game. Another World is hard, and not in the hard-but-fair way of, say, Demon’s Souls either. The fact is that most of the time you’ll only come across an obstacle and realise it’s an obstacle by dying, which makes the whole game a soft of fatal trial-and-error effort.

This in itself needn’t be so annoying, but checkpointing can be sporadic, and there are times when the game gives you multiple avenues to explore, but only checkpoints your progress when you pick the one it has in mind. As a result, you can find yourself spending ten minutes working on a single sequence of gun-blasts, runs and precision blasts, only to crack it, walk into the wrong room and find yourself dead. Before you can finish cursing, you’re back to square one.

Another World

In short, playing Another World can be a bit like training yourself in the precise sequence of moves and activities required to complete each sequence, and there’s no shortage of insta-death in the game, whether it’s death by laser blast, strangling tentacles or sneaky, floor-dwelling jaws. Plus the controls – in true old-school style – aren’t instantly and immediately responsive. You almost have to pre-program each jump and blast, getting the timing right down to a fraction of a second. If you thought the first Prince of Persia was hard, then this will show you exactly what hard really means.

This difficulty level isn’t disastrous for those of us who relish a bit of a challenge, but it does turn a must-have iPad game into one that those without such perseverance should avoid. Of course, without the high difficulty level the whole thing would be over in a couple of hours, but you’re still left wishing a slightly better balance had been struck.

Verdict

This HD remake of Another World is a must for anyone with an interest in video game evolution, and with its unique style, rich gameplay and distinctive atmosphere it’s more than just a historical curio. If only it weren’t such a harsh and unforgiving world to explore…

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