The Game That Really Was Out Of This World

It was 1992. I was at my friend Paul's house, playing games on his mighty 486 PC, and we'd just finished a complete playthrough of Monkey Island for probably the 100th time. Bored, he turns to me and says "Oh yeah, my brother got this new game. Let's play that."

He fires it up, and within ten seconds, my jaw is on the floor. I will never be as impressed with a game's visuals, relative to the competition, than I was that day.

The game? Another World. Or, as Americans know it, Out Of This World. There had never been a game like. And really, haven't been many since. Another World was the product of veteran French developer Eric Chahi, who has been making games since 1983 (and who is still making them, upcoming sandbox title From Dust being his baby).

Having never released a successful title during his early years, in the late 80's Chahi saw a home computer port of arcade classic Dragon's Lair and had an idea. He figured that, instead of painstakingly animating every frame of a video game properly (which took up a ton of memory), he could use vectors and get the same overall effect for a much smaller footprint. So in 1989 he decided to make a game based on the principle.

Like Jordan Mechner did with the original Prince of Persia, Chahi grabbed a camera and filmed himself performing basic actions like running, walking and, as players would end up many times, falling down dead. With that footage compiled, he used his vector system to translate them into incredibly realistic video game animations that, despite their fluidity, could run on the relatively primitive computers of the early 1990's.

This resulted in not only fluid and realistic animations during gameplay sequences, but also some of the most jaw-dropping cinematics (again, relative to the time) video gaming has ever seen, including an intro that must rank as one of the medium's finest.

The technical aspect of the game, then, was revolutionary. The creative side? Less so, but refreshingly earnest all the same. Like a mad author burning the midnight candle, Chahi didn't sit down to "write" Another World. He just starting coding and wrote the game's plot as he went, his only guidance being an overall desire to do something science fiction.

The plot ended up centring around Lester, a physicist who, while working on an experiment during a thunderstorm, sees his equipment struck by lightning, after which he's teleported to an alien planet. Where he's almost eaten, definitely shot, and makes his getaway from a prison with his new alien best friend Buddy. On top of a pterodactyl.

Sounds sloppy, but that's what you get when a game is made almost entirely by one person. You may get mistakes and quirks, but you also get something special, a spark that's missing from games designed by focus groups and worked on by hundreds. Indeed about the only thing in the game that's not the direct product of Chahi is Jean-Francois Freitas's incredible score.

In terms of gameplay, Another World was a 2D platformer, though its brutal difficulty and obtuse puzzle-solving makes it more a constant death simulator than anything else. It was also, in what's the only lasting criticism of the game, woefully short, though being a one-man game this is somewhat understandable.

After almost two years of development, during which Chahi eventually had to "skimp" on some sections of the game by showing static storyboards instead of creating levels (just so he could finally get the game out without killing himself), Another World was eventually released on the Amiga in 1991 to rave reviews. It would go on to be ported to the PC, SNES, Genesis and 3DO, while more recently it's been resurrected on platforms like the Game Boy Advance and mobile phones.

Another World spawned a sequel, Heart of the Alien (in which you play as Buddy), which had nothing to do with Chahi whatsoever. It also heavily inspired a game called Flashback, which was published by the same company behind Another World (Delphine).

FUN FACT: Another World was one of the first games ever to completely forgo a HUD. There's nothing on the screen. No health bar, no inventory icon, no score, nothing.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

Comments

    Man, Another World really was something else... It's probably one of the earliest games I ever remember playing, considering I was born in 1987.

    I remember the opening of the game, if you aren't sprinting right away, you die in the first few seconds.

    The anniversary edition of Another World is available for purchase on GOG, which is probably the definitive version: http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/another_world_15th_anniversary_edition

    For those who missed Another World/Out of this World the first time around (cursed younguns ;)) it is possible to pic up the remake (also by Eric Chahi) in the guise of Another World - 25th Anniversary edition.

    The title is exactly the same but with support for modern resolutions which allow you to better appreciate the stylised world Chahi created for his game.

    Now... go... get.

    That game looks brutal, and kind of frustrating...

      It was, but so was every other game in 1992

      The game is actually really really easy once you know what to do.

    Awesome, awesome game, and the Amiga was an awesome, awesome machine.

      Bah humbug.

      Amstrad CPC64 represent!

        Pffft C64 > Amstrad!! :P

        Aaaahh fanboyism through the ages. I bet there was a time when cavemen would sit around and argue over whether one's rock was better than somebody else's rock.

          Dude, my shale is way more bitchin' than your limestone.

          Biggest rock is best rock.

    I have played this on PC, SNES and Mega Drive. What copy was the video above? It was so quick and fluent. :')

    This and Flashback were two of the first games i finished on consoles that i actually cared about the ending.

    This looks awesome, never played this back in the day.

    <3 this game, played when i was very young and even now this game is still brutal.....

    I'm gonna start a big-ass debate right now as a lot of people disagree with this.

    At the end. Lester doesn't escape the prison, he dies during the final escape.

    Buddy takes him to the pterodactyl but realises Lester's body is limp and lifeless. So he leaves, taking Lester's dead body with him.
    (he might leave the body there, I'm not sure on that bit).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcD4KeYO30o

      Here we go. Dead.

        Not to cut your debate short but there was a sequel called Heart of the Alien where you play as Buddy that kind of strongly hinted Lester was dead.

        Although Chahi never acknowledged the sequel, preferring the open ended Shane conclusion.

        I finished the original and recently replayed the remake, but I never really interpreted the ending in that way.
        Although, you might just be right.

    My experience (which I'm sure you're all waiting with baited breath to hear) was a bit uncertain with Another World. It was in a box of bootlegged Amiga 500 games I'd bought for $6 at a flea market in Perth.

    The first time I played it I didn't realise when I was in control and watched as the tentacles dragged me down several times. When I realised I could swim away and got out of the water I found going either left or right led to almost instant death. After a few frustrated attempts I decided the whole thing must be some practical joke and didn't play it again for months (if my 12 year old brain knew what a tech demo was I probably would have assumed that's what it was).

    Afterburning through all the other games I had I popped it in and fluked my way past the first puzzle, getting past that alien dog. Then spent a solid day soldiering through. It was an incredible game so far ahead of its time, and completely fried my little brain.

    It's been too long since we had a game that shook things up that much or pushed boundaries. I feel like my gaming kids are missing out.

      Not true. I think Portal 2 is in the same league

        Portal 2? you are having a laugh. Portal 2 is too forgiving and casual. Well scripted and presented though, but a very, very simple puzzler at its core.

    I'll always remember how the game started. Not just because of the beast, but because the moment you're given control you're teleported underwater and the game gives you seconds to SWIM LIKE HELL before you drown or get eaten.

    I vaguely remember being blown away by the graphics. I think this might've been a game that I rented a few times only to take it home and plug it in and go "CRAP! It's that game that's impossibly haaaaaarrrddd!"

    The visuals alone were outstanding. I had the opening screen as my desktop wallpaper just recently.
    It was incredibly hard.
    Heart of Darkness took a lot out of this games book and was pretty good.

    I've only played it on a phone, and I couldn't find the ray gun :(

    I remember playing this game and trying to explain it to others. I could never remember the name of the game, thanks for the article!

    One of my all time favourite games, I bought it again on gog.com last year, still a great game to play.

    Anyone else notice that the scene in Flashback where you pick up the gun is exactly the same as Another World?

    Wow, seeing this game again brings back the exact same emotions of tension and wonder I experienced when I played this game back in the day. It was a time before the internet, game FAQs and all that stuff, it really felt like you were discovering and figuring out stuff properly.

    My brother gave me this game for my 10th birthday, we never got that far but it was like nothing we had ever played. I woould like to think there is a little another world in limbo.

    Oh yeah, I remember this.... incredible game, inspiring. Like watching the first time I watched Matrix. It was groundbreaking.

    Btw I never passed the animal stage at the start bwahaha, and gave up. After many years wondering how it ends I finally utubed it.

    man, that takes me back....

    I still have a tape with a perfect game that I made back in the day, Still my favorite scene is the tank at the colloseum with all the random button mashing.

    Loved the game. Never finished it though.
    Probably even after years of video games, pretty sure I'll not finish it now either.
    Still great idea

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