Another World is an old video game; a stiff, arthritic puzzle-platformer that’s stuck in its ways. It means well, but like everything else that gets old, it’s faintly offensive. It demands pixel-perfect precision and an almost preternatural sense of what’s around each corner. There’s no margin for error. The only way to learn what it wants is to fail to it, again and again, until you’ve both got the message. You both shout at each other a lot. It’s the video game equivalent of your grandma letting the batteries on her hearing aids die.
The elderly smell, they’re ignorant of the last 40-or-so years, and they’re probably racist, but sometimes you have to defer to their wisdom. Another World is like that. This might be a game that includes a new-fangled checkpoint system which records your position on the screen but often not your progress in the game, so you still have to backtrack and repeat things even if you’ve accomplished them and moved on already, but it’s also a game that has a profound sense of visual storytelling. If I were to reach out and pluck a word to describe it, that word might be “cinematic”, which is a surprise considering that Another World – like most of these remasterings of classic games – allows you to switch between the old graphics and the new paint job. To look at those smudges of pixels, thumb-swipes of colour in the vague shapes of people, you’d assume that the cinematic label wouldn’t apply. The whole thing feels too far removed from contemporary game design; much more reminiscent of really old, exclusively goal-oriented titles than something interested in telling a story.
And, if I’m honest, I couldn’t tell you the particulars of Another World’s narrative if you paid me. But the overarching objective – that of a character escaping with his mate from a science-fiction prison-planet – is immediately obvious and compelling. The game has a pace and a surety to it that you don’t often see in modern titles, and almost never see in classic ones. Look at the sequence where the heroes sprint through a dungeon after releasing a horde of imprisoned beasts, or the bit where an escape ship crash-lands in a coliseum, or when the hero kicks one of his captors in the nuts and rolls to pick up his gun – the achievement, “Cowboy”, has the description, “Clint would be proud!” – or the final fight, especially, as a baddie duels with your friend and the player drags their character across the floor, powerless to intervene. That last one in particular feels like an obvious progenitor to those climactic quick-time events you used to see at the end of first-person shooters.
The obvious problem with Another World is that despite all its forward-thinking and ambition, it’s constantly marred by truly archaic design. The combat mechanics – a quick shot, a shield, and a charged shot – are all triggered by holding the same button for varying lengths of time – a throwback to when controllers only contained two buttons and a D-pad, and an extraordinarily fiddly bit of design that should have probably been tweaked in this edition. There are others nuisances; every obstacle causing instant death, that aforementioned, notoriously imprecise checkpoint system, murderously precise platforming, and a tendency to improperly explain things that often feels perfectly intentional but sometimes comes across as the game making rather obvious oversights for which a stumped player must suffer.
The achievements do slightly make up for this. They’re all easy; most are awarded for various mandatory tasks, and the rest might be a bit obscure – if you wait around at the start of the second area for about a minute, a UFO will show up and kill you – but are nonetheless remarkably simple to unlock. The only grind-y one is for dying X amount of times, and if you don’t get that naturally throughout the game (I didn’t) you can express your frustration with the shooting by chucking the protagonist off a ledge and watching him plummet through four screens before splattering into the floor.
I think you need to do that 100 times. By the end, I was totally okay with Another World.