Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition ReviewJoe Shaffer
1991 was a fantastic year for gaming. SNES arrived in the US, Sega CD came out in Japan, and scores of classics were born, including Final Fantasy IV and Sonic the Hedgehog. That same year, a man named Eric Chahi created and released a groundbreaking adventure title that took gaming narrative down an unfamiliar avenue. Another World (aka Out of This World) tells the story of a scientist struggling to survive in an alien environment after an experiment goes awry. Joined by an extraterrestrial being, the he attempts to escape the grasp of a militant race. Although I'm not a big time storytelling nut when it comes to gaming, I still appreciate what Another World stands for, as it has encouraged developers to think outside the box and take daring steps, even if doing so means utter failure.
What worked for Another World wasn't just its style of storytelling, but how much emphasis was placed on the plot. The game's tale was minimally intrusive and didn't inundate you with snazzy FMVs or heaps of dialogue. Rather, you watched the relationship between the protagonist and his cohort build as they encountered new situations, stuck out their necks for one another, and triumphed in the face of adversity. There were no subtitles to indicate the backstories of either character, and there needn't be any. The story remained minimalistic, as if to remind us that we were still playing a game and not watching a movie.
...and thank goodness for that!
Two decades have passed since Another World's initial release, and gaming narrative has been the subject of much talk in the industry. Developers have attempted to take storytelling to the next level, either by cutting back on interaction for the sake of more defined plots or by trying to interweave, and thereby balance, action and story. What better time than now to remind us of the daring titles that influenced today's interactive stories? My guess is that developer DotEmu felt the same way, and therefore decided to unleash their own touch up to the PC hit in the form of Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition.
I'm guessing that some older gamers will read that title and instantly clench their colons, and I'll admit that I did the same. The notion of retooling a game that was well enough in its original form does more than send chills down my spine. It's like someone trying to erase or modify a piece of my childhood, and it didn't sit right with me at first. Then something alarming happened: I got over it.
Still, my entry into 20th Anniversary wasn't entirely pleasant, mostly thanks to the game's glitchy menu. Now and then the cursor would disappear, and I'd have no idea what item on the menu was highlighted. I'd do my best to guess and I succeeded some of the time, but there was one occasion in which I accidentally exited out of the game and lost progress. Needless to say, I nearly "shelved" the game after that.
Thankfully I stuck it out, otherwise I would have missed out one of the most faithful touch ups I've seen in a while. Mechanically speaking, 20th Anniversary doesn't attempt to fix what wasn't broken. The game's mechanics are precisely the same as in its original iteration, and its brilliant puzzles remain fully intact. You'll still run afoul of sticky situations that demand the utmost of your observation. For instance, there's one scene in which you must dispatch a seemingly unmovable guard by shooting a certain object above him. The game doesn't spell out this solution for you, but places just enough stimuli in your vicinity for you to figure it out. Also, it helps to explore your surroundings and experiment with various pathways. Doing so would reveal a special room you can access that will allow you to annihilate the aforementioned guard.
I'm not saying that the game is totally identical to its predecessor, though. You might notice from the get-go that DotEmu decided to spruce up the visuals and clean up the backgrounds and environmental textures. The view of the cityscape during a particular scene, for example, shows off some great details that weren't previously utilized. Even some backgrounds that were little more than a single color now have mixes of earthy colors, cracks, and actual substance to them. The best part about the graphic update, though, is that the developers went with an art style that was befitting of Another World. None of the updated graphics are out of place, and they actually feel so natural that I didn't immediately realize that weren't part of the original package.
Should you decide that the new view isn't for you, there's a button you can press that will take you back to the old school graphics. That's right; DotEmu kept the game's original appearance rather than tossing it out, and they allow you to toggle between it and the new look at the mere press of a button.
Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition is one of the few updated re-releases I've had the honor of not calling a bastardization. It's a true-blue reissue of one of the adventure titles I enjoyed as a youngster, and I'm glad to have it back with fresh (and fitting) coat of paint. My hat's off to DotEmu. Now, if you could manage to do the same thing for Abuse and Blackthorne, you'd be my heroes.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.