Silence and danger; stark, foreboding mystery, and the wonders of a truly alien world. Eric Chahi's Another World stands as one of the great video games of the 1990's, a testament to the power of one man's creative vision. It was a game that was so far ahead of its time that many of today's releases still haven't caught up. And now, it's available on both iPhone and iPad.
Originally released in 1991 for the Amiga, Chahi's game has seen numerous ports, updates, and even a 15th anniversary PC release back in 2006. This release feels special, particularly given the platform—some combination of the bleak yet colorful artwork and the simple control scheme lends itself to iOS devices, particulalry the iPad. In a nice nod to history, publisher Bulkypix has elected to drop the North American "Out of this World" moniker and sell the game under its original title.
Another World is a side-scrolling platforming game, for the most part. Its story is as simple as it is haunting, largely because it is told without a word of spoken dialogue. A physicist arrives at his lab late at night during a thunderstorm and fires up his particle accelerator, only to have a rogue lightning bolt throw an electro-charged monkey wrench into his well-planned operation. After an explosion, he is instantly teleported to a wild and overwhelmingly hostile alien planet. The story that follows starts out as a simple struggle to survive but gradually morphs into something far more strange, affecting, and lovely.
While Another World may share a few properties with Mario, it is at its heart more of a puzzle game than an action platformer. That's largely because it is immensely difficult—players will die early and repeatedly, and trial-and-error remains the best way to learn how to proceed. It feels frustrating at first, but eventually you'll get into the rhythm of it, trying different things until finally learning the way to proceed.
Another World was developed almost entirely by one man, and that singular vision is apparent throughout the entire game. At this year's Game Developers' Conference, creator Eric Chahi gave a wonderful post-mortem on the game, during which it became clear that as he struggled to complete it, he was also building himself into it. (You can now watch the entire thing for free at the GDC Vault.)
Chahi rotoscoped himself into many scenes in the game, and even went so far as to suggest that he put red hair onto the protagonist so that it wouldn't look exactly like him. As the game developer Matthew Burns pointed out in his write-up of the talk, "Play Another World and, in a way, you are playing as Éric Chahi as he makes Another World."
So: I'm not going to actually write a review of Another World here. It's the same quiet, beautiful experience it has always been. The 20-year-old graphics have been slightly smoothed out and up-res'd, and they look smashingly good on the iPad (which is the version I played). As is the case with many recent re-releases, players are given the option to switch back and forth between the updated graphics and the original lower-resolution graphics at the touch of a button. The game offers both integrated touch-screen controls and an on-screen D-pad. Both options work fine, though I thought the integrated touch-controls were a shade easier to manage. The classic sound effects and synthy soundtrack have been digitally remastered and sound better than ever.
The fact that Another World has been released in over a dozen formats over the years says a good deal about its enduring quality. While there may never be a "definitive" version, this iOS version feels as close as we've yet come, and is a terrific reason to revisit an aesthetically stirring piece of gorgeous game design.
Another World is available via iTunes for $4.99 USD for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Another World [iTunes]