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Review - Out of This World (Another World)

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:20 pm
by goldenband
I played through this last night and thought I'd write up some brief comments, since I was surprised to see that no one's reviewed it here yet.

Since Another World (retitled Out of This World for the US market) is quite famous, I'm not going to give a comprehensive review of the game's history, backstory, all its different iterations, etc. There are many other sources for that, like this article at Hardcore Gaming 101.

That said, if anyone hasn't played Eric Chahi's masterpiece, it's a cinematic, atmospheric, and highly scripted (though essentially wordless) game with puzzle and action-platforming elements. Really, though, it's in a genre all its own -- albeit one that was anticipated somewhat by Prince of Persia, and continued by games like Flashback, Abe's Oddysee, and Chahi's own Heart of Darkness.

So how does the 3DO version stack up against other platforms? Well, the version I know by far the best is the SNES port, which has a brilliant soundtrack but tons of slowdown. Still, I absolutely love that version of the game, partly because of nostalgia (no doubt) but partly because it has a mysterious, cryptic feel that's almost enhanced by the slowdown. It almost reminds me of the latent promise hidden in old Atari games like Raiders of the Lost Ark, where nothing was explained and everything had an enigmatic, almost hallucinatory air.

I've also played the Sega CD version a bit, which has much less slowdown and a different soundtrack. I've also tried one or two other ports (including the demo level for Atari 8-bit!), but unfortunately I haven't yet played the Amiga original.

Compared to these versions, the most striking difference in the 3DO port is the redrawn textures and backgrounds. I was expecting to hate the new artwork, and the Hardcore Gaming 101 article lambastes the 3DO port for what it deems a betrayal of Chahi's vision. But as it turns out, I wasn't bothered by any of it; some of it is irrelevant, some is misguided, and on a few occasions, it arguably improves on the original.

The HG101 article is more on point with its criticism of the soundtrack, which certainly isn't as immersive, appropriate, or polished (bad loop points) as the SNES version. But this, too, is basically a non-issue; there are a few attractive passages of music, while the other, less successful ones don't really detract from the game.

What's more disconcerting is how fast the game now plays. Sequences that take quite a while in the SNES version fly by here, and in a few cases it's actually quite tricky to pull everything off in time (especially the colosseum/tank sequence). The net effect is that the game becomes quite a bit more arcade-like, though it doesn't undermine the atmosphere or gameplay.

And that's really the crucial thing: despite the faster speed and redrawn graphics, is Chahi's game intact? I'm pleased to say that it is. In some ways Out of This World seems just as fresh now as it did decades ago. The game's immersive quality, its mystery, and its nifty puzzles are all still totally captivating, at least for me. It really does feel like "another world", even with the more straightforward 3DO graphics in play.

Last night I put Out of This World in my 3DO merely to test it out, and ended up playing through the entire game! It took about two hours since I remembered most of the game quite well, and only got stuck a bit towards the end. The game's brevity and total linearity should be liabilities, but it's really a meaningless issue because those qualities are so inherent in Chahi's vision of the game: it wouldn't be the same game if you had multiple paths, because the game is (in part) about engineering a succession of unlikely miracles to allow you to survive in this strange world.

Speaking of Chahi's vision, the end of the game includes (spoiler alert?) a teaser for the sequel, Heart of the Alien, which ended up coming out on Sega CD but not 3DO. The difference in art style and sensibility is immediately apparent, and to my ears it's a big step down. Instead of the mystery and elusiveness of the original game, we get action-hero theatrics and female aliens with sexy curves. I haven't played the Sega CD version yet (so far I've restricted myself to the OOTW half of the disc), but I'm planning to approach it with appropriately low expectations.

So, worth owning? Absolutely, without hesitation. Is it the definitive version of the game? Probably not -- a game like this deserves to be experienced as the designer intended, and this port doesn't really reflect Chahi's intentions. But if you interpret it as a different perspective on a well-known text, then it works and is a real boon to the 3DO library. Pity that the sequel didn't also come out on the 3DO!

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:53 pm
by Austin
Another great review!

Personally, in terms of console conversions, I feel the Sega CD one is the best. I like the updated visuals in the 3DO one, but I agree that it moves way too fast. It's not unplayable so obviously I still find it enjoyable, but for a more manageable experience I'd go with the SCD one.

As far as the sequel you mentioned at the end, I don't have too many problems with it. Your character is so big he does feel a little clumsy at times, but the game definitely feels like Another World. You are still in the same kind of desolate environment, with death around every corner. Having watched some video clips towards the end of the game, I can honestly say that some of the plot progression choices weren't going to make fans happy, but it's still a game worth playing.

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:00 am
by goldenband
Thanks! :D And yeah, I'm planning to give Heart of the Alien a fair shake, perhaps in the next couple weeks. The comments and screenshots in the HG101 article are pretty damning, but I try to keep an open mind.

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:00 am
by Austin
Watch a few YouTube clips, that should alleviate some of your apprehension towards it. It doesn't play as smooth as the first game (mostly because of the huge character), but it's still true to the original. :)

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:11 am
by Trev
Heart of the Alien is much more difficult though, at least in my opinion. Lots o trial & error. OOTW seems almost easy by comparison, lol. :P

Out Of This World was one of the definitive games of my childhood. I gotta be honest though and say that, nostalgia aside, I think it's aged rather poorly. Still, I really like the enhanced 3DO version, It makes going back to the older ports tough for me. The 3DO one is like a work of art.

Enjoyed your review. :)

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:19 pm
by Martin III
Indeed, awesome review, goldenband! I enjoyed reading every line, and you have me considerably more intrigued about this game.

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:20 pm
by Scarlettkitten
Great review 8) I've always loved this game since playing it on an amiga when it came out. Superb..

Re: Review - Out of This World (Another World)

Posted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:14 pm
by goldenband
Well, I finally got around to playing through Heart of the Alien (on Sega CD), and...I kinda hated it. :( It felt like a real betrayal of Chahi's vision, frankly, and I pretty much agree with the Hardcore Gaming 101 review.

It's harder than OOTW, certainly, but in an unfair, unsatisfying way that resembles a game like Dragon's Lair; you have to time controller inputs very precisely, not just to compensate for lag but to deal with the game's insistence on pixel-perfect accuracy despite the major control shortcomings. It ends up feeling like you're required to "game the system", whereas in OOTW it felt like the controls and gameplay were always in service of an immersive experience. And don't get me started on the game's dependence on non-intuitive, undocumented controller inputs to solve at least two puzzles.

I didn't like the Sega CD version of OOTW either; the sound design took a hit, the controls felt laggy, and it feels like cheap shots were added that weren't there before, especially the falling boulders in the cavern which now seem far more aggressive than in other versions I've played. I much prefer the SNES and 3DO versions.