The original Another World was released in 1991, and wowed the gaming community with its pioneering and highly stylised vector graphics and animation. Far from using technological prowess as a thin veil to disguise an empty and lifeless game, the French masterpiece went on to be remembered as one of the greatest, most unusual titles of its era.
In an attempt to recapture some of the enthusiasm generated by the first release, the 15th Anniversary Edition comes with revamped HD visuals, a new version of the classic soundtrack and a host of extras.
A decade-and-a-half of advances in the raw power of games machines and PCs have not been kind the technical muscle Another World once possessed, but the style and atmosphere of this sci-fi noir thriller do still hold their own today. While it is undeniably dated in terms of gameplay, Eric Chahi's creation still shines as a brilliant nugget of gaming history that certainly deserves a few hours of your spare time.
You take on the role of Lester, the game's stubbornly unperturbed protagonist, who has been thrown into another universe by a grimly unsuccessful nuclear experiment. As you struggle to make your way back home, you must solve puzzles and evade your continual pursuit by soulless, single-minded beasts.
The gameplay of Another World remains almost unchanged, and sees you exploring and advancing using a process of trial and error. Each screen or handful of screens present a new challenge, which usually involves traditional switch-and-door type puzzles, well-timed platform jumping, and set pieces of laser pistol combat.
A blissfully simple control scheme arms you with nothing more than run, jump and kick commands, with the latter being replaced by your gun as you progress. The gun itself is a tidy little device, which can be fired in three ways. A tap of the trigger fires a normal pulse of laser, while holding it down briefly creates a shield in front of you that stops enemy fire. After some time the shield will disappear, but while it is active you can slip your gun through, allowing you to shoot at your foes from relative safety. Unfortunately for Lester, enemies have access to the same shield, and make good use of the tactical advantages it offers.
The final ability of your gun is the most devastating but drains your weapon of a great deal of its energy, meaning a search for a recharge point will be in order. Holding down you fire button for a dangerously long time means dropping your guard, but enables you to fire a huge bolt of power that can smash through enemy shields and locked doors.
Alongside these basic abilities you will only have your wit and cunning to aid you as you explore, though it is fair to say your patience will be tested thoroughly too. The obstacles to your progress are certainly satisfying to tackle, and will undoubtedly appeal to point-and-click adventure fans, but all too often you are expected to handle both sporadic action and laborious tasks that must be completed with methodical accuracy. Often overwhelming, this means that you will regularly find yourself repeating a few screens a dozen times or more before you advance. Add to this the fact that many sections require you to make plenty of mistakes to discover the correct course of action, and you have a sure-fire recipe for banging your keyboard like a kid throwing an angry tantrum.
This was a problem with the original that stood out a little less in a time before autosave, regenerating health and respawning, but thankfully something has been done to alleviate the infuriating frustration that playing Another World once involved.
In 1991 a simple error could send you back far too many screens, meaning you would have to repeat not only the task you had just failed, but also several other objectives that had taken you numerous attempts to complete. With the 15th Anniversary Edition you are rarely knocked back more than a couple of screens, meaning that while it is still a little painful and demoralising when you do mess up, at least you can progress without having to repeat too much again.
Putting aside these qualms, if you can handle some of the more antiquated gameplay elements, Another World offers you an unparalleled and enthralling experience. Dark and surreal in equal measure, this silent movie of a game is a lot more like a disturbed dream than an action romp, and its punishing gameplay does something to add to the unsettling feeling it surrounds you with. It effortlessly blends the visual style of Blade Runner and Arabian Nights, and the result is a brilliantly unnerving and believable world.
The stark and heavily stylised artwork captures the game's atmosphere far more successfully than any attempt at realism could hope to achieve, though it must be said that the HD overhaul does take a little of the game's edge away, softening the bleak backgrounds with unnecessary detail in places.
The improvements to the character art and soundtrack are a step forward though, and certainly serve to modernise this icon from the past, turning rough edges and crackly buzzes into smooth lines and rich beats.
Unremitting and unkind, Another World constantly serves to remind us of how easy we have it these days. Like so many horror films before it, it might not strictly feel like straightforward fun, but it is undoubtedly an enjoyable experience. Far more like reading a nightmarish novel than playing the latest generic shooter, Another World will not be to everyone's taste, but for those looking for something darker, it is a compelling adventure worth every penny of the budget price tag.