Goodness, I’ve fallen a little behind. Firstly I tried to create a Top Ten list (cause it’s a blog, that’s what we do!) but I struggled to get more than 6 things that I felt were good enough for the list. After coming to the conclusion that a Top Six list wasn’t quite what I wanted, it was back to the drawing board. At which point the second reason for delays struck: I seem to have done a lot of travelling these last few weeks which left me little time for any updates. Before setting out on my travels though, I got some games to distract myself from queues and rocky seas, one of which was Another World, a classic that is still a classic. Which is nice. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a little heartbreaking to revisit games from your past to discover they have failed when it comes to the test of time.
Originally released in 1991, the game was pretty much single-handedly created by game designer Eric Shahi. Although the game has been re-released a few times, the version I played was the 20th Anniversary version with shiny new graphics. I played the game originally in the 90s on the Sega Megadrive and remembered it being rock solid, which it still was today, but this time the difficulty may have been due to the touch-screen controls. I never thought I’d miss the Dpad and A,B,C buttons so much. Though once I’d got used to the controls (and referred to a walkthrough… what can I say? The older I get, the less a little cheating bothers me, as long as it’s in aid of enjoying the story, of course) one of the big surprises was how short this game was. This may have been frustrating back in the day, but really wasn’t an issue now, thanks to playing on an iPad and it only costing a few bucks.
The story of the game is nice and simple, carried by wordless character interaction and the fantastic mood created through world design and music. Our hero, Lester (full name Lester Knight Chaykin, apparently) turns up at his lab to run some tests in a particle accelerator. The lab is hit by lightning and sends Lester to the other world of the title. After escaping some of this new world hostile wildlife (note: pretty much everything on this world is hostile, but I suppose it may have been a dull game if everything was friendly) Lester is held prisoner by what appears to be the world’s dominant race – some large and rather aggressive laser-gun-wielding humanoids.
Lester quickly escapes and goes on the run with a fellow prisoner, a native called ‘Buddy’. Now, as well as making a game that looked this good and was this smart on his own 20 years ago, Chahi did something that games today still struggle to do – in Buddy he created a computer-controlled sidekick who was not only created not totally annoying, but someone you actually like and care about. The fact that I can probably count the number of game sidekicks who fall into this category on one hand, even twenty years later, highlights just how good this game was. If I wasn’t eight or nine years old at the time of its original release, I’m sure I would have better appreciated how, er, game-changing this game must have been.
Once Lester and Buddy escape the alien prison they are then separated, as Buddy helps Lester escape into a system of caves. Caves filled with hostile aliens. Caves that require lots of puzzles to be solved. Hard puzzles. At one point I had made a big mistake with one puzzle that I had to start over. Which was a tad frustrating. Just a tad though. I surely didn’t hurl abuse at the game and the universe. Once the caves have been navigated, we move through some buildings where Lester is saved from impending disintegration by Buddy. Lester and Buddy flee through some more buildings where Lester returns the favour and rescues Buddy a few times.
This is followed by my favourite puzzle. And by favourite, to save you reading between the lines, I mean least favourite. Lester and Buddy jump in an alien tank, which they drive into a gladiatorial arena of some kind. You then have about 30 seconds to push a lot of random buttons, without any hints, in no discernible order to escape before being blown up. As a child I remember this was impossible. As an adult I googled the answer.
Escaping to an alien bath house, the end of the game is in sight. Lester tries to run but is caught, and badly beaten, only able to crawl in an attempt to save himself. Buddy comes to his rescue one more time before carrying Lester to a large dragon like creature which they climb on and fly away. The end! No explanations! No way home. Beaten to a bloody pulp, you may have escaped your captors, but your still trapped on the rather hostile alien world. What a lovely little ending to what is still a lovely little game.