Another World – 20th Anniversary Edition Review
The re-release of Another World comes with three difficulty modes, and the “Normal” mode is billed as specifically easier than the original. That the easiest difficulty is as frustrating as it often is tells the tale of what makes Another World weak, however: It’s a game that requires a high degree of precision and results in a ton of trial-and-error, and that often leaves it as being unfun. It’s a great deal easier to deal with if you are familiar with the game from 20 years ago, but new players are going to hit Another World’s difficulty curve and unclear goals like a brick wall, and it might put them off playing it altogether.
Lester can die — a lot. Another World is a platformer, but most of the time it’s an exercise in screwing up and then figuring out what you’re doing wrong and doing it over again.
The very nature of the game is one of zero information. You arrive in the alien world after falling into a pool of water, and suddenly find yourself needing to swim out. You’ve never played the game before and never seen the controls in action, but here you are, drowning. Lingering too long in the pool gets you dead as tentacles grab you from below. Climb out, and you’ll find yourself heading right or left to access the next screen, where there are dangerous worms. Pass too close, and they kill you. Get farther and you’ll encounter some kind of gorilla-beast: react incorrectly, and it kills you.
There’s a degree to which this all is endearing. Exploring Another World is a matter of dying and restarting, and there are frequent checkpoints. This is game design that doesn’t coddle, and there’s something of a throwback, nostalgic warmth in Another World’s brazen difficulty and willingness to leave the player floundering. But at the same time, it’s easy to become frustrated, because the lack of information is so complete that it often feels like bad design, not just high difficulty. One area later in the game kept bouncing me to a checkpoint for several minutes, back to the beginning of a very difficult set of jumps, even after I’d seemingly cleared it and progressed beyond.
It was only later that I realized the trouble — there was a whole area I hadn’t visited, where I was expected to figure out and then complete a task that was necessary to my advancement later. That area, in fact, was at the bottom of one of the three pits I’d been avoiding, because falling into the other two killed me over and over and over. The game kept bringing me back to the checkpoint to give me the opportunity (smart), but made it look like it was screwing with me (dumb).
Especially for players with no experience with the game, Another World is often just a series of annoying exercises. A run through a cave has players sprinting to avoid a rushing wave of water, and jumping over several holes in the ground along the way — but because the game makes you pass from screen to screen rather than tracking you, it’s easy to find yourself falling into a hole before you knew it was there. There’s a huge amount of repetition in the game as you struggle to figure out how to proceed, and new players especially will find themselves alt-tabbing out to go find guides in order to get through the toughest areas. Not to overplay the difficulty and frustration, but this really can be a barrier to having a good time with the title, and it feels defeatist to go look up a game guide — even though the solution to problems often is so obscure that you’d never figure it out anyway.
That said, the HD version of the game is a solid offering. You can choose to play Another World with its original low-fi graphics, or opt for the HD version that smooths things out while maintaining the original charm. Controller support is great, although Another World doesn’t seem to support switching mid-game, and the presence of additional difficulty levels, namely the lower one, helps offer more options for newbs and returning fans alike.
Another World certainly should be played, and with a run-time that’ll likely take less than two hours to complete, it’s a quick and often-beautiful trip through game history. Its HD add-ons make it inviting, but it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no shame in tracking down a friendly FAQ to get through this one: it takes players to another world, and the game is certainly from another time.
- Visual, dialogue-free storytelling and great animation make this a stunning platformer, even 20 years later
- Feels like a piece of gaming history that definitely should be experienced
- (Slightly) updated graphics, controller support and multiple difficulty modes make Another World more inviting
- Lack of tutorial, goal info, etc. help to make playing the game as hostile as the alien world it inhabits
- Short and sweet, the experience still feels fresh and new even years later
- It’s easy to get lost, confused, or killed over and over and over
- Controls aren’t great on keyboard
- One-hit kills mean a minor screw-up leads to a lot of repetition; lots of areas require a high degree of control precision
- You’ll probably need a game guide to finish
Final Score: 75/100
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