Saturday, 3 January 2015

GROW: Another World

Review by @madsdk

Developer: Delphine Software
Platform: Amiga
Year: 1991
Design, graphics & programming: Eric Chahi
Music & Sound: Jean-Francois Freitas
Genre: Platformer / Action adventure

Another World is not just a brilliant Amiga game, it is by many considered a landmark example of cinematic storytelling in games. The game was created as a single man's vision of how a cinematic platformer should be; how it was possible to tell a story through the actions of the game, rather than merely telling it in cut-scenes in between periods of action. In many ways, Another World is what Dragon's Lair should have been, a tightly scripted action-adventure, where you actually feel in control, even though you are most of the time following a very narrow path of actions that the designer wants you to follow. Not until in recent years have I played platform games that could mimic the filmic style of Another World, and even then, in my opinion it has yet to be bested.

Apart from the excellent cinematic storytelling, what really sets Another World apart from its contemporaries is its use of rotoscoping, an animation technique where animators trace over real footage frame by frame, in order to get realistic looking movement in the animated characters. Eric Chahi recorded footage of himself jumping, falling, crouching, walking etc., and then he traced over these recordings to create the polygonal representation used in the game. The love and care is immediately visible in the game, just take a look at Lester's movements throughout the game - he, and the other characters, have a massive amount of realistic frames of animation, and discovering these are an absolute joy. Chahi was also not afraid of creating whole animations that were used only once, adding to the filmic nature of the game when character suddenly burst through walls, crawl through narrow passages, help each other climb to high places and more.

The protagonist of the game is a young scientist, called Lester, working within the field of particle physics. One late night while Lester is working on an experiment using a particle accelerator, lightning strikes and the electricity enters the accelerator, sending some sort of shockwave of energy at Lester, which teleports him to a strange alien world. Lester reappears under water and as the player you have to start the ascend immediately, otherwise you'll die less than five seconds after the game has started. And die you will in this game - a lot! If you know the path through this game, you can complete it in something like 25 minutes, but the challenge of the game is finding that path. You have to learn when the enemies will appear, how to fight using the versatile laser gun, and how to solve the environmental puzzles along the way. This is done by trial and error, so you'll watch Lester die in a myriad of ways, before you finally find the correct way through to the end.

The laser weapon, that Lester picks up early on in the game, is very versatile. It has three firing modes: a quick tap of the button fires a single laser shot, holding the button down a short period of time, until a small orb of energy appears at its muzzle, will create an energy shield that protects you from enemy fire, and holding the button down for a long period of time collects a massive amount of energy, that can be used to break down walls, metal doors, and energy shields. Learning to use this gun is paramount to your success in the game, so start playing around with it as soon as you pick it up.

Spoiler warning for a 23 year old game: The game's ending is rather ambiguous and sees Lester carried away by his alien friend on top of a flying beast of some sort - a pterodactyl I think. Lester is badly wounded and whether he survives or not is left to the player's imagination. One thing is for sure, he does not return to his own world. Chahi wanted the ending to be ambiguous so that fans themselves could make their own conclusions. Chahi didn't get to decide that though, and a sequel named Heart of the Alien was released for Sega CD in 1994, picking up the story from right where Another World left off.

If you want to experience this masterpiece yourself, you can take your pick of platform. The original was designed, developed, and drawn on the Amiga by Eric Chahi, but it proved such a success, that it has been ported to numerous platforms. It has even been re-released a number of times, most recently for its 20th anniversary in 2011, and this edition has now been released on iOS, Android, PC, PlayStation 3, 4 & Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and Xbox One. But if you, like me, enjoy seeing the artist's true creation, you'll have to pick up the Amiga version. The DOS version also comes highly recommended, as it contains an extra level designed by Chahi just before the amphitheatre scene.

Until next time... stay retro!


  1. Great review Mads... the game is a true work of art... even if the trial and error gameplay isn't to everyones liking... but for me this game well worth learning.

    1. Thanks Drisk. Yes, this game is a true master piece. Many of the really big game designers of today point to Another World for an example of great game design.

  2. Fantastic Review Mads!!! I only discovered Another World in the early 2000's when I found it was released for the 3DO but since then I have been a true follower!

    Well done again mate, I think I need to give it a play through this week!

    1. Thanks Clint. If you want to revisit Another World I can only recommend the 20th anniversary edition. It has a lot more save points than the old versions, so it's a bit more forgiving ;-)