Currently in liminal time. That's a clever sounding way to say I'm not sure what I'm doing with my life, so I find myself reading lots, working at a funeral home, laughing at my dog (for a variety of reasons), enjoying alliterations, and of course playing video games.
I also am finding that I occasionally like to write things. Trouble is I often find it difficult to actually come up with content I deem worthwhile. So, if anything does come up, I'll be sure to tell you.
Also, here's some of my favorite games I've played over the last little while.
Fallout 1 & 2
Metal Gear Solid Series
Halo: Combat Evolved
Sam & Max
Far Cry 2
Another World is a game that for years, I had known about, understood it was supposed to be good, that it was almost as old as me, and had the above image in my mind associated with it. Otherwise, my comprehension of the title was rather lacking. I didn't take notice until reading an article on Action Button that claimed it was “the best video game of all time,” pretty high praise I thought, especially since it isn't a game I frequently hear about. However, with such acclaim I decided to check it out, and no, I didn't find the best game of all time. However, I did discover a world that feels totally foreign and some of the best player integration I've ever seen. However, I have one thing I greatly despise about the game that I would like to quickly rant on.
Another World is unfairly punishing, and it's not the sort of punishing that's found in most older games. A game like Contra or Mega Man is punishing in that it forces the player to learn patterns and have quick reactions. Another World is punishing in that it forces the player to perform a myriad of actions in a perfect order so that he or she may progress. You will be forced to explore every pixel of the game, experiment with blowing up select walls, back track, learn where it's right to fall and where it's wrong to fall, disturb bats at opportune intervals, and die, die, die. I find that it's not so much trial and error, but things that I simply cannot predict.
For example, in a game like Super Meat Boy, one will likely have to play through a level several times to learn all the tricks of the level. You quickly realize that you shouldn't jump there because the drop contains a comfy mattress of syringes. In Another World this is not the case. For example at one point you have the option to blow up a wall which unleashes a great deal of water. You are then forced into an exhilarating escape as you try to avoid an aquatic demise. You can then continue on for some time to only realize that you were supposed to travel deeper down into the cave and destroy another wall which would allow you to enter the cave from another entrance and access it's now flooded compartments. It is this single point that frustrates me most about the game. With that out of the way, we can talk about the good stuff.
Hope you flipped the switch, unlocked the door, and started this escapade at exactly 3:17 PM.
So pretty much everything I'm going to praise the game on from here on out is related to making the player feel a part of the world. Another World does a great job of making the world feel alien. Many games try to provide a player with a fear of the unknown through their art direction. Prey comes to mind when thinking of examples of this. 3D Realms created a world with architecture vastly different than our own, with gravity that switched at various points, and a variety of unusual creatures. However, almost immediately you adapt to such things and forget that this is a place completely foreign. Another World instead uses it's gameplay to enforce this feeling, and does so with much more success.
Way less threatening and unusual than a day in Another World.
Upon gaining control in Another World the player is free to walk around, ignorant of any dangers. Entering the next cell, the player will see some slugs crawling towards them. They look pretty harmless, and even if they are aggressive, what's the worst that will happen? The slugs crawl over and a short cutscene plays where one of these slimy creatures punctures the characters leg with a stinger and death instantly befalls the protagonist.
By utilizing a one hit death system you feel far more afraid of anything and everything on the planet, and transforms your optimism into a strict paranoia. Instead of just having the normal enemies hostile, the world no longer feels safe, and it is this element of gameplay that greatly contributes to the overall alien atmosphere.
Another World also has a fairly unique control scheme in the idea of contextualized controls. Playing on PC, the game uses the arrow keys and the control button. The arrow keys are always used for movement, but the control button varies depending on what one is doing. It will start as a kick, progress to an activate button, change to a “roll for the pistol that is lying on the floor” button, and it all feels completely natural. The most impressive aspect of this style of control is that it keeps the feeling of agency in the players hand.
Quick Time Events are often slammed because of the way they steal the players abilities. No longer is it you orchestrating the events on screen, but you pressing a few buttons and watching your avatar do some cool attacks. With the contextualized controls of Another World, control never feels lost because that one button is constantly morphing. I would love to see more integration like this into games. For example, many first person shooters have moments where the character is grabbed and beaten in a cutscene, but then breaks free and the player is then given back control. Why not simply keep control in the players hand and turn what was once movement into “struggle” and melee into a “kick in groin” button. I think it goes a long way to keep up the pacing of the game and yet provide cinematic moments.
Well, maybe this principle would be useless here.
Lastly I would like to ask a rhetorical question, why wasn't this the future of adventure games? Point and click adventure games thrived in the late eighties to mid-nineties, but petered off after that. Despite a fair amount of gun play, Another World feels far more similar to classic titles like Sam and Max and Monkey Island than Contra. Great lengths of the game involve exploring the environment, flipping switches, and figuring ways to avoid mass conflict. However, instead of using a plethora of random objects to solve problems, Another World uses common sense or the contents of the room directly around you. Guard that destroys you upon entering a room? Head to the floor above and shoot a chandelier to drop on his head (just make sure his reflection is directly below). I realize it is far too late to go back and re-write history, but if I could I would definitely have pointed to Another World as an example in how to progress the adventure genre.
All in all, after playing through another world, I want to say that it displays steps that I would love to see future games to make. An odd statement considering the age of the game. Despite that though, there are many things to learn from Another World and recommend you check it out. It's $9 for the updated version which just came out a few years ago. I also might recommend this handy guide if you get stuck. And finally I leave you with this amazing cosplay which no words can describe.