Have You Played… Another World?


Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

(Out Of This World if you are not tea-swilling, toothless Brit who cleans chimbleys in old lahndahn tahn). SPOILERS for a 26-year-old videogame follow.

The first time a game broke my heart, or at least left me in a state of shocked disbelief.

Another World’s mid-game twist did to me what the shock death of Optimus Prime in the 1986 Transformers movie had done to me five years previously. That was to rip away my perceived safety net, my belief that my screen heroes could not perish.

To see it happen to character I loved but could not control was one thing; to have it happen to a character who was supposed to be me was something else entirely. Another World’s accidentally planet-hopping traveller Lester was not someone with a personality per se, but I formed a bond with him a) because he was me, off on an incredible adventure in a strange, new and hostile world, which I discovered right along with him and b) because the expressive, rotoscope-styled, still-gorgeous art and animation gave him a sense of life I’m not sure I had before seen from a game.

When he, in turn, formed a bond with a wordless alien prisoner (“Buddy”) I too felt the friendship, the relief at not being alone, the instinct to protect and assist.

And then Lester died. Except he didn’t; canonically, he survived his grievous wounds, and would fleetingly return for a maligned sequel that, ultimately, definitely really absolutely killed him. But, back in 1991, I was convinced he was dead and that Buddy carried his corpse away to freedom only out of a sense of duty. I was shocked, but I was amazed that this could happen, that there would not be a pat happy ending to something I had put hours of effort into. (It really was effort, too: Another World is, by today’s standards, a vexing and unforgiving experience).

Innocence, lost. Though not half as much as when, years later, I found out he’d survived.


  1. klops says:

    What?! I never understood it so that he died. I just thought he was badly beaten up and Friend carried him away. Lester died… ? … ! …

    • onodera says:

      That has always looked like a heavy spinal injury to me. Unless the other world has massively better neurosurgeons than Earth, Lester should be crippled for life or dead.

      • quasiotter says:

        I never really understood why he crawled in that last sequence. I guess I just didn’t notice (!) him being thrown against the wall (probably because I was falling asleep), as it didn’t sound very impactful compared to what I’d expect in a video-game. I had to watch a walkthrough to understand what y’all are talking about.

      • klops says:

        I just watched the end. Mr. Another World was holding on to his friend while riding the dragon in the very last seconds of the end scene. If you’re dead, you do not sit in an upright position with hands around your bald friend.

    • LaundroMat says:

      I always thought he died too. I still remember sitting in front of my Amiga, absolutely stunned at what happened.

    • rubmon says:

      I never interpreted the end as him dying or permanently injured, simply unconscious and escaping with his friend. A beautiful ending to a beautiful game.

    • Ragnar says:

      I too thought that he was badly injured, and that his friend rescued him and carried him to freedom.

  2. RuySan says:

    So so beautiful. I still use a wallpaper from this game. The first scene after the character emerges from the water is probably one of the most iconic and enduring images of videogame history.

    • nullward says:

      I remember being blown away by that opening scene when I played this on SNES. No music, no score indicators, no weapons… just the wind whistling through alien canyons, birds flying in the distance, and that shadow beast thing watching you. I never even finished it, the puzzles were too brutal and too confusing. But I loved the sense of mystery it created.

    • Paul B says:

      Yep, that opening sequence was quite something back then. Also remember dying as soon as I got to the bit where you had to kick the alien leaches, but kept on returning because of those graphics (which were incredible for the time). Never knew it came out on the SNES.

  3. Dewal says:

    I think you just put the finger on what shocked me the most in the first COD:Modern Warfare, with the nuclear bomb scene and your name appearing in the casualties list. Then crawling out of the chopper, full of hope, to die seconds later. I can still feel it almost 10 years (damn) later.

    I don’t remember playing a game where the main character died “for real” before that.

  4. geldonyetich says:

    Great experience for its time, but disappointing in that every port I’ve seen is worse than the last. Best on the original Amiga, I think. Part of that was the Amiga era was one where its graphics were not just an interesting choice, but rather a genuine technical innovation.

    Perhaps this made porting the game seem like a needless chore, and it shows in the loss of fidelity. Just as likely, it was hard for them to pull the original graphics data and convert it to other platforms. Anyway, having played it on the Amiga, the other versions feel diluted in comparison.

    To some extent, I liked Flashback: The Quest for Identity better. It may not have been as artsy, but it had a better sense of structure to it. Probably because the environments were more familiar and everybody’s identity was less ambiguous than Lester’s or the weird alien world he encounters. To an extent, they weren’t all that easy to sympathize with, as I feel I hardly know them. They sure seem to be good at coming to quick and brutal ends, though.

    • Blad the impaler says:

      And it had a gun with fantastic animation for its time – casings popped out of it when you fired, and I think there was a little smoke trail as well. For the early 90s, man that was cool. The whole thing was pretty wonderful.

    • Addie says:

      Interestingly, Eric Chahi wrote the game to run in a ‘virtual machine’, where the 20 kB executable was ported between architectures, and the rest of the bytecode remained unchanged – it was one of the most ported games of its era. Now if you’re arguing that the Amiga had the best graphics of any home computer of the time, I’d have to agree with you.

      See the following for a code discussion:

      link to fabiensanglard.net

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      Risingson says:

      As far as I know the Amiga one is deeply unsatisfying even for the creator, as it lacks scenes and balance that were present in the following games.

      I never understood the NEED to name f. Flashback every time you say Another World. They are different games, they have a different spirit (Another World is more Karateka, Flashback is more Prince of Persia) and have different problems (Flashback has also insane difficulty spikes). What I do love is when both creators joined and made Heart of Darkness, a work of beauty so misunderstood.

  5. and its man says:

    It was also “Another World” for us accordion players with coffee-stained teeth.

    • Drumclem says:

      As a Frenchman, I completely agree with this description of our glorious civilisation.

      Also: there was a sequel? There was no sequel. And Lester was just grievously wounded and carried away by his newly-found friend.

      Don’t you go ruining the difficult childhood memories of strangers again, please.

  6. gabrielonuris says:

    And that’s exactly why I hated ME3 ending, not because it has three colors, or because my choices didn’t matter; but because *I* died. WTF, heroes doesn’t need to die, we have real life for that already.

    Besides, I didn’t spent 3 games getting in love with Tali just to let her alone, godammit!!!

    • fuggles says:

      This. It was worse that I had to do it, not even a cutscene. I stared at it refusing to press forward for a long time.

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    Drib says:

    I played this on the Sega Genesis. “Megadrive” for filthy hot-tea-drinking monarchists.

    But really, it left a huge impression on me as a kid too. The game was so minimalist in a way. No real GUI, no tiresome inventory, no lives. Just you and a weird alien world.

    Plus the graphics were knock-you-flat-on-your-ass amazing at the time.

    Still holds up, too, with some caveats.

  8. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    An unforgiving but also a really captivating game. I do need to replay it at some point.

  9. DukeOFprunes says:

    Greetings, Professor. I see you have driven here in your Ferrari.

    • Railway Rifle says:

      I thought it unlikely that a research scientist was driving a car like that at the time, when I was maybe 14.

      On topic, I never knew the protagonist died. I am shocked even now.

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      Harlander says:

      4 5 1 1 9 3 2

  10. wombat191 says:

    The intro blew me away on the Amiga enough to buy it.. before remembering I absolutely detest platformers with all my being

  11. Kasjer says:

    Yeah, I did played it as a kid, on my A600. This game was brutal – I wouldn’t be able to finish it without a walkthrough, as it was full of moments where you couldn’t predict or react to danger. It was also not very hood at explaining how things can be done as interaction with enviroments was very contextual…

    But it was a game that totally “clicked” with me at the time and developed taste for games with heroes that need to worry about their own asses first, about the world – later. Flashback was next one I loved. Later I have found similar themes in Outcast, a Half-Life and a long forgotten Trespasser.

  12. Laurentius says:

    Yeah, a classic. Graphics style is a pleasing thing, gameplay is solid, intro and outro are really dope.

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    Waltorious says:

    I have played this, many times. In fact, one of the first posts I ever wrote for my personal gaming blog was about Another World:

    link to waltorious.wordpress.com

    I just re-read that now and I don’t hate my old writing as much as I feared I would. I do think I’ve improved, though.

  14. Scandalon says:

    Was blown away when I first saw it on this mysterious “amiga” that seemed like it was, well, from another world. Never completed it though.

    I loved this GDC post-mortem, turns out the game itself is written in an interesting half-way interpreted virtual machine.

    link to gdcvault.com

    • GameOverMan says:

      I didn’t know that Virgin Games tried to convince him to make Another World a point and click / make your choice kind of game since the previous title he worked on was Future Wars, which is a graphic adventure. I’m glad he stood with Delphine Software.

  15. SirDeimos says:

    Mentioning the death of Optimus Prime in the 1986 Transformers movie… too soon, dude. Too soon.

  16. KastaRules says:

    Good times!

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    SoundDust says:

    This was about the coolest looking thing when it came out, with those clever cutscenes and levels.

    I have memories of completing this, but looking at the longplay videos, I can’t see how that would’ve been possible..

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    Risingson says:

    I could write a book about this game. I played it year after year for at least 20 since it went out, and I always have claimed it to be my favourite game. Not only technically is a marvel, but thematically it is one of the first games I seriously detect a very homoerotic gaze in it all.

    I disagree on the Amiga original being better than the PC one (the PC one has more screens and is way waaay better balanced, being the canonical one, though the Word of God preferred the slightly easier remaster). I disagree on it being too difficult (the game has a kind of auto tune with jumps on most of it, except for the water zone which is the worst part of the game). I disagree on any defect you can say about it. It is a perfect game, a damn perfect game, and the most influential of the 90: Half Life, for example, would not have existed without it.

    EDIT: I also confess loving the 3DO port graphics

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      Risingson says:

      BTW, now I noticed that you name one game in one way or the other not depending on how it was sold in the shop around your corner, but on how does GOG name it.

  19. BigEyeGuy says:

    Another World literally dropped me from my chair when I first played it (first level lion jump scare).
    The sequel is also worth your time if you never played it, you can get it with SEGA CD emulators.

  20. criskywalker says:

    Yes, I did! I played it on the Amiga and it’s one of the few difficult games that I feel proud to have played. It was really a nice breakthrough in cinematic gaming history.

  21. Barts says:

    – Kagoshta, kagoshta!!!

    * fires laser *


  22. Marclev says:

    shock death of Optimus Prime in the 1986 Transformers movie had done to me five years previously

    It’s 30 years later and I still don’t think I’ve quite got over that yet.

    What a fantastic movie though.