Out of This World (SNES) review
"The game looks like something manifested from the pages of a H.P. Lovecraft novella. Nightmarish scenery wraps itself around Lester, from the rocky terrain beneath his feet, to the jagged mountain range in the distance, to the strange moons that look down on his plight. But the gameplay itself closely resembles the infuriating old school Jordan Mechner creation."
''The aim is to alienate'' OR ''The Brotherhood''
Masochists, today is your day.
There are three types of game players. There’s the patient type, who can play 80 hours of a role-playing game, never to be flustered, always patient. And then there’s the persistent type, who can play a hard ass shooter, dying and being sent back to a checkpoint over and over, remaining stubbornly persistent. The third type, naturally, consists of the ‘in-betweeners’.
Out of This World alienates patient players and in-betweeners alike, but presents some of the most brilliant gaming ever conceived to the persistent, masochistic players out there (like myself). As such, it’s perfect in our eyes, but impossibly difficult to win, and impossibly difficult to like (these are often interchangeable ideas) in the eyes of other kinds of gamers. But never mind other gamers, my persistent players—allow them to be alienated today. Because today is your day.
Unfortunately for Lester Knight Chaykin, he can’t say the same. Sure he was living the good life up until now, cruising the streets in his sexy new black import (yes, I'm referring to a car) to a workplace where he could dictate his own late night hours. That’s where we meet him—at the laboratory, throwing back a cold one as a complex experiment plays out before us. Naturally, genius that he is, something goes wrong, and his particle accelerator that was to be his son’s elementary school science project implodes (or something!), and sucks him into another world. Incidentally, Another World is another, somewhat less slick moniker this game was also given.
The introduction is finished, and the real game begins with Lester swimming up and out of a box of some sort, while evil marine tentacles implore that he stay down there with them. The Prince of Persia influence is evident right away. No, not in the presentation. The game looks like something manifested from the pages of a H.P. Lovecraft novella. Nightmarish scenery wraps itself around Lester, from the rocky terrain beneath his feet, to the jagged mountain range in the distance, to the strange moons that look down on his plight. But the gameplay itself closely resembles the infuriating old school Jordan Mechner creation. Even the extraordinarily realistic fluidity of motion is similar, though the effect was arrived at by a different technique. Rotoscoping was the order of the day: the art of capturing real life movement and covering them with simply shaded polygons.
But these are details. Prince of Persia lives in this Delphine/Interplay masterpiece because although both games appear to be straightforward side-scrolling platformers, there is nothing straightforward about them. Travel only a short distance, and have an ambling slug-like creature slip by your kicking, lanky legs and inflict fatal damage. A brief cut scene depicting your death follows, and then you’re at a black screen you’ll become intimately familiar with. Your password is at the bottom, but don't write this one down. When you die over and over and over again only to receive the same password, you’ll realize that you’re not making progress.
But you’re persistent aren’t you? This isn’t enough to make you quit. Learn to kill these creatures with your foot sweep, learn to escape the wrath of the black bull-beast up ahead, and finally, you’ll run into (literally) something new and peculiar. Congratulations, you've met your first aliens. They'll welcome you by gunning you down. A new cut scene begins, and to your surprise and joy, should you die shortly after this (and you will), you’ll receive a different password.
This is the way of Out of This World. Progress does not come easily, but when it comes, it’s the most fulfilling thing I've experienced in gaming. The puzzles often seem obscure at first, but through good ol’ trial and error, you'll figure them out and you’ll wonder what took you so long. And like Prince of Persia, just because you figure out what has to be done, doesn’t mean you can do it. Meticulous platformer skills must be combined with creative problem solving ability and insane persistence for a shot at success. There simply is no other formula that will work.
Want evidence? Alright. When you come to, after having been shot at the end of the first 'phase', you'll find yourself in a cage with an alien prisoner. We can only guess at the enormity of his crime, that he should share your fate. Somehow, the two you will have to cooperate and bring the cage down. And you'll need to procure a laser weapon too. The gun fires crisp bolts that promise instant death when they connect. But the sidearm doubles as a defensive tool; holding the fire button down will allow you to make a laser shield! The makeshift barriers don't stay up for long though, and a super blast (holding the fire button down for a bit longer) will smash them. Use this knowledge to your advantage, and tear apart enemy shields, exposing ducking anthropoids who click at their weapons frantically, aware that they are at your mercy.
When you come upon the dammed up reservoir of water, you might realize that it has something to do with the nearby waterfall that blocks your way. But you won't know what to do. Not right away. And when you do figure it out, the dashing, leaping, control pad-rattling sequence will give you as many fits as it did to conceive the right plan of action in the first place. There's an especially brilliant part where you can see the reflection of an alien soldier in a room beneath you, in an alien decorative chandelier of sorts. You can hear his footsteps, and can track his movement. Perhaps another nerve-wracking shootout can be avoided? Moments like these seem to introduce themselves one after another, easily making all the dying worth it. I would reveal more, but this game should not be spoiled.
As you might expect, there are other versions of this innovative title. The Genesis version of Out of This World looks about as good as this one, featuring the same faded, just-short-of-crisp polygon graphics. Unfortunately, the Genesis version can’t manage the thunderous soundtrack as was intended. Panasonic’s short-lived 3DO system was fortunate enough to have Out of This World grace it’s console’s screens, and developers took advantage of the superior hardware abilities of the machine. The graphics offer the kind of sharpness that SNES and Genesis players dreamed of, when playing their ports. Also, the speed of this most obscure translation approached that of the original PC release. Regrettably, a new, extremely inferior soundtrack prevented it from being the perfect port that it could have been.
And believe me, the music is important. Along with the storytelling cut scenes, the incredible Star Wars quality tunes make the game drip with unmatched atmosphere. Take the tunes away, and lose some of that hold on the player. And every bit is important in a game that threatens to have you tossing your SNES out of the window at any moment due to rising frustration levels.
But you won’t. Because the powerful French horns will keep you there, hands sweating on your controller, afraid to make a wrong move, yet excited to test the game, to challenge it for the right to see what’s past the very next screen. You won’t, because you’ll feel a connection with the alien friend you meet in this alien land. His race of people will want you killed, and for some reason, they seem to want him dead as well. But does this mean you can trust him? His actions leading up to the poignant culmination will warm your heart in this cold, barren world so singular to your earthly eyes. And you might even absorb an underlying message about brotherhood by your companion's actions.
You’ll know this game is something special from the just after the title screen, when the screen scrolls the diary entry of Lester Knight Chaykin away from you, Star Wars-style, the music blaring, imploring you to respond to its fanfare. If you’re a persistent type like me, you’ll play and die, and play and die, and persevere, and see Lester through to the game’s touching sequel-demanding conclusion. Then you’ll how truly special Out of This World is from the moment cold waters grip you, to the moment the alien skies fade from your view. If you haven't experienced it, don't wait any longer.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 13, 2004)
There was a bio here once. It's gone now.
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