GameSpite Journal 10 | Out of This World

Out of This World | Dev.: Delphine | Pub: Interplay | Genre: Adventure | Release: Nov. 1992

Every human being fantasizes about visiting an alien planet, and in our imaginations, these visits usually turn out swell. We become ambassadors for our species, alien scientists cheerfully share secrets that uplift humanity, we frolic through acres of friendly extraterrestrial greenery, and hot alien chicks and dudes line up for rare mating opportunities.

However, it’s Eric Chahi’s classic puzzle-platformer, Out of This World (developed and sold as “Another World” outside of North America) that most accurately portrays what it’s probably going to be like to visit an alien planet, especially as an unsolicited guest. Everything in Out of This World wants you dead: The flora, the fauna, the silent natives, and the barren landscape itself, which grumbles with earthquakes.

“You” are Lester Knight Chaykin, a young physicist who owns a Ferrari. Lester is working solo on a particle acceleration experiment that goes awry when a thunderstorm includes a massive electrical charge. In a flash of white fire, Lester is teleported out of this world, or to another world—well, whichever you like. Thus begins Lester’s quest for a way home.

It’s not easy. Every second Lester stays alive is a veritable fight against poison leeches, flesh-eating plants, and falling rocks. As early as the first level, a bear-like Beast that smells breakfast trails Lester like a red-eyed shadow and drops in for a howdy-do. Finally, when Lester makes contact with the natives, they’re not interested in his earthly customs. They’re more interested in his potential as a slave.

Out of This World was first given life on various computers, but its SNES adaptation is unlike almost anything else that exists in the system’s library. Generally, SNES games grant forgiveness through extra lives, ammunition, and power-ups. By contrast, Out of This World says, “Oh, you got away from that Beast? What do you want, a medal? Look, here’s a surging wall of water. Survive, smart guy.”

Though Out of This World eventually gives Lester a gun, survival depends far more on his ability to use the environment to his advantage. He also needs his wits, and the occasional dirty trick (it’s a good thing aliens have kickable testicles). Every mistake Lester makes results in death, usually horrible death that’s surprisingly gory for the SNES despite the absence of blood. But it’s not like anyone needs red pixels to illustrate the fact that falling three stories and onto a bed of stalagmites would kind of suck.

Lester does have a silent alien friend who helps him along in his journey. “Buddy” (whose story is told in the elusive Heart of the Alien for the Sega CD) is Lester’s one bright spot on a hostile world: Though they can’t talk to one another and Lester has no idea why he’s helping, they share a bond that becomes their only hope of escaping their captors.

But Lester also spends a lot of time separated from Buddy. Out of This World emphasizes loneliness and befuddlement above all else, which is illustrated beautifully in Chahi’s original box art for the game. Unfortunately, the SNES box art substitutes Chahi’s oil painting of a bedraggled Lester overlooking his new alien home for a dull print of a bodacious teenager. Hey, it was the ’90s. Design demanded RAD DUDES.

So next time you encounter a little boy or girl who dreams of visiting planets beyond the stars, play some Out of This World with them and say, “This is what waits for you.” Watch as their fantasies wither like Lester’s right arm in the digestive tract of a Beast.

By Nadia Oxford? | Dec. 17, 2011 | Previous: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest | Next: Super Star Wars