Delphine Software, who you may recognize as the name behind Flashback, first created this equally interesting sci-fi tale (called “Another World” outside North America) while Conrad Hart was just a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. Truly a poster-child for “cinematic gameplay,” Out of This World plays like a collection of cutscenes and movie-esque action moments. Though this could have easily been a detriment to making an enjoyable game, it actually makes for one that is quite tense, satisfying, and memorable.
The game begins with a goofy-as-hell Star Wars text crawl from the diary of our protagonist, the successful, Ferrari-driving, Professor Lester Knight Chaykin. It’s far too overdramatic, and also tells you exactly what you’ll be doing in the next thirty minutes of the game, but the extended cutscene that follows makes up for it. The intro shows Lester burning the midnight oil at his lab, using a particle accelerator in an attempt to create antimatter. This video should come packaged with the safety instructions for all particle accelerators, under the line detailing that the operator should not use the equipment during an electrical storm. For as expected, a rogue bolt of lightning enters the accelerator just as the antimatter is created. The resulting energy zaps Lester off the face of the planet. That burned hole in the ground certainly makes it look like he perished in the electrical inferno, but in reality, he’s just been sent… out of this world!
I should write copy for these people.
As luck would have it, you’re somehow teleported to the most hostile planet in the universe, controlled by mysterious humanoid aliens that seem to speak Russian (a reference similar to the end of Planet of the Apes, perhaps?) It won’t take you long to get captured by them, and plunked into a cell with another of their species. After a daring jailbreak, you’ve made a new friend, and a planetful of enemies, and the two of you must run and blast your way through the alien city where you’re held, while destroying much of their society in your wake.
One of the strengths of Out of This World is in the alien civilization. It’s familiar enough to echoes of humanity in it, but foreign enough to keep you fascinated and on your toes. Looks like the developers watched quite a few episodes of Shatner stranded on Star Trek alien planets for inspiration. You also get the sense that you’re really making a huge mess as you try to escape, especially when you flood their canals, destroy a temple, and demolish a bath house. All of these take place in very cinematic action sequences that have all the chaos of a cutscene, but never release you from control of your character. At its simplest element, it is just you fighting against guards at the other side of the screen. However, the rest of the screen is often filled with lasers flying into the foreground, columns blowing up, glass shattering, and so on. Even though it’s all eye candy, it helps make the scene seem a lot more frantic than it really is.
There’s only one pickup in the entire game, and it’s the only one you’ll need. After you whack your first guard, you’ll get to pick up his multifunction energy pistol, and this thing pities more foo’s, teaches more lessons, and puts more suckas in a world of hurt, than even Mr. T did in an entire season of The A-Team. By tapping the shoot button, the gun will fire a laser beam that kills instantly in one hit, with “creative” results. By holding the button down, a small energy ball will charge up in front of the gun, and when you release the trigger, it expands into a force field that will block enemy shots. Expect to constantly create force fields if you want to survive, as their weapons also kill you in one hit. If you charge the gun up even more, it creates a larger ball that destroys nearly anything in its path when released, including walls and enemy force fields. Much of the demolishing I spoke of comes as a result of this charged blast, and there’s always plenty of stuff to be destroyed with it.
Using a combination of weapon and alien comrade, you will move from action sequence to action sequence, with the stakes properly rising the further you go. There is a final boss fight at the end, though not in the manner you would expect, and room for a sequel. In all, it delivers the cinematic gameplay it sets out to, while also not restricting you too terribly much.
Out of This World is a nice looking game in parts, but not overall. It received some critical acclaim when it was released for the PC, as its engine was more or less groundbreaking. Polygons are used throughout the game instead of hand-drawn sprites, resulting in a slightly 3-D look. Additionally, the developers recorded footage of actors moving, and then superimposed polygons over that footage, creating a 3-D model that moves as the actor did. The intent is to translate fluid motion into the game, which may have been accomplished on the PC, but seems to have been scaled down for the console. Characters do move as real people would, and look very good in cutscenes, but frames seemed to have been dropped for the regular game models, as their movement is not particularly any more fluid than standard animation.
The use of polygons here also gives the characters very sharp, jagged edges, and the monochrome polygons have sapped the characters of all real detail. They have basic shapes of humans, and basic coloring to differentiate between clothes and skin, but nothing deeper than that. So revolutionary, yes, gorgeous, no, and the look Delphine was going for was better accomplished in their later release of Flashback.
The backgrounds are similarly subdued, in what looks like an attempt to make the images look like a comic, or perhaps a faded watercolor. Stylistically, the game doesn’t look terrible, but compared to the artwork other games have shown the SNES is capable of, it comes off looking a little drab. Music is rarely used, but appropriate when it is, and the sound effects are original and generally dead-on.
This game is one of the few that genuinely deserve the “adventure” title. Its attempts to create situations similar to a high-budget action movie are noble, and generally work out. I played this game when it was released in 1992, and remember sequences from it to this day – especially the puzzle with the guard and the hanging green glass ball, and the gladiator tank. You’ll know them when you see them.
If Out of This World has a major fault, it’s that it is a very short game, perhaps taking 2 1/2 to 3 hours at most to beat. This assumes you know exactly what you’re doing, and that you don’t get caught by one of the insta-kill traps or a guard’s laser blast. In fact, the ease of death is the only thing that will draw out the length of the game. None of the puzzles are particularly tricky to figure out, it’s just that pulling them off without dying is tricky. But if you’re looking for a classic adventure game in the vein of Prince of Persia, and have the patience to deal with such a game, you definitely should play this, if you haven’t already.
Successful example of “cinematic gameplay,” with an abundance of memorable moments.
Short, requires insane persistence, revolutionary graphics engine gives it a unique, though not dazzling, look.