out of this world

a review of Another World (aka "Out of This World" (aka "Outer World"))
a videogame developed by eric chahi
and published by delphine software, interplay, et al
for dos, iOS, mobile phones (symbian operating system), the amiga, the apple iigs, the atari st, the macintosh operating system, the nintendo gameboy advance, the panasonic 3do interactive multiplayer system, the sega mega drive, the sega mega-cd, the super nintendo entertainment system, windows and windows mobile
text by tim rogers

4 stars
#01

Bottom line: Another World is “the best videogame of all-time.”

 

Another World (released as “Out of This World” in the US and “Outer World” in Japan) is, perhaps by default, the best game of all-time by our criteria: it was designed and programmed by virtually one man, it is not long, it features no heads-up display to clutter the screen, it features precisely one weapon which can be used for three purposes (regular attack, charge attack, shield) using only one button (we love games that let us hold down a button and then let go), it possesses unshakable confidence in the sharpness of its mechanic (conveyed in level design that prompts the player to use his multi-faceted gun in many creative ways), it features puzzles whose solutions require no more than common sense, it has amazing music, it is gorgeous to look at, and it tells a story while it moves, relentlessly, never stopping, never preaching, never speaking, from the frightening beginning right up to the heartbreaking conclusion.

Out of This World was ahead of its time in 1991, and it is still ahead of not-its time in 2008. One might call it an art film of a videogame. This wouldn’t be a wrong description so much as a lazy one. It’s more of a silent film of a videogame. Or, better than that, it is a videogame of a videogame.

Out of This World shows (not tells) us the story of Lester Knight Chaykin, a red-haired physicist working in some kind of laboratory. The introduction scene impresses us immediately with visions of the familiar: a car (headlights), a building, a thunderstorm. Lester — whose name we will only know if we’ve read it out of the instruction manual — descends into his laboratory and boots up a large computer. He leans back in his chair. He sips a can of what might be beer. It’ll be the last can of what might be beer that he’ll ever have. A lightning bolt strikes the building outside. We see Lester’s car again, for a split second. Something explodes and implodes simultaneously deep inside the lab. A spherical hole replaces Lester’s chair. The screen hangs there for a moment, perfect, weighty cinematography befitting . . . cinema. Then there’s a crash, and a splash. Lester materializes in a pool of water. Vine-like tentacles begin to reach toward the sunlight on the surface of the pool.

The game begins.

Out of This World, from this moment until its fascinating conclusion, represents an Actual Genius’s osmosed omniscience regarding game design: we can say that it is Super Mario Bros. turned on its ear. In Super Mario Bros., the player knows he has to go to the right because his recognizable-as-human avatar is facing to the right, and standing just left of the center of the screen. The reason for going to the right is explained only in the instruction manual: a dragon has kidnapped a princess, and Mario must get her back (our imaginations fill in the perhaps-promise of getting laid). Out of This World doesn’t need an instruction manual: here we have a hero who was in one place, and is now in another. Sinking in a pool of water is objectively worse (humans can’t breathe underwater) a situation than sitting in a desk chair drinking beer (what’s a few dead brain cells?). We must get out of here. To further impress the situation upon us, we have those growing, evil tentacles.

It is possible to die a grisly, uniquely animated death not one second into Out of This World. It’s likely that the designer, one Eric Chahi, intended for the player to die the first time the game began. This is how you die in the beginning of the game: you don’t press any buttons. You just stare at the beautiful and serene pool of water. This is, in fact, what most people would do, if they found themselves suddenly transported from a desk chair in a laboratory to a pool of water beneath a vaguely alien sun. That one second is long enough for Lester to sink just far enough for the evil tentacles to grab him. Now you’re being dragged underwater. The next thing you know, you’re dead.

All great art tends to originate from a somewhat shy little need. Most of the time, the “need” is only a placebo. The artist eventually realizes he didn’t need anything. Like The Stone Roses said, “You don’t have to wait to die / the kingdom’s all inside”. Or something. Eric Chahi’s production of Another World began when he saw the game Dragon’s Lair, found the animation fascinating, and dreamt up — probably in a split second, while standing dead still in the middle of an intersection with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand — a method to make similarly fluid animation using much less data storage space. He set to work immediately, having no clue what he was going to make — only a basic idea of how he was going to do it. It’s said he planned at first only to make a game like Karateka and Prince of Persia, only in a science-fiction setting. He spent half a year developing his excessively complicated though ultimately amazingly efficient animation technique. He developed it the only sane way: while using it to make a cinematic introduction for his game.

Now it was time to make a game. Eric Chahi presumably did not bother to jot his game design idea onto a bar napkin. The “game design” pre-production phase of Another World did not exist. Chahi had presumably had a simple idea brewing. When it came time to make a game, he figuratively snapped his fingers, and a genie exploded out of his ears.

Every third man who owns an electric guitar will claim to have met and hung out with the person who only they consider “the best unknown singer / songwriter alive today”. These singer / songwriter-warriors often impart the same advice regarding songwriting to every friend cool enough to drink a beer with them: if you want to write a song, man, just fuckin’ write a song. Anything can be a song. A song can be anything. And If you have a song, sing it. This is not just the method for writing songs — you can replace these verbs and adjectives at random, and you’ll end up with a pretty fool-proof philosophy.

Another World is a song of a videogame. The dumbfounding simplicity of its core mechanics are such that they must have been set in stone from the very moment Chahi began level design. Chahi says, nowadays, that the level design was done completely at random, in a spur-of-the-moment sort of way, and this sticks: only when the game design is so thoroughly complete is the level design allowed to be spur-of-the-moment.

The basic gist of Another World is that you must not die. You play the part of a man in a world completely different from the home of cars and laboratories glimpsed in the introduction, and then never again. You escape from the tentacles in the pool to find yourself on a barren, rocky planet. You may walk either to the right or to the left. To the left is a cliff, and a vine. To the right are some slugs. If a slug bites your leg, you will see a pan-flash close-up animation of a silver stinger cutting through khaki. Then it’s back to the main screen. Lester falls over, dead. Your next attempt, you might try pressing a button. Press the Action Button, and Lester kicks. Kick the slugs to kill them. Press the Jump Button to hop over the slugs. Keep moving right, and you will come face-to-face with a beast. The beast is huge, and black. It is, in fact, the first thing you see upon exiting the pool at the beginning of the game: the beast is standing on a cliff in the distance. When you emerge from the water, he turns and gallops off-screen. You cannot kill the beast, and you will immediately know this because you know how Lester is hardly a match for a slug. Whether you walked left at the beginning of the game or not, whether you saw that vine and that cliff or not, you will be compelled to run back the way you came by virtue of the fact that the beast literally takes up most of the right side of the screen. You will run left, jumping over the slugs. The beast chases you. You run all the way off the edge of the cliff, grab the vine, and swing around as the beast rears up to avoid falling. Now you have to run again to the right, jumping over the slugs again. Make your way all the way back to the screen where you met the beast; when you run off the right side of the screen, the game suddenly betrays your just-founded expectations (that running off the edge of one screen takes you to a new screen) by having your character fall backward onto the rocky ground. Robe-shrouded, large humanoid forms walk into the frame. The beast comes gallopping into the screen. One of the robed men immediately shoots the beast with a concealed weapon. The beast crumples into a pile. Lester stands up, thanking his saviors. He is punched in the gut with a laserbeam, and the screen fades to black.

You wake up in a cage. It’s a brief cut-scene. You see an alien sitting across from you. This is very important: at the lower-right corner of the screen is one of the robed aliens. He immediately removes his robe. Underneath is a large, albino-gorilla-like muscular being wearing a skin-tight black shirt and briefs. This alien being is precisely identical to the alien beings mining in the background — and the alien sitting next to us in our cage. Why are we in the cage? As with most of the questions presented in Another World, this is a question we don’t need to ask. We can ask it — and then answer it — anyway: these aliens all look precisely the same. Lester doesn’t look anything like them. Lester is in the cage, perhaps, because he is an obviously intelligent being who looks nothing like the resident intelligent beings of this world. The narrative plays our brain on subconscious levels: if Lester is arrested for looking different, then these people might have some kind of racism in their hearts. That would make them inherently bad. We don’t hesitate to assume that the reason they locked up one of their own kind is because he is not bad. If the game’s first puzzle is getting out of the pool, and the second puzzle is escaping from the beast, the third is wondering why these terrible things keep happening to us. The solution to the puzzle involves a leap of conscience: escape from the cage. Escaping from the cage requires as much common sense as swimming out of the water. In the water, you pressed up. In the cage, you press right and left to make it swing. Make it swing once, and the guard in the lower-right shouts some unintelligible alien words at you. He fires his gun into the air. Guards appear in the background. Now you know you’re on the right track. Swing harder. The cage falls off its chain and crushes the guard dead. A quick cut-scene shows Lester’s hand approaching the floor, picking up a gun. The guards in the background panic.

The rest of the game begins.

The immediate, short-term, and long-term goals will, for the duration of the experience, be “move”, and “survive”. Moving will involve running and jumping; surviving will involve shooting and dodging.

Another World is a game centered on death. As we’ve established, Eric Chahi’s inspiration for creating it came from looking at Dragon’s Lair and wondering if he could create a similar graphical effect using much less storage space. There had to be a little more to the Dragon’s Lair inspiration than Eric Chahi has perhaps let on. Dragon’s Lair‘s initial appeal was its full-motion-video graphics. It was better than something that looked “like” a cartoon — it was a cartoon. That was enough, in Dragon’s Lair‘s day and age. People wouldn’t care about the control or depth of a game if it looked like absolutely nothing they’d ever seen before within the same medium. You play Dragon’s Lair by pressing the correct button as dictated by a glint on the screen. Press that button, and the hero will move, initiating a “successful” video segment. Don’t press that button, and the current segment of video will flow directly into the “failure” animation. Dragon’s Lair‘s conscience is a weird one to peg, however, because nearly as much attention is paid to “failure” as to “success”. Some would even argue that watching your hero die is more interesting than watching him succeed. If you have only successfully completed Dragon’s Lair without making any mistakes, then you haven’t seen the whole game. Another World is the same way, only — thanks to the beautiful animations taking up much less data storage space than full-motion video — there’s an actual game shoehorned into it.

Dragon’s Lair had been joyfully free of then-modern videogame genre restrictions: the action was shown from many bizarre, quasi-cinematic angles. Another World was intended from the outset to be an experiment in streamlining an artistic game experience. So it ended up as a side-scroller in the vein of Super Mario Bros. Chahi probably never had a doubt in his mind that many of the set-pieces in the game would rely on use of a context-sensitive Action Button. It’s the button you will immediately think to press when an alien grabs you buy the shoulders; press it in time and you kick him in the groin, and he drops you. No game has done Action Buttoning as well as Another World, try as games might. The simplicity of the situations — always one man, expressively and silently facing a faceless opponent in a unique struggle — and the honest, terse dread of every moment-to-moment conflict lend themselves well to a just-barely-subconscious instinct that knows to Press That One Button. The variety of set pieces exploits the Action Button’s function and timing in enough entertaining ways to qualify this game as a masterpiece, as the undisputed king of the “adventure” genre, far better than all those point-and-clickers with their byzantine puzzles with arcane solutions and tacked-on tacky humor. Then the game goes and takes one step closer to the edge of the Grand Canyon, when Lester picks up a gun; minutes later, we are playing The Greatest Videogame Ever.

Pick up the gun and proceed one screen to the right. You will see guards in the halls. The gun is the king in Another World: no living thing survives more than one shot. Landing that one shot is the trick. In your second fight, you will see a guard hold his gun out, and a ball of energy grow at the tip. Eventually, the ball of energy will become a shield roughlythe height of his body. He will then poke his arm out of the shield and fire at you. You can duck his shots. The game is telling you to hold your own Action Button down. Hold it down long enough, and you produce your own shield. Poke your arm out and shoot at his shield. Shoot his shield enough to break it. Or you can hold your trigger until the glowing ball appears, and then let go to fire a massive, shield-destroying shot. With the shield destroyed, fire another quick zap to disintegrate your enemy.

If Another World were made today, or one day later, or one day earlier, you maybe would have just had a gun that fired when you pressed the fire button. Maybe you would have gotten another gun, later, which fired really fast, and a third gun, which fired really big bullets. Another World‘s game design, however, was gracefully decided in what we’ve determined was the length of a snap of the creator’s fingers. A gorgeous one-off informed by all that was ever fun in videogames, and all that would ever come to be.

To recap, your gun can:

1. Fire enemy-killing lasers
2. Create a force shield capable of absorbing several shots
3. Fire a charged shot capable of destroying an enemy force shield in one burst

The level design escalates smoothly, then sharply. We learn how to shoot. We learn how to shield. We learn how to break shields. Then the game pushes us down an elevator shaft, the sink-or-swim approach. Soon, we’re making shields on staircases, or making two shields, or three. Soon, we have enemies attacking from two fronts. Eventually, we’re attacking enemies with craft. Each screen, each skirmish, becomes a little puzzle. Another World owes its elegance in no small part to its screen-by-screen nature. Like Pac-Man, like Donkey Kong, all action in the game takes place within one screen. What we can see right now is what matters. Maybe some literary theme is hiding behind the scenes of this, or maybe not. Either way, it works, because the creator only needed to think of every gunfight in the context of one screen.

Some will say that Another World‘s controls are hokey, or ropey. We say that they are exactly as they’re supposed to be. We’re not even going to cop-out and say that life is hokey and ropey, nor are we going to say that the characters in Gears of War move really slowly. We’re just going to say that everything bows to the game design. We believe that the highest compliment one can pay a single-player adventure game is that a two-player deathmatch mode, with each player controlling a clone of the main character, would be amazing. This is certainly the case in Another World: we can imagine a single-screen arena where players are free to set up shields, blast shields down, and take shots at one another. In that context, the controls would feel just right. It’d be at least as engaging as Pac-Man Vs., or as entertaining as four-player “Don’t Touch The Floor” in Bionic Commando: Rearmed.

The game flows along, through Action Button scenes, platform segments, environmental puzzles, split-second-long yet mesmerizing cut-scenes, and increasingly elaborate gunfights. Lester will eventually have to swim, solve a dastardly puzzle requiring him to flood a large cave, and pilot a tank in a death arena. All the while, you keep running, terrified. The story shows itself deliberately, with elaborate foreground and background animations. Eventually, there’s a “main bad guy”, who looks exactly like every other alien — including your buddy. The “final battle”, which you fight on your stomach, crawling at one-sixteenth your previous walking speed, involves a hysterically brilliant play on the physical appearance of the aliens, eliminating all doubt: no, Eric Chahi most definitely did not make all the aliens look the same because he was lazy. (Then again, to say he intended this conclusion all along would negate what he’d said about doing the level design randomly. In other words, Eric Chahi is even more of a genius for deciding to stage the final battle the way he did. Wow.)

The ending is beautiful, and you’ll never forget it.

 

...

Certain questions regarding Another World‘s continuity will only ever be asked by fourteen-year-old boys: at the beginning of the game, we see these aliens shooting a beast with a gun. If the only purpose of having a gun is to hunt for safety or for food, why is there a shield function? The answer to the question is, of course, another question: why are the aliens imprisoning one of their own, who happens to look exactly like they look? Eventually, if you want it, Another World becomes about more than survival. Eventually, a quite frankly spooky theme settles down gently over the experience: we are a man sprinting for freedom in an absolutely, mind-crushingly foreign universe. There it is: no matter how sharply the rules of life might suddenly change, any man will know from instinct alone what freedom is.

Right after the first gunfight, Lester and his Alien Buddy get on an elevator. You can go down — the right way — or you can go up. If you go up, you will find yourself in a small, dome-shaped room with a window. Walk over and look out the window. We see through Lester’s eyes. The first time you see it, you don’t know what to think.

It’s a view of the expanse of this terrifyingly foreign world. Immediately, you look at that, and you know you’re going to die. You know Lester is going to die, some day, even if — especially if — he survives this. All at once, the Looney Tunes nature of grisly death and oblivious rebirth subconsciously becomes an essential artistic element of Another World‘s design.

Playing Another World before age sixteen can, probably, make one a better human being in the end. It’s certainly more qualifiable as “art” than any Disney animation.

Aw, we shouldn’t have said that. That was kind of rude.

Another World is a lean game, designed through a series of what must have been excruciatingly difficult choices. Chahi chose not to incorporate every possible gun/shield-dynamic permutation into the game, because this isn’t a game “about” shooting. Overstaying his welcome was never Chahi’s intent. Chahi’s intent, presumably, was to make a game that begins, middles, and ends. He composed event sequences on the fly, maybe fiddled with the arrangement, and then set about removing what didn’t work perfectly well. This is something modern game designers don’t do, more often than not. Just ask the crew behind the Final Fantasy games: past a certain point in the development, if an idea is still sitting on the table, it will be in the game. It’s a terrifying staring contest. Luckily, one man can’t have a staring contest with himself, so Another World, with regard to flow, is absolutely perfect.

Modern game designers also toil over the question of how to balance story and action segments: if the game is too hard, the player won’t be able to witness the full extent of the story, which means we might as well not have a story. Attention, game developers: if you’re thinking this, maybe your game is, at its core, too long, too complicated, or just plain boring. Another World keeps the context front and center, and the most complicated it gets is offering us the opportunity to easily kill a near-invincible guard by climbing into the tunnel above his chamber and shooting a hanging green orb the instant we see his reflection pass under it. We’ve previously said that Lost Vikings and Portal are amazing games because the level designers stop at nothing to exploit every facet of their brilliant mechanics; now, we’re going to say that Another World is more brilliant because it possesses sparkling self-confidence, and uses its mechanics as a tool. It stays cool-headed, elegant, and noble until the end. It isn’t a “game” with an “engine”; it’s an experience, one big, elaborate “puzzle”. It’s a story. It just happens to contain the bones and sinews of an excellent game. As a “piece of art” where the focal theme is the utter dread of being a stranger in a strange land, both the very concept of dying and being reborn (offered the chance to try again) in a videogame and the Looney-Tunes-like snap-to presentation of the post-death rebirth lends itself perfectly to the theme. From the moment this man’s life is upset (again: transported from a laboratory to a bizarre alien world), we know deep down, instinctually, that he will die some day, and so will we. His multiple deaths in our effort to learn the ins and outs of the experience perfectly — and, (crucially,) accidentally — present us with a plausible “ending” at any and every deadly turn. No one can ever pronounce Another World‘s thoughtfulness “pretentious”, because it’s not. It’s unassuming, nonchalant, confident, and cool. In short: yes, it’s French.

Another World is just simply not a game in which to stand still. This is crucial: casual players the world over can aesthetically break any game in three to four seconds by standing still. During its conflict phases, Another World will not let you stand still. It works a miraculous magic on the player, compelling him to always be acting out his role.

The second fight we find ourselves in involves several guards coming from the left side of the screen. Our New Alien Friend pounds away at a computer panel. We immediately recognize our role, without some FPS-like commanding officer barking orders at us: keep the enemies back while our man opens the door. This is as fist-sized and logistical as the fights will get, or will ever need to get, for Another World to prove its point.

Other games saw fit to expand on Another World‘s spear-like, joyfully geometric mechanics in rudimentary, fundamental, or elaborate ways. Interplay’s Blackthorne is perhaps best described as Another World: The Videogame: the level designers picked up the slack and put Another World‘s crisp conflict model into a non-stop, overwhelmingly thorough puzzle-solving blast-a-thon. Years later, Oddworld Inhabitants, perhaps thinking they were being clever, unleashed Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, which they paraded as a brilliant, brand-new thing. Going by the way the developer hyped it to the media, they seriously believed it would be the Next Huge Thing, the next Super Mario. The game was essentially Another World, turned into a “videogame”, expanded, multiplied by eleven, and starring hideous character designs that not even a mother’s mother could love. (Thus we actually happen to like the game a lot.)

Modern games have inherited Another World‘s showmanship and close to none of its subtlety. BioShock pays fetishistic, loving attention to its own world, which it realizes with an awe-inspiring level of beauty: despite being very obviously a videogame, a “simulation”, its visual and sonic confidence exudes subconscious-like understanding of the greatness of Another World. Too bad the “game” part is convoluted and bogged down by a design document that no doubt contained an entire ream-long section labeled “Bullshit”.

Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami has gone on record as considering Another World the absolute best game of all-time, and the primary influence on Resident Evil. Using Another World as a yardstick, we can say that Resident Evil is hilariously unsuccessful — it is laden with red keys, red doors, blue keys, blue doors, and an inventory management system that smacks of the developers being scared that the game wouldn’t have “enough stuff” in it. It goes without saying that Resident Evil possessed the opportunity to be as sophisticated and perfect as Another World; however, through the process of think-tanking and regularly scheduled Monday-morning hung-over brainstorms, through the absolute lack of “common sense” as a job requirement for the level designers (or: the absolute lack of the “level designer” in post-Famicom-era Japanese game development), the game became unnecessarily dirty. When it came time to “improve” the game in sequels, we ended up with only more bullshit. Resident Evil 4, an amazing and beautiful game in its own right, saw Mikami getting conscientious, and leaning closer to the dream of Another World. The “horror movie” genre of videogame had perhaps been too ambitious, Mikami must have noticed. So they went about making an “action movie”. It worked tremendously well, and had it featured only one truly awesome gun and no speaking cut-scenes (seriously: fuck that radio shit), we’d probably love it a whole lot more than we already do.

Goichi Suda, CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture and director of games such as Killer 7, Flower, Sun, and Rain, The Silver Case, and No More Heroes, all titles so close to being masterpieces that they suck royally, is also a repeat professor of his love of Another World. Suda’s love of Another World stems from its absolute unwavering execution of atmospheric mood. You can see plenty of influence in Suda’s titles, if you squint hard enough. The confidence evident in the sound design and visual sense alone earn his games hall-of-fame status. However, the issue of game design has a problem — namely, that there isn’t any. We can certainly see what Suda is driving at with games like No More Heroes: he is imagining a concept and a world, and is keeping the game elements to a minimum so as to allow each boss encounter to be a game in and of itself. The problem is that he hasn’t hit on the right minimum yet.

Fumito Ueda would have to be the only Japanese game designer who “truly” “gets” the Another World aesthetic. He, too, praises Another World above all games. When we interviewed him on the subject of Shadow of the Colossus in 2004, we asked him some questions about Another World, and he replied by very frankly saying that it depresses him when he reads gushing reviews of ICO, which fail to note the copious Another World homages. Ueda is a game designer’s game designer, and he may or may not surpass Another World in the future. For now, however, his parents allow him the keys to the Ferrari, though not the Lamborghini: Ueda had apparently wanted Shadow of the Colossus to not feature any kind of HUD display at all, like Another World, only his higher-ups literally told him that having no HUD would result in the game being “looked-down upon” as “unsophisticated” by critics and players. What kind of fucked-up world do we live in, where (#1) people who have worked at a company for 30 years, being promoted only because they’re not doing anything worthy of being promoted (and laws of societal niceness dictate that we not tell a man implicitly that he’s “not making anything better”) are trusted over people with genuine creativity (#2) someone with a university degree can possibly think that a little icon showing a sword is absolutely necessary in a videogame where the main character stands in the center of the screen and one can clearly see, at all times, that he is holding a sword? It’s like face portraits by dialogue boxes in RPGs: these days, when the characters are so big and expressive, having a face portrait by the dialogue box is freaky and depressing. Either way, Shadow of the Colossus can’t be a perfect game, because there’s no explanation for why the bow has unlimited arrows. What a pity! We will gladly, turgidly anticipate his next works, however, because it’s clear he both loves Another World‘s vibe and appreciates Zelda‘s aims. A bullshit-free, flowing game possessing Zelda‘s attention to detail could be amazing.

Of all the Japanese game designers claiming to love Another World more than any other game, ever, Hideo Kojima would have to be the most hilarious and ironic. He makes the longest, ugliest, most logically convoluted orchestrated fatuosities yet produced by modern man in the name of attempted entertainment; if he actually loves Another World, we have to say that his love has not inspired him, or, rather, his love has inspired him to run like the wind in the opposite direction. Furthermore, we would like to express our condolences to his wife.

 

Okay, maybe we’re being mean. Maybe, just maybe, we can see some Another World in the original Metal Gear Solid; some cinematics can be described as “virtuoso” (these tend to be the silent ones), and the setups for small-scale grunt conflicts express an eerie tightness which insinuates that Kojima, like Chahi, had allowed “play situations” to come along naturally. Likewise, we recall Fumito Ueda describing the production of Ico as “design by subtraction” — they designed puzzle-challenges one at a time, and then arranged them in the best logical order, eliminating the ones that were too easy, too hard, or redundant. Many confrontations in the Metal Gear Solid series feel the same way; it’s just that Kojima seems to adore the raw concept of the videogame on far too many levels. The fans have grown up alongside him, and they find the idea of Shakespeare in Japanese: Starring US Army Special Forces, Giant Robots, and Cyborg Ninjas to be as captivating as he must find it hilarious.

If anything, we arrive at the core of this analysis believing in the cold center of our hearts that the “design by subtraction” that Fumito Ueda speaks of is the only way to make an excellent videogame. We arrive at the conclusion of our list of the Best Games Ever awakened to the fact that Level Design is the most important part of any game, be it an epic cluster of entertainment purposely fashioned to be impenetrable to non-gamers or a sleek and simple rope-like experience. Game designers: think of a single, sharp, spear-like mechanic, stick with it, set it in stone, and then make awesome levels. If there’s a mood you want to go for, keep it in mind. In short: be cool, and you too can make a masterpiece. Even if your single mechanic is amazing, it doesn’t mean anything without great levels. However, even a bare-bones mechanic (like, say, “running and jumping”) can make for spectacular entertainment if the levels are great (Super Mario Bros. 3).

No one loves on Another World enough, these days. Five furious minutes of internet research have yielded us the information that no major gaming news / review site has ever put Another World on its list of the best games ever — not even at #100. These are lists that have fucking Hogan’s Alley or Kingdom Hearts on them, for God’s sake.

It’s safe to say that some of the right people like this game, however. We can’t exactly prove it, though when we played Call of Duty 4, there were times where we felt like everyone involved in that game must have instinctively gotten the point of Another World: for every moment of commanding officers shouting orders, there is a balancing poetic moment of fine level design; when the game twists the “conventions” of its “genre”, it does so matter-of-factly, without pretention, a post-Kojima kind of anti-bravado.

Gears of War‘s cover mechanic still feels to us more like something out of a 2D platform-action game — and a specific one, at that — than an FPS, which is probably why it works so well in 3D.

Half-Life 2‘s gravity gun is a whole game in and of itself, and the greater part of the game simply radiates with confidence and direction.

And then there’s the issue of Portal: like Another World, it begins disorientingly, and it ends apocalyptically. It tells a story with feet; it lets the player absorb the atmosphere and make of it what he or she will. It’s talky, though never annoying, because it’s also funny (at least to us). No one (even us) can accuse it of being “too linear”, because, like Another World — and unlike Half-Life 2 — your character literally is a prisoner in a restricted world.

Like Another World, Portal has often been criticized as being “too short”.

A game cannot be too short if it’s memorable. Portal‘s sterile atmosphere implants itself in our brains precisely because there exist moments of visual clash; the dialogue implants itself in our brains because it rides a change in theme. And the main reason the game works is because it has a brilliant mechanic: the Portal Gun. Another World is a better game than Portal, mostly, because we say so. Because it’s not glib, and offers no reason for no one not to like it. It is honest, humble, noble, and at the same time hugely artistic and expressive. It tells a story, it presents awesome, unforgettable gunfights, and it lingers in the back of the mind for an eternity. It is the closest videogames have yet come to a great film, and we probably shouldn’t ignore it anymore. Every element that causes critics to jump up and down with joy in modern games existed in a perfect, pure form in Another World. Everyone making games — or writing about them, or playing them — should either play it, play it again, or at least think about it. Because, seriously, though we can’t say with a straight face that we “need” more games like this, once we have a whole bunch more of them, we’ll definitely start wondering what we did without them.

–tim rogers

*Footnote: no, there is no particular reason we didn’t mention Flashback in this review. We thought about going back and adding it to the part re: Abe’s Oddysee, though we hesitated and now can’t remember the exact intended wording. Anyway, Flashback is a very nice game as well. It just tries a tiny bit too hard. We also almost mentioned Beyond Good and Evil because it too was envisioned by a French man, though we figured maybe we shouldn’t bother. That’d be like telling a Japanese person that you like Haruki Murakami and having them reply immediately with “I don’t know, man, I prefer Ryu Murakami.” Seriously, a man’s peers aren’t decided by his last name.

Comments

74 Responses to out of this world

  1. How long did it take you to decide between Another World and Portal?

  2. How does the best literally take up ‘most of the right side of the screen’? It’s just a little larger than Lester.

  3. Well, it’s pretty clear there’s no way for you to get around him, at least.

    I’m not as sold on the game as tim is. I’ve only played it in bits and pieces over the years. I can’t say I have a full picture of what it does, but there are some things that will more or less show you every thing you need to know about them over the course of about five seconds. I believe Another World is one of those things. That’s a strength, of course. Almost everything the game does is a strength, honestly. It has a look at a feel that will remain as perfect in a hundred years as they were in 1991. Only now are we getting games that are actually bothering to merge story, cutscene, gameplay and visual style together in something approaching cohesiveness; Another World did it 17 years ago.

    Though, really, I’m not sure the game is all that fun. It’s 90% trial and error. There is not much to figure out, nor much to really put into practice once it has been figured out. It really is about one step up from Dragon’s Lair. It got that step pretty perfect while nearly everything that attempts to take any extra step or two has a bruise to show for it. But…yeah, I can’t help but think of the game as more than an important footnote. A lesson in craftsmanship. A game of pure intent, but little else. I struggle, though, because Ico–a game a love much more than this one–is essentially a diluted version of Another World. It’s Another World with bigger environments and lots of boxes. Then again, it’s not as trial and error based, the huge environments are breathtaking, and the AI friend is more than…whatever he is in this game. A stick poking you forward? A narrative device?

    I should probably play this game all the way through.

  4. I like how you start your review by referring to the game as ‘Out of this World’ the US title and then part way through you switch to calling the game by its European title ‘Another World’.

    Great review. This is probably, no, it is [i]actually[/i] my favourite website.

  5. Ah yes, Another World – a Game that Dared to Shut the Fuck Up.

    Totally compelled as I must totally be now to have another crack at the thing (cheers for that link, by the by) – expecting to have had a better time with Portal, if only because it’s, well, easier to stay alive and keep things moving, and “worthy” is always less than “worthy and funny”.

    (Which is mean, in that there’s strong comic timing in AW’s death sequences, at least… that slug and its savagely singular talon…)

    (Additionally, AW’s basically better on my eye.)

    Expect to think also of Knytt Stories (personal GOTY ’07), another project relatively content to give itself and its punters more room to breath than most. Even if the (exquisite) soundtrack does strongarm the mood somewhat, and most chapters are satisfied to be transparently Metroidvaniac.

  6. I decided to wait until the end of the feature to post this, and I have been eagerly waiting for the moment. I have been waiting more and more eagerly as I read on as a matter of fact.

    Actionbutton.net is the Best Writing on Games I Have Ever Read. I’m clearly no expert and only a novice in the craft, but it feels as though Actionbutton.net has a living yet crystalline view of the entire history of gaming, and that view is instantly translatable into text. Just the perspectives on your given views are far and away greater in depth and meaning than the words written anywhere else. There are some clear signposts for your ideas; SMB, Portal etc, but you never fail to take us out the game you are reviewing to help us understand how other games helped to create it or helped to harm it by comparison.

    I also agree with your use of the term “Manifesto”. You are certainly after a particular type of game, and these are great games, but it is only one view. Rather than rest on a blithe assumption that you are the end all and be all in judging video games (as all other review sites tend to do, without any intention or baseline for their views), you give us this list to let us know where your ideas come from. This site and this “25 best” feature you’ve put here represents some of the best time I’ve ever spent avoiding my work.

  7. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this game (as Out of this World) on a lot of different “top whatever” lists.

  8. So I’m seeing it like this:

    SMB3: Best game with a HUD ever

    Another World: Best game without a HUD ever

    While this choice certainly isn’t my personal FAVORITE game of all time, it probably is damn well the BEST-DESIGNED game ever, and thusly, I am in complete agreement of this decision. Splendid job guys, this is likely the best Top (INSERT NUMBER HERE) list of videogames on the internet that there will ever be.

  9. This website did not make sense to me until I read this review. Now I see that it is brilliant and important.

  10. This is another fake! I’m still holding out for Final Fantasy 7!

    Actually, I think this is my favorite review on the site so far. The cornerstone of Chahi’s game design philosophy is just to make a game. It’s not that he consciously decides not to pack it with retarded horseshit, it’s that the thought probably never even occurred to him.

  11. i guess i’ll have to play this sometime and see where you’re coming from

  12. The quality of the writing on this site has gone up tremendously in recent months! I’ll echo game-SAGA and say how much I appreciate the bits of relevant game design/cultural lore that you bring to the table.

    I’ve noticed that several of these tim rogers reviews imagine the auteur having a sudden flash of insight – while mowing the lawn or whacking off in the shower or engaging in some similarly mundane and unrelated activity – that becomes the soul of their game. Does this come from an assumption that brilliance necessarily follows from epiphany (rather than, say, a decision to deliberately explore a particular design space and see what interesting stuff comes out), or from personal experience, or what? The imaginary anecdotes are funny; I’m just wondering where they come from.

    (Incidentally, there was a piece in a recent New Yorker called “The Eureka Hunt” that drops some science on the phenomenon of the epiphany.)

  13. Yeah I don’t think you can literally brainstorm a brilliant concept into existence from scratch. Good ideas just occur by watching the day’s events, letting your mind wander, etc.

    Suda51 says he comes up with all his ideas while taking a dump (or in the shower), Stephen King usually comes up with them in the shower (or while taking a dump). These companies that want to engineer and manufacturer good ideas rather than wait for them, like artists and entertainers are actually forced to do, should pay their designers to take a dump in the shower.

  14. i know that every good idea i’ve ever had involved a dump and a shower. sometimes both!

  15. you know, in korea, bathrooms are (huge and) waterproofed, with a toilet in the middle of the floor and a showerhead on the wall, so you literally can dump in the shower. (without objectively becoming a social deviant in the process.)

    at any rate, yes: i believe very strongly that brainstorming and/or any kind of creativity at all cannot be scheduled.

    internisus:

    is that real sincerity or fake sincerity?

    this is a genuinely sincere question.

    the internet is tough riding!

  16. What’s the best format to play this on?
    And i’m echoing the praise for Tim (and the other contributors’) recent writing. Its alot more focused lately and has changed the way I think about and play videogames. I realized I SHOULD feel insulted at stuff like ‘farming enemy drops’ in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and why I enjoyed HL2 so much
    Plus he lead me to Spartan, which is AWESOME

  17. Tim: if Selectbutton can be believed, internisus was being very sincere. Why he posted his thoughts on ABDN there instead of here is a mystery. I even informed him of such.

    Tim, what would you do with a Star Wars Galaxies review that was also a World of Warcraft review that was also a critical look at the history of mass-market MMOs?

  18. I would want to read that!
    I would also like to write for the site but I’m not sure I have the right sensability! I enjoyed Okami and I would like to write about why that is so. I think actually sitting down and writing for this site would teach me much about games
    The best writing on this site reminds me of somebody like Greil Marcus and not just because of the elaborate simlies

  19. Even collaborative stuff just kind of occurs, though I think that, when you have a couple of people who were basically destined to collaborate together, like, I dunno, The Coen Brothers, or the dudes who make The Venture Brothers, they are basically brainstorming every single time they meet.

  20. I’m torn on Okami. I enjoy parts of it immensely, but then when it just starts to feel exactly like Zelda, all the stuff that bugs me about Zelda bugs me about Okami.

  21. Also, reinforcing the Don’t Stand Around Like A Jerk thing, after you break the cage, if you just stand there, a tiny UFO will come along out of nowhere and shoot you dead. It’s the only really kind of silly, unexplained thing in the game, but it makes perfect sense. Chahi doesn’t want you farting around when your alien buddy is facing enemy fire.

  22. Tlon: The page I link in the final paragraph will lead you to the lovingly updated 15th-anniversary edition on the game’s official website. It’s for Windows XP, it’s cheap, and it’s gorgeous. I would recommend that version.

  23. now that i’ve played it, i think i can get behind this review! i don’t think it can be compared to portal at all, since portal is hateful in almost every way due to its attempts to appeal to the “hip” “youth market” and its only saving grace is the videogame that comes with it. another world doesn’t need saving!

  24. Thanks Tim… i wasn’t sure if that was the best version. I’ll download it once my computer is fixed
    Okami is a weird one, but i think it needs to be reviewed here. I think all of Clover’s games need to be reviewed here, actually. Okami is ‘games as art’ in a world where art just means ‘pretty pictures’, basically. Viewtiful Joe is a B+ game from a world that never abandomed side-scrollers. I haven’t played God Hand

  25. Tim: as Cuba pointed out, and as you’ve likely seen for yourself by now, I was indeed being sincere. I truly did not understand what this website was supposed to be doing until now. I thought it was a joke most of the time. There are games that I like and others that I thought most everyone basically liked, and both have been treated here with what had always seemed a simply absurd brand of hostility. There are other “Manifesto” reviews that I need to catch up on, but with this one I finally see that you have been chiseling away at a very specific school of critical thought. Hell, it doesn’t have to just be about videogames; the attitude represented by ABDN can be applied to any work in any medium.

    You know, you’re at your best when you give those play-by-play narratives of what the player is doing in the game along with analysis. I always want those to just go on and on and cover the entire game. That might be true of game writing in general; I feel the same way about those descriptive and analytical parts of The Troops’s HL2/SMB article. But anyway, that was definitely my favorite part. What really made things click, however, was when you applied the same line of thought to other designers–especially Ueda. There was a moment when I couldn’t believe that I had never thought of Another World and Ico in the same breath, and then immediately after I realized that I never would have tried since they are so disparate. This is what is so difficult about think on games; the substance is so much more intangible than that of other media, and it takes a lot of deliberate effort to hold it in mind.

    And just in case not enough people have said it yet, the wealth of historical, cultural, and personal knowledge you incorporate with such apparent ease into your treatments, Tim, is vital. The central philosophy itself is simple, almost commonsense; what self-respecting online folk writing among other folk about videogames is unaware of a need to trim the fat and design around a simple, core mechanic or idea? But the execution of which you are capable illuminates diverse applications of that critical thought where variances among genre and form previously created dim confusion. You still need to provide a succinct statement, but you are beginning to give us something that we can work with. I think that it is important. I do wish you would take yourself more seriously.

    So yeah, I have some reading to do, both old and new. I mentioned on SB that I am not entirely convinced by this ABDN idea now that I understand it. I am worried that it is limiting, that there are other valid and differing perspectives, and that some games I have enjoyed and some games I would enjoy in the future could not be created if made to this spec. My first step I think will be to read the recent MGS3 review, since the mechanics of that game are by no means simple and since I find its gameplay quite gratifying.

    Personally, I also hope that the small epiphany I’ve taken from this review will inspire me to develop a sense of identity in my own thinking so that I can motivate myself to finally get writing. Yeah, I know–”just stop your premeditating and write already”–but I’m just saying. Anyway, thanks for writing this. I actually feel very appreciative.

  26. Just registered to say thanks Tim and crew. ABDN is why god invented the internet.

    (and Tim, that there is real sincerity, not fake sincerity!)

    “Review” I guess is not really the right word for what ABDN does to games. I think “analysis” is probably a better word, because it captures some at least of the truth-seeking that seems to drive (nearly) every word published here.

    Bravo.

  27. internisus:

    i posted this on the thread over on the forum, and i will post it again here before addressing further points:

    Finally the real discussion can begin! Yay!

    I am going to put a link to the Action Button Dot Net Manifesto in the sidebar of the main page, so that it is always linkable. Maybe revise the opening paragraphs of our mission statement.

    To be 100% honest, me and Brendan played through Out of This World while about 75% drunk and 23% wasted one night in early 2007, and we were like, Duuuuude this is the best game evvvvvvvvvvvvvvver mannnnnnn. And eventually we were like, why don’t we make a big list on Action Button and out Out of this World on the top, dudddddde.

    I wrote a bunch of reviews for games that I figured would be on the list, over the course of a year.

    Then, MGS4 came out and I played it and groaned so hard the propeller was torn off an airplane twenty thousand feet above my apartment. I wrote a review of MGS4 and then decided to complete the list.

    I foreshadowed OotW’s “best game ever” status in my Bioshock review. I think I said everything that I can possibly say between those two reviews. If Bioshock had been a lot more like OotW, it would have been an amazing game.

    My other (perhaps primary) inspiration for listing OotW as #1 is that, lately, I’ve been working at a game developer, trying to design a game, and once a week I have to sit in silecne and listen to peoples’ ideas for cluttering the fuck out of the game.

    For example, mini maps. What the fuck is up with mini maps? Mini maps are a cancer.

    If your game has a mini map, (caution: extreme strawman ahead) that’s dead solid proof that the mere act of walking in your game is not constantly entertaining.

    Super Mario Bros. didn’t have a mini-map. Why not? Because you know where you’re going: to the right.

    Some say that the world hasn’t adapted to 3D yet, and I call bullshit on this. We don’t have mini maps in real life (ignoring cell phone GPS for now); we navigate by landmarks. Landmarks ingrain themselves in our midterm memories because of the impact of their simply existing in the real world.

    (In Tokyo, we walk a lot. A Lot. So this rings super-true for me. Maybe not for you car-lifers.)

    Super Mario 64 didn’t have a mini map.

    Portal doesn’t have mini maps.

    Super Mario 64 doesn’t need mini maps because every stage is built around a striking central landmark. (Banjo-Kazooie picked up on this, only made the landmarks baser, things like ocean liners with distinct port and stern sections.)

    The landmarks in SM64 tend to be cutely abstract: in both Bob-Omb Battlefield and the second stage, the “landmark” is vaguely
    the “idea” that the structure whose shadow you stand in has a summit. It’s less a case of climbing Mt. Everest “because it’s there” and more a case of climbing the mountain because it is there and because someone (the game desginer) has plopped you down in its shadow. SM64 doesn’t weasel around with us, either. It doesn’t tell us or even show us that we have to climb the mountain (most of the time); we just do it.

    No matter how abstract and obstacle-course-like the various facets of the fortress or mountain might be, we never lose sight of our goal. We know we have to find a way to go up. Sometimes, like the Beastie Boys said, you got to get up to get down, and sometimes, like the Beastie Boys didn’t say, you got to get down to get up. Either way, we always know when we’re not moving in the right direction, based on shimmering contextual clues: there’s a coin! Clearly, if we’d so much as seen that coin out of the corner of our left eye prior to walking by this location, we’d have picked it up! That must be the way to go.

    The sad thing is that modern game design seems to have picked up on “coins” for their pathology alone: games need things to collect because without things to collect there are no things to collect.

    This is why Portal is such a revelation, whether the cake jokes make you lol or what. Portal puts you in chambers, and the exits are always clearly marked. Getting there isn’t just half the fun — it’s all of the fun.

    Pac-Man, conversely, is a game where you don’t go anywhere. It all takes place on one screen. This is good!

    Every game that scrolls or zooms or changes the wallpaper is a potential criminal with regard to common sense and level design. If we’re moving, why are we moving? If we’re going somewhere, where are we going?

    OotW’s end goal is an “idea”: survival. The destination is always “where it’s not dangerous”. That’s amazing.

    A 3D game could definitely do this. A 3D game with vigorously high production values could do it as well.

    Instead of a mini-map, why not have monolithic landmarks on the horizon, with twinkling lights? We’re navigate through a labyrinthine forest; when we want to know if we’ve grown closer or farther from our goal, we need only look in the sky.

    These are the kinds of fat-trimmings that need being done.

    Meanwhile, yes, as internisus said in the post above this one, OotW is “not really fun“. This sentiment — which is accurate and fair — has been, more often than not, interpreted by the game designer collective as “any game like OotW can not be fun”. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

    If “battles” and “puzzles” are the same thing, if the goal is always clear on the horizon, if the ambiance exuded contributes to or even takes the place of a “story” or “plot”, we could have a straightforward, simple game which is also monumentally graphically and sonically impactful.

    (The “landmark on the horizon” thing is gleaned mostly from Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and Septentrion, games about escaping from a location. In BoF, you’re deep underground, headed for the surface. In Septentrion, you have an hour to get off a sinking ship.)

    This is what I believe! The Future of Videogames as “Entertainment” lies somewhere between the amazingly satisfying combat of Gears of War, the rock-hard core of Pac-Man, the presentation of Out of this World, and the constant sense of purpose of Portal and Lost Vikings.

    Wrangle all these things together, and you could have a hell of a game.

    basically, the idea of writing all these reviews was so i could have something to point at and say “yeah, all of these games have elements of the ideal game”. each game on this list can learn something from all of the others.

    if gears of war had truly inspired art design and no dialog, it’d be the absolute perfect game by my standards. maybe.

    i really think, for the meantime, the one game that We The Game Designers of the world have to revisit is Septentrion / SOS.

    also, the rule i laid out in the first line of my portal review holds true: a truly great game should allow the player to do one conceptually pure and fantastic thing that they couldn’t do in real life. they should make you see something i think very deeply that you wish you could do that in real life.

    the bionic grappling hook in bionic commando, for example (although the real world isn’t quite put together in the right way to make the most use out of it).

    Tlon:

    You know what? Maybe I should review Okami. I played enough of it to think that there might be something worth examining in there. I could always get back into it.

    Maybe I’ll do that this weekend. There’s another typhoon coming, etc.

  28. Okami isn’t worthwhile to write. Its flaws are glaringly obvious. It’s just like the modern Zeldas. What’s the point of explaining that in detail when we all know it already?

    Tim that whole thing, that “these 25 games each have characteristics that, if combined, would yield the great ABDN game,” it’s way too complicated and long and specific to be a statement.

    Also that idea about every game should have a core mechanic that is immediately fascinating that you can’t do in normal life, I understand where you are coming from with that, but it’s completely unreasonable. How many novel core mechanics do you think there could ever be for games to come up with?

    …actually, scrolling through and looking at abdn reviewed game titles, it sort of does feel like they all do that.

  29. I think they can basically keep coming up with new mechanics forever, really, even if they’re essentially repackages of other mechanics. Like the bionic commando arm, that could feel like a whole new concept if applied to a racing game.

  30. Wow, this review was fantastic! I’m personally a huge fan of the Oddworld games, and I’d always heard that the gameplay was derived from Prince of Persia and Out of this World. And yeah, I’d heard that it was really great, but… Idunno. I always just kinda shrugged and said “well, I’ve played Oddworld and Prince of Persia.” No one really ever explained the game very much to me beyond “the graphics are beautiful.” For example, I did not know that you had a gun. Oddworld + Gun immediately sounds like a winning formula, especially with the mechanics you described. I definitely need to play this game now; I’ve no excuse not to.

    Question: does the XP version work well on Vista?

  31. “Okami isn’t worthwhile to write. Its flaws are glaringly obvious. It’s just like the modern Zeldas. What’s the point of explaining that in detail when we all know it already?”

    Because I played it for 60 hours, died once (i am not a Hardcore Gamer), enjoyed it and still felt kinda empty
    Because the other games developed by Clover are loved by the ABDN community. I haven’t played God Hand but it seems to be the reverse of Okami – pure difficulty, silly context
    Because Okami makes the act of running across the overworld FUN
    Because Okami is the best Nintendo DS game that isn’t on the DS
    Because when we discuss the idea of ‘games as art’ i think its worthwhile to discuss a game that my mom (who paints boring still lifes of fruit bowls) would recognize as ‘art’
    Because it would allow Tim to develop the ‘landmark’ theory. There’s landmark which is in the game’s equivlent of Hyrule field that is important throughout the game, though you don’t discover its purpose until 40 hours in

    Mini-maps… i get lost in games easily, but after playing San Andreas for a bit i began to get away from my reliance on the map. I felt a curious sense of comfort when i got to CJ’s ‘hood’ – like ‘this is where i live. this little street is where my family is, and where i’m safe’. It shows a great commitment to design

  32. Also: most of these games are primarily single-player games. Would a list of primarily multiplayer games be different?
    Also: Half-Life 2. From the start of the game you know you’ll end up at the tower you finish the game at

  33. to be completely honest, i never even made the connection between okami and the latest zeldas, and i’m not entirely convinced by it, though i hear it a lot. i think if it were reviewed here the greatest criticism would be the mountains of TEXT, and there would be at least one reference to that part in super mario galaxy with the rabbit and the star chips and the camera panning.

    the visuals and sound are pretty unassailable, but okami is neither a painting nor a concert, so you can’t skid by on praising those unless you work for one of those games magazines.

    tlon write a review of okami and put it on the internet somewhere, please

  34. Okami is worth reviewing for the sheer emptiness. It’s beautiful, it has lovable characters, it’s well designed, but it feels like a game you already play too much anyways. That it’s about 1000000 hours long doesn’t help, either. You either treat it like a part time job or you don’t play it at all.

    Okami makes me feel like I’m using a cold as an excuse to play video games while everyone around me is cleaning the house.

  35. “Okami makes me feel like I’m using a cold as an excuse to play video games while everyone around me is cleaning the house.”

    Yeah… i think i did play it when i was sick. Or depressed. I bought a patch of ‘art’ games – Okami, Psychonauts, Killer7, Shadow of the Colussus- and Okami is the only one that didn’t challenge me in any way. It was relaxing. It was like warm tea or Belle & Sebastian’s soundtrack for Storytelling (the instrumental tracks)
    I haven’t played the newer Zeldas
    The first 3rd of Okami is a great little game with nice flow and an epic ending. Eventually I finished it just for the sake of finishing it
    I’m sure the combat mechanics were fun – it was designed by the guy who did Viewtiful Joe and Devil May Cry – but the game was too easy to make me use them much

  36. Yeah, for me it was a weird mix of relaxation and guilt. The game is so easy, and has an ending of sorts a third of the way through, dialog you want to skip, plus the Zelda like familiarity, the last two thirds wind up feeling like a game you’ve already beaten a million times.

    I think I would’ve preferred all the best stuff just being packed into the first twenty to forty hours. I honestly never even beat it. I got close to the end and then started adding up numbers in my head. If I play my cards right, I’ll live another seventy years, seventy times three hundred and sixty five times twenty four, I’ve only got about half a million hours left, I don’t know that I want to keep playing this.

    By contrast, Out of this World reminds you that you are going to die, and then proceeds to not make you feel guilty about playing video games.

  37. I’d compare what I played of Twilight Princess to that scene in Full Metal Jacket, eating a donut while the rest of the recruits do push-ups, as punishment for me sneaking in a donut.

  38. “Yeah, for me it was a weird mix of relaxation and guilt. The game is so easy, and has an ending of sorts a third of the way through, dialog you want to skip, plus the Zelda like familiarity, the last two thirds wind up feeling like a game you’ve already beaten a million times.”
    You do THE SAME BOSS FIGHT 3 or 4 times

    I think it was actually the perfect relaxation game. My brain is usually going a mile a minute and playing Okami was like settling into a warm blanket. Everything was kinda familiar and pleasent, with even combat reduced to cute little busywork. Its the only game I’ve fallen asleep playing (DS games excepted)

  39. I played the old game for a short while on a Windows Me computer, and despite the fact that it didn’t work with my keyboard (trying to jump during a run = *BEEEP*), I thoroughly enjoyed the first minute and a half of the game in a similar way to the “escape” sequences in the PS1 Oddworld games (naturally).

    I totally need to check out this “HD” XP version

  40. incidentally, thinking about that just now and the whole “rope” thing made me remember the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Infocom game. Under adventure game conventions of “get all” and “n”, I kind of get the feeling that HHGTTG in particular comes close to that rope form, even if its ending is kind of weak.

    And hey, the Return Key is a pretty fantastic Action Button.

  41. I’m really sad that no mention was made of Heart of Darkness, which I played first, but then was later brought to my attention to be inspired by Out of This World, a realization that only hit me once a friend had me play the game on a whim. For the record, it was also quite a bit gruesome, and, from what I understand, a bit of a milestone amongst vore enthusiasts.

  42. heart of the alien, you mean?

    I always wanted to play that game. Always wondered how it was.

  43. nope.. Heart of Darkness is another French game, this time about a kid in a strange alien world. i have a copy from a thrift store i keep meaning to play. i played the demo ages ago… kid got torn apart by demons pretty quickly

  44. God I hate vore enthusiasts. I can’t really think of a more retarded and life hating fetish, all jerking off to Tremors the sand monster scene in Star Wars.

  45. I love you guys here at Actionbutton.net. I completely forgot this game existed. I never got a chance to play it, but I remember it as that game that “was by the guy that did Flashback”. I loved Flashback a lot. I dunno if I managed to finish it (it was a rental, never saw a retail copy), but I loved every moment.

    Now that I have access to the internets I guess I have no excuse. Thank you.

  46. I think it does too, checking out the wiki it seems that Chahi had nothing to do with Flashback. I guess the similarities are only skin deep. Still, excited to check it out after all these years and then finally get my hands on Another World.

  47. truth be told, that a group of people would get together and create an abstract, weighted list of games; that they would do so, one pressumes, out of some belief that such lists, and the games in such lists, are inherently important… well, I just have very little interest in that sort of thing.

    even so, i figured i could at least read the review for what was selected as number one.

    but now, presented with the information that a man would play this game drunk one day, be moved enough to come up with the idea of building a list of the twenty-five all-time best games for no other reason then to place this game at the top, and then actually fucking did it… well, that’s something. it makes me want to actually skim through some of the other reviews in this list.

    **re:footnote: i like that the wikipedia page for Ryu Murakami helpfully sets the record straight: “He is not related to Haruki Murakami, Maki Murakami or Takashi Murakami”. i assume they mean both artistically and genealogically.

  48. Mad: I don’t think the games in the list are even meant to be significant, just fun. Look at Lost Vikings, there are loads more games that have made a bigger splash in the industry than that. Spartan essentially flopped, so you won’t see it on an “important” games list. But then, what are “important” games? The author of the article usually decides that for you.

    “Fun” is a lot less subjective than “important”.

  49. demaar: yeah, the term abstract refers to the type of words that need to be bottled and preserved in quotes. formaldehyde lists made for formaldehyde brains implies an “importance” one need not actively seek out. they’ll get you when your dead, after all.

    i’ll take a list that was birthed as a belch in the wind over that any day; some aldehydes are just more “fun” then others.

  50. sp: “your”. and one wonders how the japanese can mix up L and R even in their writing…

  51. As far as great games that use the AW framework, but seem to get no love from the game-reviewing press… what about Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth?

    I don’t know if this game is the AW of it’s generation, but it does much of what Bioshock, RE4, and others set out to do, but does it better. No HUD, no ridiculous videogame videogame-i-ness (ammo vending machines underwater, say what?), and a whole lot of awesome.

    If AW is Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of ARC, then CoC:DCotE is Casabalanca– the unintentional masterpiece made by a studio.

    P.S. Does HTML work here? If not, sorry for the HTML-ese in this comment.

  52. I doubt anyone looks at this anymore but does anyone know where I can find this for mac? Apparently a mac version exists somewhere out there, but I can’t find a copy.

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  55. Chahi’s also got the Populace-like terrain-editing game “From Dust” coming sometime soon.

  56. This was released for iPhone two days ago, and it’s even got a pretty darn good control scheme. There is now no excuse to not have played this game if you live within the civilized world.

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