Out of This World. (computer adventure game) (Software Review) (Column) (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
The spatters of rain on the wind-screen obscure the view of the small road leading to the door to the underground linear accelerator laboratory. The driver of the car shields his eyes from the explosion of white light as lightning blasts the ground too near the car for comfort. As the man's hearing clears from the roar of thunder, he begins to hear the screech of brakes that bring the sleek blue sports car to a halt near the aboveground entrance.
The entrance opens quickly as the electronic surveillance identifies the would-be intruder as one Professor Lester Chaykin, a brilliant, young, crimson-haired scientist who is returning to complete work on experiment 23. He moves quickly to the desk and fires the particle down the mile-long tube which terminates in the chamber above the desk. As the particle travels down the chamber, lightning strikes and penetrates the tube. The lightning and particle mix and race to the chamber. Immediately upon impact, the chamber, the desk, the man, and some other items disappear from our world, traveling a dimensional rift to appear 20 feet below the surface of a lake in Another World.
Thus begins Eric Chahi's second hit computer game, which was two years in the making. The first, Future Wars, skyrocketed the small, French-owned Delphine Software into international fame in its partnership with Interplay Productions. This new success, Out of This World, was first released in Europe under the title of Another World and has already won nothing but accolades and awards. It's an action-adventure game that requires thought in addition to quick reactions.
As with Future Wars, the most striking thing about Out of This World is its use of cinematic techniques such as zoom, panorama, closeup, and scaling shots. The opening scene is well orchestrated and similar to the beginning of a movie, with all the elements necessary to set the scene and build suspense. The scene where Chaykin arrives on the planet uses multiplane animation of up to six planes, similar to Disney animated films.
There are several levels of action, with the protagonist in the foreground plane, a carnivorous beast tracking the hero in one plane of the background, and even the moon on the farthest plane. Out of This World comes very close to being interactive cinema--quite an accomplishment, considering its 16-color, predominantly blue-, black-, and gray-shaded palette. Chahi is a true artist and an avid movie buff, and his study of the cinematographer's art has resulted in the flawless execution of the beautiful, highly detailed scenes that can only be referred to as art in action.
The animated characters are clear, sharp, and distinct portrayals that seem to be living, breathing creatures. This may be the first time flight simulator--like filled polygons have been used in an action-adventure game. The polygonal graphics do not move to represent the 3-D presentation of a static item but instead are adapted to portray in two dimensions the living bodies of the characters and monsters. By changing the location of the point that defines the lines of the polygons, the characters' movement is uniquely fluid. It's a flowing animation technique, one surprisingly realistic in its representation of the true movement of living tissue.
Out of This World is a combination of action and logical, satisfying puzzles. You move from the point of entry in the world to the point where our hero liberates a world from slavery by his own struggle to be free of bondage. Many of the head-slapping puzzles link one screen to another with the use of logical clues that keep you coming back for more realtime action. One puzzle requires you to observe an alien guard on another level--or, rather, observe his reflection on a metal ball. At a precise moment you must shoot the ball so that it drops on the guard. It takes timing and precision, but it isn't impossible. If you think through most puzzles, you'll eventually gain the satisfaction of completing them.
Another integral part of Out of This World is the effective use of the alien handgun, a combination shield, blaster, and explosive fireball generator. Knowing when and how to both use and recharge this weapon determines your failure or success. You use the gun to outwit the guardians and monsters. The pistol energy shield blocks blaster rays, while fireballs blast through doors, rock walls, and other energy shields.
As in other action-adventure games, such as Gods and Prince of Persia, Out of This World has aspects of both the realtime arcade game and the graphic adventure. These side-scrolling, fast-moving games require you to think on your feet, or at least on the edge of your chair--action and fast reflexes alone are not enough to traverse the labyrinth of screens to the winning cut scenes. Even combat in Out of This World is a blend of puzzle and realtime action.
Out of This World is sprinkled with cut scenes, where the course of the action is taken over by the computer, and you become the observer of a short movielike sequence. These cut scenes add to the game's cinematic quality and increase your involvement in the plot, which is in turn enhanced. The winning cut scene is very satisfying and is of sufficient duration to reward you handsomely for your efforts.
Like any other good role-playing or graphic adventure, Out of This World has a save-game feature. By pressing the C key and inputting one of a series of codes at any point in the game--even for a short time after the main character's death--you can restore the game to one of many corresponding critical points in the plot. The codes are revealed to you after you've successfully traversed these areas of the game. The save and pause features in action adventures make the games more enjoyable, for they alleviate your having to return to the beginning of the game each time you attempt to successfully traverse the game screens.
Music for most versions of the game includes a balanced and entertaining introduction, ending, and score mixed in Delphine's own music studio. Over 140 fully digitized sound effects are used to punctuate the action and keep you involved with the plot. While keyboard or joystick control is supported, the joystick provides better control.
The only black mark I gave to Out of This World, except one for its brevity, is for its arcane, color-coded, symbol-based, codewheel. I had trouble using the codewheel, even after receiving instructions from the folks at Interplay.
What makes Out of This World so spectacular? Its satisfying blend of realtime arcade action, cinematic techniques, logical and workable puzzles, unique application of filled-polygon graphics, excellent use of color, artistic graphics, engaging story, and personality-filled characters. Besides, it's great fun. Many people will play it to completion just to see one more beautiful cut scene.
Out of This World clearly rivals any first-rate film production in its production quality and entertainment value. If you miss this highly acclaimed, award-winning action adventure, you'll never forgive yourself.
Circle Reader Service Number 393