Tag Archives: Dos games

Reposted Review: Another World


(Originally posted on the inactive Retro Retreat.)

Not as iconic as Pac-Man or Space Invaders. But equally important.

Not the first cinematic adventure game, but one of the best.

PROS: Storytelling. Atmosphere. Gameplay.

CONS: Once you beat it, replays make for a short game.

DID YOU KNOW?: Interplay made an unofficial sequel for the Sega CD.

My first experience with Another World was on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I was in my teens, and for my birthday one summer I was graced with a copy as a gift. Of course, I knew the game as Out of this world. The box art was kind of odd. It became even odder seeing the original European Amiga cover years later, when I would discover some of the history behind the game.

Another World or Out of this world (Depending on which title you prefer) started life as an Amiga game. Designed by Eric Chahi, the game would go on to be hugely popular throughout Europe, and become a cult favorite globally. It’s a unique game in terms of it’s combination of stylized Virtual Reality visuals, and puzzle platforming. It is one of the few video games that can tell an engrossing story using almost no dialogue whatsoever. It’s also a very interesting game in it’s software technology. Chahi actually coded his own 3D graphics engine, and used rotoscoping techniques. (For any of you budding programmers out there, pick the anniversary version up off of Steam or GoG. The 20 minute video on it’s creation is really great stuff.)  Rotoscoping had been done in Kareteka, and some of the platforming style had been seen in Impossible Mission. But Another World uses these elements in it’s own atmospheric way.

The game starts out with an opening cinematic. Like a lot of early 3D, and 2.5D games you’ll notice models aren’t the super textured, bump mapped, action figures modern gaming has gotten us accustomed to. Instead, much like the original Star Fox, Hard Drivin’, or Test Drive 3 you will see plain, single colored sides of the shapes that make up the characters. Plus, being a 2D play field you won’t see much in the way of a Z-axis. But this all works in the game’s favor. Unlike most of those other simplistic polygon games, Another World has a certain charm. In fact going completely whiz-bang  would probably hurt the game rather than help.

The low poly models actually complement the art style of the world. This aesthetic creates a world you want to explore, and the things you run into will get an emotional response out of you. Whether it’s the beast you run into early on, or the first time you meet an alien convict. The story of the game is that of Lester Chaykin. A physicist, the game opens with him arriving to his lab in his shiny black Ferrari. After opening a soda, he runs an experiment on his high-tech super computer. While the experiment is running however, a thunderstorm brews outside. When a lighting bolt hits the lab, a surge of electricity hits the equipment, and explodes. This explosion rips a hole in the space-time continuum.

Arriving on a mysterious world you now have to try to find your way around, and hopefully a way home. Another World sets up every stage in a similar way to vintage Atari 2600 games like Pitfall! but with a little less openness. Each area is a single screen. But on each screen you must figure out what to do next. Stay in the water of the first screen for instance, and Lester will be pulled to his doom by alien seaweed. There are a LOT of fatality cinemas in Another World. Every screw up will result in one, and force you back to a checkpoint. Much  of the game is very puzzle oriented. Even much of the combat is when it arises.  It never tells you how to solve the puzzles, or how to progress. There is almost zero dialogue, and the little there is tells you nothing as it comes from aliens you won’t understand. Along the way you do meet a sympathizer who tries to help you throughout the game. But don’t worry about him becoming a boring escort mission. He mostly leaves you to your own devices, and when he does become important it’s to move the story along.

Even though it is a simple story, it’s a very well told one. You will actually care about the strange world you are on, it’s inhabitants, and even the musclebound alien trying to help you. It’s not a very long game once you figure out all of the puzzles, and decide to revisit it. But the first time you play it you will spend days on it without a walk through as I did way back in the day on my Super NES. Movement is done with a D-Pad, or arrow keys if you’re on a keyboard. There are also two buttons. One for jumping, and one for action. Action can be anything from pushing levers, to firing a gun. In one chapter you will find a gun which is about the only real weapon in the game.  The gun has some versatility. Firing it will shoot a small laser beam to disintegrate enemies. There are also two charges. Holding it until a small charge appears will form a shield. Shields are important against enemies who have weaponry. A full charge however will blast a super beam that not only kills enemies, but also destroys certain scenery, as well as enemy shields. You can’t waste shots either because eventually the gun will stop firing, and you will be pretty screwed. It enhances the gameplay because even the gun becomes an element in some of the puzzles you need to solve to progress.

There are a few minor differences between versions. The original Amiga version’s blood was reduced on the SNES. The SNES also had a minor alteration in one scene toward the end I won’t spoil here. Interplay also wanted to change the music around when it published the game on other platforms. Chahi fought the company on this, and eventually the development studio he was contracted with, Delphine Software was able to work out an agreement with Interplay. As such the original scores are the same on every version except for some dynamic music that was added to the Super NES. The SNES, and Genesis also had text crawls of Lester’s journal entries added to the introduction sequences. The port to the 3DO also changed background graphics around which while well made, don’t have the feeling the simplified visuals of the other versions behind them. The one major change the ports brought to the table is one added puzzle section near the end of the game. It actually does enhance the experience, and makes the game longer without feeling like padding. In fact, the 15th anniversary remake, and the recent 20th anniversary re-release left this addition intact. Although the dynamic music introduced in the Super NES version does not appear in these reissues.

Another World may be over two decades old now but it remains a cult classic for a reason. It’s one of the most fun cinematic games ever made. It’s presentation holds up very well, and it inspired many of the story driven games you have likely played over the years since it’s release. If you missed it back in the day, or were too young to have played it definitely check it out. Collectors can find the Super NES or Genesis versions fairly cheap these days. The 3D0, MS-DOS, Atari ST, and Apple versions are higher. The most expensive version of course, is the original Amiga game. As of this writing it’s getting about $150 on online auctions.

If you want to simply experience it, or re-experience it pick up the recent 20th anniversary package on Steam or GoG. Eventually Eric Chahi regained the property from Interplay. This allowed him to do a 15th anniversary edition. So everything in that version is here. It’s a mere $10. It gives you the game with the option for newer high-resolution backgrounds you can turn on or off on the fly. A really nice 20 minute inside look at the game’s creation with it’s creator.  It also gives you the original game’s music tracks (Not the ones added to the Super NES), and you get some scans of the development artwork, and documentation. Plus, you can easily play it with a gamepad if you cringe at the thought of playing on the keyboard. Buying this on Steam also includes some achievements for those who simply need them in their games.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Reposted Review: Rise Of The Triad

Rise Of The Triad

August 15th, 2012 TheDeviot


(Originally posted on Blistered Thumbs forums, then Retro Retreat)

Released as I was escaping High school through graduation, Rise Of The Triad (Or ROTT as it would be referenced for short) was one of the coolest under the radar releases of all time.

PROS: Wildly inventive weapons, cool environments, fast multiplayer, awesome chiptunes.

CONS: Dated engine, came out a little too late, buggy at times.

WTF?: The disembodied head of Apogee bigwig Scott Miller

Rise Of The Triad was one of the last First Person Shooters to be released before fully polygonal 3D engines would take shape. It ran on a heavily tweaked, and modified Wolfenstein 3D engine. In fact it’s legend is that it was born out of a rejected Wolfenstein 3D sequel. The engine tweaks allowed for things not seen until Duke Nukem 3D, and Shadow Warrior would come into being. Even years later, Quake III Arena would borrow one of it’s greatest elements.

The additions allowed ROTT to have shattering glass, destructible sprites, skyboxes, and sector tag switches allowing for new ways for the push wall concept to work. Back when Wolf 3D was king of the shooters, players would jam on the spacebar across entire segments of wall hoping to find new areas, secret ammo, secret jewels, or secret exits. ROTT continued this trend, but with sector tagging, players needed to shoot a certain object, step on a certain tile, or reach another benchmark to make certain walls move.


ROTT continued the tradition of keycards too, as it forced exploration of the stages to find the keys to get to other inaccessible areas. It also featured secret levels much like Wolfenstein 3D had. On the subject of levels ROTT featured 32 levels. Some of which can take over an hour for the average player to get through. The game had a handy overhead feature similar to DOOM where pressing TAB would show where the player was standing, and he or she could plot their course. Players also had the option of choosing through four characters, each with their own minor tweaks to health, speed, recovery, and so on.


The game also featured some really over the top, and fun powerups. Some of them necessary to be able to progress further. One of them was a pair of wings. Running over these allowed players to temporarily use the look up, and look down keys to float over obstacles in the map. (More on those in a minute). Other power ups included the bouncing ball mode, (Which forced players to ricochet off of walls), and ‘shrooms mode, (Which made players movement go awry, while echoing any sounds in the environment.). This mode did however highlight any threats or movable objects in the field by making them flash all sorts of colors. There was also a GOD powerup. This was the game’s wisecrack at other games’ invincibility cheat codes of the time. Not only did this power up cause one to be invulnerable to almost any threat in the game until it wore off, it also added a lot of humor.


Your guns were replaced with a giant hand, while an ominous voice yawned loudly into a microphone, and subsequently through your speakers. Running into a room full of enemies, players could press fire, and the hand would cast an electrical orb that would mow through all of them, and vaporize them in the process. Finally, there was DOG mode (A play on GOD as it’s the spelling of DOG backwards). This mode turned players into a small dog, who could bite people to death, and increased movement speed.

ROTT featured a fun arsenal that mimicked the endlessly grand weapons of other games, but also implemented the idea of only carrying so much at once. The first player slot featured the standard pistol implemented in every shooter of the genres earliest days. Players could pick up a second one to dual wield, and they could find the MP40 upon killing the right guard or through exploring secret areas. These ballistic weapons had limitless ammo. This meant you would never have to worry about running off to find more bullets when outnumbered. But the real meat, and potatoes of the game were the rocket launchers. Players could only hold one of these at a time, but there were a lot of fun ones. There was the classic launcher seen in countless games, but from there it expanded to heat seeking rockets, to the drunk rockets that fired them in a haphazard fashion. Probably the most amazing of these was the flamewall. Firing one of these created an unavoidable wall of fire that turned any unfortunate enough to be in it’s path into a skeleton which would fall apart into dust shortly thereafter.


In addition to that gory scenario, many launchers caused enemies to gib (From the word giblets). Gibbing left piles of gory guts strewn throughout the field. Not too many games outside of Quake kept that feature going, but it was very popular in the 90′s, and something ROTT did really well. Late in the game some mystical weapons showed up including the hilarious excalibat (An enchanted Louisville Slugger baseball bat), and a wand that fired GOD bolts.

Enemies not only included hordes of Nazi soldiers, crazed cult members, and cult clergy but stage hazards as well. Whereas DOOM would feature acid pits, and lava floors, ROTT included fire walls that moved, spikes coming up from floors, and down from ceilings. It featured flamethrowers protruding from floors. There were fire cannons on walls. There were moving columns of blades. ROTT also had floating discs players could use to get to inaccessible areas, or bounce pads to nab floating coins. Collecting enough of these would net extra lives. It also brought along the ability to fall out of a map and die, as some parts of some levels had ledges that ended near areas without walls.
Texture work, and features aside, one of the greatest things about ROTT has to be the music. Most of the chiptunes in Rise Of The Triad are catchy, capturing the action movie feel of the game. The best of these is easily Going Down The Fast Way.


ROTT also added a pretty comprehensive multiplayer package into the mix. Called Comm-Bat (A play on the fact most games of the time had over the phone multiplayer) ROTT supported the typical deathmatch. But it also had a tag mode, where the tagged player was “It”. A coin collection mode, and even supported a Capture The Flag mode. Players could go in using any of the four main characters, and between the supplied maps, and community maps made by countless fans ROTT was a multiplayer winner. It never reached the numbers of DOOM or Duke 3D or Quake but it did have a small dedicated following.


“So if Rise Of The Triad is the awesome game you’ve been gushing over, why have I never heard of it?” you may be asking yourself. There are several reasons. The first reason is if you’re under the age of 25 you likely wouldn’t have been around during it’s heyday. Rise Of The Triad came out in 1995. But to be fair even older folks didn’t catch on, and again it has to do almost entirely with it’s time of release. DOOM, which had a fresher, more advanced engine had been out for three years. DOOM was also being shopped around for console porting, and it’s sequel was about to hit stores if it hadn’t already. On top of that, Duke Nukem 3D was going to follow in just under a year. Compounding that was that iD had licensed out the DOOM engine. A lot of other great games built on it were coming out. ROTT was simply lost in the shuffle. Even if it hadn’t been, DOOM was rereleased several times over since it launched way back when.


ROTT isn’t a perfect game, and it certainly hasn’t aged as well as other shooters of the 90′s. While map design is pretty extensive, and well made some levels do begin to drag somewhat. People who are new to this antiquated style of 2.5D first person shooter may find themselves tiresome after being used to games made during this, and last decade. Because everything was on a tile based layout, pushing on walls to find hidden keys, shortcuts, and exits may grate for some players.

But don’t let that turn you off from wanting to play it. The fact that ROTT did so much with a dated engine, and managed to be better than some of the Doom clones coming out back then is a testament to just how great it truly was. In fact, there are too few modern first person shooters that still implore players to search out every nook, and cranny of a stage for secrets, items, shortcuts, or even Easter eggs. It’s almost strange how in an age of graphically advanced game engines, and increasing photorealism Rise Of The Triad for all of it’s faults can still manage to feel fresh to anyone tired of today’s hall, and cutscene design.
For anyone curious about the beginnings of a modern genre, looking for goofy fun, or preparing for the recently announced reboot, ROTT is worth a look.

Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 (Try it out!)