Justin Carpenter
Justin Carpenter   Florida, United States
Greying first-wave gamer fondly remembers the age before blockbuster megagames.
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146 Hours played
A game that sets out to rebottle some of the lightning of Eric Chahi's groundbreaking Another World has some pretty big shoes to fill. There have been attempts to craft another game in its vein, ranging from the attempted direct sequel Heart of the Alien to the famous and well-regarded spiritual successor Flashback, and while many of these games are quite fun, I'd be hard-pressed to call any of them, even Flashback, equals to Chahi's masterpiece. Another World was simply without rival. I just completed it, and I can say with confidence that this game is indeed Another World's most worthy successor to date. This is the game I've been waiting for, and were I Eric Chahi, I'd be quite flattered by it.

Let me begin with a single caveat: this game demands a modern gamepad with dual analog sticks. Certain scenes are demanding enough with one, but nigh-unbeatable with keys, and I haven't found a good way to control some of the later powers acquired in the game without analog sticks. One particular chase sequence, affectionately called "The Nope" by some players...well, let's just say that I *did* complete it before switching to gamepad, and I consider that to be one of my greatest feats of gamer-fu to date. Save yourself the trouble: grab a modern gamepad to play this one.

Even during its "easy" first level, the game's no slouch, and expects you to think on your toes, to put together a large collection of data and refer to it while remaining unseen by various mechanical "eyes," and to solve some downright puzzly problems. This is a new element that The Way brings to the table, something that neither Another World nor Flashback explored much -- both the stealth elements and the puzzle elements add a forced "mental gear change," and I found myself enjoying the regular flips between twitch action and strategic planning quite enjoyable. This would have been easy to get wrong, but The Way, so far, has done a splendid job marrying its alma mater to entirely new territory. The puzzle difficulty is quite demanding, but has never yet felt unfair or even unreasonably taxing. (MABEC will surely earn some choice curse words from some players, but in this reviewer's humble opinion, it was merely demanding, not unreasonable.)

The visual design is quite beautiful. It's not quite as smooth as Another World's flat plane of polygons-under-glass, but I don't find that I mind the shift to painted pixels at all -- they're beautiful, and used to great visual effect, with a great deal of information conveyed in, at times, one or two pixels. The levels scroll, unlike Another World and Flashback, but I don't find that I mind this at all; it helps the player map the space, and the relationships between rooms and areas. The lighting effects are particularly beautiful, and quite subtle to boot. I might have liked to see our protagonist have additional Broderbund-like fluidity of movement, but that might have come about at cost to timing and responsiveness. The Way's controls are very responsive, and when the protagonist missed a jump, I never felt the game was to blame, only my own clumsiness. That impressed me -- the balance of "forgiving" and "demanding" felt just right for a first level, and reminded me a lot of Another World's. This is not an easy game, but it's self-aware, knows this, and difficulty ramps nicely over time.

The autosave feature bookmarks the game at certain milestones on your path, and additionally, keeps a journal of your deliverables, much like a modern RPG, so you can easily check to see what's left undone to proceed. I had worried this might diminish my sense of accomplishment figuring out what the game asked of me, but the game remains minimal in its "instructions" there. The "task list" is just helpful enough, and easy to disregard completely if you prefer to play by memory alone.

I've heard of people beating the game after nine hours of play, but I suspect that's quite aggressive and not typical for a first-time player. It took me nearly twenty-five hours to complete, and that amount of playtime for the price is excellent, much greater than Flashback's, let alone Another World's.

Everything I wanted to see from Another World was there -- the breakneck chases, the deadly and unforgiving alien world, the myriad causes of the protagonist's sudden deaths, the pixel-perfect frustrating jumps and dodges, the haunting, atmospheric yet minimal soundtrack. But so many things I didn't expect were in there, too -- stealth-action elements, Machinarium/The Dig-style heavier puzzles, and a richness and broadness to the world that really made it worth the two-years-past-deadline wait. This game was clearly its creators' prize jewel, and the attention to its faceting and polishing cannot be missed. In that one respect, it's more like Another World than even Flashback -- it is very recognizably a personal magnum opus, an expression of love for a genre rarely visited these days. In that one respect above all others, this is well and truly the game Another World fans have been waiting to play for years.

It's not just "Another World, one more time." It's the modern child of Another World, and it is both aware of its lineage and responsibility to its fans, but also determined to be remembered as more than simply a "cover band" of its alma mater's greatest hits. This is, put simply, everything I wanted The Way to be, and some things I didn't yet realize I wanted from it.

Brilliant. This is the Another World spiritual successor we've been waiting for.

[EDIT: Minor updates acknowledging that I've since completed the game.)
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