I’ve already covered Flashback on WELCO METOT HENEX TLEVEL, and described how awesome it was. Out of This World was the direct inspiration for that game. This instant classic by developer Eric Chahi broke the mould in so many ways it’s almost impossible to remember them all.
Out of This World is a side-scrolling action-adventure game featuring beautiful, minimalist visuals, rotoscoped character animation, a wonderfully realized world and a super-smooth melding of action and story scenes that created a cinematic experience unlike anything we’d seen before.
The story revolves around Lester Knight Chaykin, a physicist working at his lab late one night. Just as he begins running a critical experiment, the lab is hit by lightning. The resulting explosion leaves a smouldering crater where Lester once sat, transporting him to another world (the original title of the game).
Out of This World is all about trial and error – there are loads of instant deaths waiting for Lester in this strange new world, and you’ll likely experience each and every one. But it somehow never becomes very annoying.
Out of This World is one of those games that appeared on just about every console and computer of the day. The official sequel, Heart of the Alien, appeared on a single console. That’s right, baby, this is a Sega CD exclusive!
During Lester’s adventures in the first game, he befriends a native who comes to his aid at various points in the game. Heart of the Alien focuses on this unnamed cohort (unofficially named “Buddy”). Here you learn of how he ended up in that cell with Lester in the first game and a bit of his subsequent story leading up to the new game.
And that’s where it falls apart. Heart of the Alien was not developed by Eric Chahi nor, it appears, by anyone else who may have had their hands on the original Mega Drive conversion. Where the first game was a pleasure to play with tight controls and fluid movement, Buddy lumbers around bland, boring settings and suffers from horrible input lag and imprecise controls.
The initial excitement of playing the sequel to one of the best games ever made wears off almost immediately. The first section of the game tasks Buddy with escaping a creature exactly like the one Lester runs from in the first screens of the original. Except this time instead of an exciting chase that plays out very naturally, Buddy is required to stop on a dime and execute a vertical leap to an overhanging platform before being eaten. This would be lame enough if the game controlled well, but it’s ten times worse with a game that plays like this one.
And things just get worse from there.
Heart of the Alien is still a worthwhile addition to any Sega CD library if solely for the inclusion of the original classic (complete with beautiful sound makeover), but the headliner here is definitely a dud.