Back in the early 90’s I remember playing “Out of this World” (aka Another World) on my parents full color Mac IIci. Originally released for the Amiga and later ported to other platforms including the SNES, I remember it being remarkably cinematic, and also frustratingly hard. I didn’t actually finish it at the time, but this was long before fast internet with video walkthroughs. I was quite thrilled to discover that it had just be re relased for iOS, and recently played through it on my iPad.
The concept of this game is very linear. After being transported to another world via freak lighting strike to your particle accelerator, you must guide your character home.
You basically go til you die a very dramatic death of some sort, then restart and try try again. You die a lot. You eventually trial and error your way through the entire game, and when you do manage to figure out the next challenge, you get a fleeting sense of mastery and safety only to have it shattered by the next unforseen turn of events that kils you, usually in a delightful and graphic manner. One of the concepts pioneered by this game was the use of cutscenes to create cinematic moments within the game, and they are used often for each of the unique deaths your character suffers.
Here is a full long play of the original Amiga version, it is at least worth watching the intro:
Another World broke all sorts of new ground when it first came out, and coined a new genre, the “Cinematic Platformer”. The entire game was mainly created by Eric Chiahi, who did all programming, design, and art. The music was done by Jean-François Freitas. It is an exceptional feat to create something so complex with a team of just 2 people, and this making of video shows some fascinating behind the scenes peeks at the development process:
The original Prince of Persia started the theme with remarkably realistic climbing and jumping animations and a slower more deliberate pace of play (compared to the standard fare frantic-paced platformers of the day like Mario and Donkey Kong) Flashback, Blackthorne, Oddworld and Limbo continued the legacy and I personally would like to see a return to the hand crafted feel of simpler games like these.
So much story telling in games can be created through the mechanics alone, something that often goes missing in many modern games.