If you haven't played Another World in the past few years (or ever), you'd be well served to do so. Right now. Seriously, it's $10 on GoG. Go, I'll wait.
Another World was the latest selection of the Vintage Game Club, a group started by Michael Abbott, David Carlton and Dan Bruno to "demonstrate how a community of gamers can work together to discuss, analyze, and enjoy classic games." It's a great group that has looked at all kinds of titles, from Grim Fandango to Alpha Centauri, from Beyond Good & Evil to Thief.
I had not seen Another World since playing the SNES port with a friend, well over 15 years ago. I still remembered certain moments vaguely (the arena, the steam baths), but I'd forgotten almost the entire experience. And wow, how much I forgot. Another World holds up incredibly well. Not just in a wistful, nostalgic way, but in a genuine, this is still really good way. With far, far less, it is able succeed where games today still struggle.
Aside from a small amount of text during the introduction, there isn't a single line of text or dialog in the entire game. Everything learned about the place you find yourself in is discovered through the environment and the agents in it. The player is explicitly told nothing; they are left to piece together the narrative themselves. It's a subtlety that's still uncommon in games. Often, players are either bludgeoned with excessive backstory and unengaging cutscenes or the pendulum swings too far the other way and we get games that are abstract to the point of meaningless. Another World trusts the player to put together what they want of the narrative and does so basically without ever taking control away. It's bold even today and it was downright revolutionary then.
The other most notable character of Another World is that you die. A lot. You'll die in the first five seconds of the game if you're not paying attention (and it's bloody awesome). Some have classified Another World as difficult, but I'm not sure that's exactly correct. It's certainly not akin to other punishingly difficult games of that era, a la Mega Man or Battletoads. I think the important difference might just be that- Another World is not punishing. The only meaningful state in the game is the player's progress. Dying means going back to the last checkpoint, which is usually a loss of 5 or 10 seconds of gameplay.
John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun coincidentally wrote a retrospective on Another World for Eurogamer. He discussed the game's difficulty a lot and while I appreciate his tack, I think he overstates how difficult the game is. I think part of the problem is that, as gamers, the notions of death and failure have been completely conflated. For the vast majority of games, death means we did something wrong and if we had been playing better, we could have avoided such a fate.
But in Another World death is a vital part of the gameplay. Walker classified the game as unfair and reliant on trial and error, but I don't think fairness enters into it at all. Another World may look something like a platformer, but it's really a puzzle game. It's no more unfair than Braid is unfair for not making every puzzle piece immediately accessible or Monkey Island is unfair for not instantly providing every item needed to a solve a puzzle. Aside from the charming vignettes when you die, each death provides new information. Dying is an exploration of the game's possibility space.
It's actually where Another World deviates too far from "death means new information" that it shows some rough edges. There are several instances where you'll clearly figure out what to do, but the game requires some very specific inputs (either twitchy platforming or some very exact timing) to achieve success. Unfortunately, the feedback is nonexistent at times, so you can't be sure if what you're doing is basically correct or completely off track. There are some gunfights that seem un-winnable, but simply require good luck and timing. Others seem un-winnable ... and are, and you need to do something else to get past them. Telling these two things apart is more difficult than it should be. I only went to a walkthrough a few of times for Another World, and each time it was because I suspected I was trying the right thing but didn't want to waste a bunch of time if I was completely on the wrong track. At times, the gap between the player's intent and what they are able to easily accomplish is just a little too wide.
The game's only other real shortcoming is that, similar to the above, it lets you go on for far too long a few times after you've made a failing decision. You done something incorrect and won't be able to progress, but you might not actually know it until you expend a non-trivial amount of effort discovering you're blocked. This contributes to the problem where you're not sure if you're doing the right thing or not.
This is definitely an aspect of game design we've improved upon in the almost twenty years since Another World's release. But there is plenty in Another World that we could still be doing far better. So again, I encourage you to check out the game if you haven't (and it runs with no compatability problems on my Windows 7 install).
Eric Chahi hasn't done much in games since creating Another World, but rumours of him potentially doing something new are exciting. If nothing else, he gave an awesome interview with Jordan Mechner that's definitely worth a read. And if you've played Another World recently, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.