Out of This World wasn’t a huge seller when it was released in 1992, but almost immediately established a loyal cult following, which still remains to this day. The game is particularly well-thought of amongst critics and other so-called “hardcore” gamers. In cases like this, it is sometimes difficult to understand what it is about a game that attracts such a dedicated fanbase. But with OoTW the cause is fairly obvious.With its rotoscoped animations, vector graphics, and cinematic approach, the game looks and plays unlike pretty much anything that had come before it, and with only a few exceptions, most anything else that has been made since. But for all the things it does right, Out of This World has one glaring flaw – it is maddeningly unplayable.
Graphics are never more important than gameplay. Unless they look like this, then they totally are.
The more self-righteous gaming pundits will tout that gameplay is far more important than graphics, which is true, but it’s funny how quiet they get on this point when the graphics have a certain artistic flair to them, as opposed to simply making a more realistic-looking football player.And it’s also noteworthy that nobody ever says that gameplay is (or at least should be) more important than story.That rule used to be pretty self-evident back in the NES days when just about every game had a crappy, throwaway narrative that was usually printed on the first page of the instructions.Once game companies starting spending more than 10 seconds coming up with their stories, however, that attitude changed.Story is like the “sophisticated” gamer’s equivalent of graphics – completely auxiliary to the overall quality of the game and yet given a disproportionate amount of attention.
Out of This World creates something of a perfect storm in this way, because not only does it have stylish graphics, but they’re the centerpiece of the game’s cinematic way of presenting its story.There’s hardly any text or dialogue in the game – almost the entire story is told through brief cutscenes or through the on-screen events that you interact in.Unique, artistic graphics used to tell a story in an original, compelling way?Make a game like that and critics will start heaping awards on it without even playing it.
The game does a few other things that critics and other pretentious gamers love, too.In the very beginning of the game, you can see a big, scary monster running around in the background, stalking you – a scene far too obvious to be considered legitimate foreshadowing but nonetheless guaranteed to make fans swoon in the wake of its alleged genius.The game also attempts to enhance the cinematic experience by getting rid of any kind of on-screen displays such as life bars or inventories, a ploy that’s never really worked out well but nonetheless attracts praise every time it’s attempted.Finally, Out of This World features a good deal of puzzle solving, which is always a favorite for cult gamers.After all, nothing makes a trained chimp feel smart like pushing a few buttons to solve a simple puzzle!
But the real problem with Out of This World is that it combines trial-and-error style adventuring with poorly controlled action and platforming sequences.This is a match made in hell, not only for those obvious reasons that its essentially combining garbage with trash, but also because these two ingredients are so thoroughly uncomplimentary to each other.One style of gameplay causes you to die over and over until you figure out the “right” way of getting through an area.The other causes you to die over and over because your character doesn’t want to respond to your inputs.Put the two together and it becomes impossible to determine whether you’re dying because you’re taking the wrong course of action, or simply because the control sucks.
Of course, a good designer can get around a problem like that pretty easily by making the action sections more forgiving, or by cutting back on them in favor of more puzzle solving. A good example of this is the original Alone in the Dark.The fighting controls in that game were pretty horrendous, but it wasn’t a big deal because there aren’t that many combat sections.With the exception of a few areas, if you’re fighting something in Alone in the Dark, you’re doing something wrong. On the other hand, Out of This World prominently features intense gunfights, precise jumping sections, and various other fast-paced sections that the controls simply cannot handle without causing a great deal of frustration.
Is it just me, or does this somehow remind you of E.T. for the Atari 2600?
Control: And there’s no denying that the control sucks.Out of This World uses rotoscoped animation, like Prince of Persia, which isn’t a problem in of itself, but much like PoP, an overabundance of frivolous animations causes the game to be unresponsive, as you lose control while waiting for needlessly long animations to complete.Graphics over gameplay, anyone?
Graphics: If you’re a game critic, you’ll probably go nuts for these graphics. Humans, on the other hand, will likely be disappointed.
Sound: 90% of the audio the Genesis was capable of producing sounded like various animal flatulence, so it was probably better for the game’s artistic feel that the designers were pretty minimalistic here.
Final Verdict: Perhaps the most accurate way to gauge Out of This World’s true quality is take a look at its creator’s follow-up effort, the Playstation game Heart of Darkness.HoD features very similar design, gameplay (and control), similar graphics, and the same cinematic approach. However, the story isn’t as good, and by the time it was released, the graphics no longer seemed all that unique or stylish.As a result, that game is almost universally hated.What we have then is something akin to The Emperor’s New Clothes except in reverse – stripped of its fancy visuals and narrative, we can finally see that there never really was any kind of game underneath it the entire time. Let’s take some of the scorn that has been rightly thrown upon Heart of Darkness and redirect it toward Out of This World, an even more deserving target.