Genre: Classic Adventure Fantasy
Release Date: December 1, 2004
Note: Originally published December 13, 2004
It is said that some people would travel to the ends of the world to find their loved ones. But what if there were other worlds? Would anyone travel to other worlds to find his or her loved one? Well, Natalia, our heroine, will!
Natalia is a 27-year-old woman who lives with her boyfriend, Alkis. One day she comes home from work only to find Alkis missing. After checking with her sister, Marina, she discovers that Alkis has left her a weird message that he has discovered something that will change their lives forever and asking her to meet him at a certain mansion. Could it be that simple? Of course not. For when she gets to the mansion, instead of finding Alkis, she will find that there are other worlds than the one we live in, and that she will have to travel to them if she wants to see her loved one again.
Other Worlds is a 3rd-person, 2D, point-&-click adventure created by one man, Alkis Polyrakis, using Chris Jones’Adventure Game Studio. The whole feel of the game will bring you back to the good old Sierra/Lucasfilm (yes, Lucasfilm!) days. The graphics consist of photographic backgrounds, rooms created with Autocad and landscapes created with Terragen. Some of the backgrounds are really beautiful, while some are just average. Though the graphics cannot be compared to big commercial releases, they do their job just fine – and even more than just fine on occasion! The characters are cartoonish in a Zak McKracken/Maniac Mansion style. As with the backgrounds, they're nothing really fancy, but varied and nicely drawn.
The music also cannot be compared to the big projects, but it's pretty good nonetheless. You will hear lots of different music tracks throughout the game according to the area you are in, and most of them represent a good selection and fit the areas perfectly. There are a couple of tracks that seemed out of place and, on one certain occasion, turned out to be slightly annoying, but those are the exceptions. Sound effects are few and far between and are simple but functional.
But graphics and sound are not this game’s main attraction. Instead, it relies on the most important ingredients of a good adventure game: storyline, characters and puzzles. And Other Worlds excels in all of these areas.
Natalia will start her adventure more or less confused, having no idea what’s going on – and how would she anyway? But she will dare to defy the fear of the unknown and take on the quest to find Alkis, no matter the consequences. In the process she will discover that there are 4 different worlds: Arsalior, which is our world; Fathel, the world of magic; Obe, the world of time; and Gergem, a world that no one knows about as no one who has been there has ever returned. All of these worlds connect with each other and stay in balance with the help of a force called the “Thread.”
Natalia will also discover the ways to travel to each world, where she will meet several unusual and very interesting characters – from the sweet and rebellious Dloulie, to the sexually ambiguous Klikliklik (voted best name of 2004!). Each character will offer to aid her in her quest, but nothing comes for free nowadays, does it? So, Natalia will find herself running errands to please everyone in order to get them to help her, and some won’t even be pleased after that – oh, the ungratefulness! All of the characters possess unique personalities – they’re not just there as window dressing – and by the end of the game you’ll find yourself pretty much attached to them.
Along with all the other characters, Natalia will also meet…… (ominous music)…… The Demons. The Demons, whose names cannot be typed by a person with only 10 fingers, will claim that they play a very important role and that they have great powers and know a lot of secret information. But they do seem kinda stupid at the same time. Could that be just a front to cover their awesome powers, or are they indeed pretty much stupid and have no importance whatsoever? Well, Natalia will need to find that out for herself, as well as figure out if they can aid her in her quest.
The game is pretty simple to learn. The controls are similar to Sierra’s SCI1 system (King’s Quest V, Space Quest IV). There are cursors for walking (which change to exit cursors wherever there’s an exit), looking, using/taking and speaking, as well as separate cursors for each inventory item. Later in the game, Natalia will discover that the “Thread” is strong in her and that she can manipulate it in the form of spells, which will produce a cursor for spell-casting. There is a problem though, that appears with the walk/exit cursor. On certain occasions the area/hotspot where the walk cursor changes into an exit cursor is very small and it’s pretty easy to miss. Also, sometimes, even though the cursor has changed from walk to exit, Natalia will not leave the area and will need to walk around a bit for the exit to work. Finally, there are one or two areas where the exit cursor appears even though there is no available exit yet – a limitation of the engine, according to the developer. Oh, and if you want to know what time it is at any moment, just look at Natalia. She will look at her watch and tell you the time, which will be read from your pc clock! No need to look at the clocks around you anymore to know if it is bedtime! A very clever little touch that shows the game’s attention to detail.
All that is great, but an adventure game is nothing without puzzles, and there are plenty of those in Other Worlds. Most of them are inventory-based, but there are a few of a different kind, such as deciphering a coded message. In general, the puzzles are not very hard, but they are not a walk in the park either. They are very clever and you will need to use your brains as well as your imagination in order to progress. Remember, this isn’t real life, it’s an adventure game. If I wanted to use plain raw logic and no imagination, I would ask someone to hide my keys and then I’d try to find them, I wouldn’t be playing adventure games.
On the downside, there is one dead-end and one place where the game crashes. There might be a newer version of the game coming out, but until then I’d advise you to not use the oil can inside the car (crash) and to save before you enter the boat, and keep that save unaltered. You can also die in Other Worlds, but trust me, that will not be a problem from one point on!
In a nutshell, Other Worlds is probably one of the best, if not the best, adventures of 2004 – and that includes both independent and commercial - and its minor flaws do not take away anything except the "+" sign from the final grade! It is an adventure that has all it takes to become a classic. No, you will not find breathtaking graphics, lip-synced speech or quadraphonic music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. What you will find is a fantastic story that will unfold before you minute by minute with enough twists and turns to keep your interest piqued at all times; characters that seem so real that you will become attached to them and will not forget them for a long, long time (if ever!); and very clever and balanced puzzles to keep your brain churning full speed ahead. And all that garnished with a great deal of humor, that will have you rolling on the floor laughing – that is, if you can appreciate good humor. In other words, a model adventure game, created by an adventurer for adventurers.
Alkis Polyrakis is obviously a talented adventure designer and I can’t even imagine the possibilities if he were surrounded by a development team that would produce high-level graphics and sound. It is a shame that Greece, where Alkis is from, has no professional game developing background or infrastructure whatsoever to properly support and promote him - and I am from Greece, so I know… His (and our) only hope would be if an international development team spotted him. So, where are you international development teams? Don’t let talents like this get lost just because they are not in the right place.
Other Worlds can be downloaded for free from http://www.alkis.org/eworlds.html
Final Grade: A
Pentium 166MMX or better
DirectX Compatible Video Card
16 MB Ram
Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or XP with DirectX 5 or above
Pentium 266 or better
DirectX Compatible Video Card with 2 MB Ram
32 MB Ram
Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or XP with DirectX 5 or above
DirectX Compatible Sound Card