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Portabliss: Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition (iOS)


Did you know that you can download handheld games now? That's amazingly convenient! The only inconvenient part of it is finding the right games to buy -- and that's where we come in, with our Portabliss column. In each installment, we'll tell you about a downloadable game on the iPhone, iPad, Android device, DSi, 3DS, PSP, etc. Today: Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition.

My ability to complete Another World is entirely rooted in memory at this point. To wit, the only reason I can finish it is because I've finished it. That's how it goes every time I play a new incarnation, and I struggle to imagine my younger self peering through the game's opaque sequences without the aid of a previous life.

And sometimes (just between you and me) I think it's just a bad game. Another World (which, holy crap, is twenty years old now) has almost no guidance, no user interface, it murders the bewildered protagonist without warning and, if it's your first time, progress seems to require pristine visions of the future. Not many developers would make a game like this today. Even fewer would let you drown within the first ten seconds of gameplay.

That's why it's fantastic. Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition is still unique in its bold, incredibly harsh interpretation of what it might be like for an everyman suddenly marooned in a truly alien environment. And it's not the kind of wise-cracking everyman with regenerating health and the ability to outlive a string of improbable cataclysms on a daily basis. You're a scrawny, red-haired scientist who frequently gets his legs bitten off because he jumps like ... like a human being.

By the time Another World expects you to fling yourself off a cliff (it makes sense in the moment), you'll be surprised by the elegance and effectiveness of the touch controls. A single tap to initiate an automatic walk, a double-tap to run, an upward swipe to jump and a finger sliding downward to crouch. The game's sporadic gun battles are relegated to the bottom left and right corners -- tap to shoot, hold and release to deploy a shield.

With the exception of the game's final sequence, where I had to summon the awful, obstructive on-screen d-pad, no part of the game feels hampered by taps and swipes. You lose some responsiveness and speed, of course, but Another World is hinged more on awareness, trial and pre-emptive action than sudden reaction.

Not only is the game well preserved in portable format, but it brings along the updated artwork from the 15th Anniversary Edition. A double-finger down-swipe lets you switch between original and tastefully redrawn versions on the fly. It's an important feature, because Another World's storytelling is entirely visual. The only thing that ever speaks English is a computer.

See? Can you say that of many games today?

Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition is available on iTunes for $4.99 on iPhone and iPad. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

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