The player takes on the role of Lester Knight Chaykin, a young physicist who accidentally manages to destroy his lab and gets himself somehow teleported onto another world. After a quick exploration of the local area, he is quickly captured by the sentient inhabitants of the planet, a race of bulky, humanoid creatures. Lester then wakes up in a cage with another one of the creatures, looking over what appears to be a mining complex.
He quickly escapes, eliminating his guard and freeing his companion who proceeds to help Lester leave the complex and get to the surface. It is immediately apparent that the alien race was using their own as slaves, and that they operated as a Roman-esque society, albeit with lasers, complete with a Colosseum and a harem. Lester is eventually caught and nearly killed by one of the creatures, but he manages to defeat his attacker and is saved by the very companion he freed at the start. Lester and his companion then ride an enormous bird-like creature off into the distance.
Out of This World uses 2D side-scrolling mechanics, similar to most platformers released at the time. As such, the player could move both left and right, run, jump, crouch, and at some points use a laser gun. The gun allows the player to both create charged shots and shields. Because Lester can only survive one hit before dying, and in early parts of the game it is entirely possible for the gun to run out of ammo, precision and care are needed when attacking enemies. Although inefficient, the game includes a password system, which affords the player the ability to continue on from previous checkpoint.
There are many points where the player must solve complex puzzles in order to proceed, often involving trial and error. Notable is the lack of a HUD; there is no score, no lives system, no map, no ammunition count, no inventory.
As there are no explanatory cutscenes or dialogue, players must figure out for themselves what the nature of the place is, and its true location. There is a clue toward the end which suggests that the world where the player character was transported to may not be what it first appears, although that interpretation is left up to the player.
From the outset, the region of the world where the game takes place seems to be arid and largely desolate. Animals and plants tend to be brutal and predatory, and the sentient life forms conduct gladiatorial games and what appears to be forced labor, as noted earlier. These traits may be evident of a Roman Empire level of culture in terms of art and architecture, although the architecture may be more comparable to medieval Muslim architecture in the middle-east. Although their culture may be primitive by human standards, their technology is certainly not. They possess a greater understanding of energy and how to harness it, evident in power nodes which are dotted around the city, but also in their weaponry, which can stun on the lowest setting and is otherwise lethal. They also possess flying vehicles that supersede technologically anything humanity has built so far.
Animation of the principle characters was performed through a process called rotoscoping, whereby real objects were used as models for animation work, lending a life-like and quirky feel to the movement that might seem flat and predictable if animated through simple physics models. Allegedly, Lester's appearance is based on Eric Chahi. However, because Chahi found it disturbing to see himself in the game, he decided to change Lester to a Redhead.
The game was originally, officially released for PC (DOS), Amiga, Atari, Macintosh, 3DO, SNES, Genesis and the Sega CD. The Atari and Amiga versions were developed first. They are relatively shorter compared to later versions, and have a higher difficulty level due to more precise timing required of the player. The PC version was the first to introduce a whole new level in the middle to latter third of the game to help lengthen the game and strengthen the narrative.
Further obstacles were added for the Genesis and SNES console ports, as Interplay purportedly wanted players to get as much gameplay as possible for their dollar. Nintendo also had demands about certain scenes which were considered to be inappropriate for minors (which amounted to a few pixels worth of deletions during a bathhouse scene; as well as changing reddish ichor, which might be interpreted as blood, to green).
The Sega CD version of the game included a game set in the same world, dubbed Out of this World 2: Heart of the Alien, which took place from the point of view of the aliens. Eric Chahi has stated, however, that this in-house Interplay project suffers in terms of animation quality and its value as a game, as he was not involved in the project.
Eric Chahi has stated that the problem with some of the early enhanced versions was that the backgrounds were a lot easier to improve than the characters themselves. In order to enhance the characters, new rotoscoping or detailed, frame-by-frame enhancement of the animations would have to be done, while the backdrops could be repainted with relative ease. Doing the latter without the former, though, would result in the characters in the foreground looking flat. For the 3DO version, Chahi says, this is especially apparent.
The enhancement of the animations themselves could probably not be done because processors of the time could not handle so many frames of animation being very detailed, although currently such restrictions are negligible.
In addition to the listed versions, there were also unofficial ports to both the GBA and GP32 systems.
Though fans have been hoping for a true sequel, Chahi has stated that he wishes for the game to have no continuation as he wants the ending of the original to remain ambiguous and fans could make their own conclusion to the franchise.
"I think the story is complete. It has a lot of mystery, so doing a sequel would be very tricky. It could break the magic it has."
- Eric Chahi
(Retro Gamer issue #96, 2011)
Despite this, a sequel was made for the Sega CD in 1994 called Heart of The Alien, which placed Buddy as the main protagonist. Chahi was not involved with the development and dismissed the "sequel" to be non-canon.
The original game is not easy to find, but a new, high resolution version is available as a demo, or a full version for 7 Euros (at the time of this writing) from the creator Eric Chahi on his website. The new version has more detailed backgrounds, multiple graphics modes, more save points and Windows XP and Vista compatible.
Telco Games also distributes a mobile phone version of the game.
15th Anniversary Edition
The 15th Anniversary Edition is also available from GOG.com and comes with a selection of extra content, including:
- manual (17 pages)
- 2 HD wallpapers
- development diary
- technical handbook
- "making of" video
20th Anniversary Edition
In 2011, in commemoration of its 20th anniversary, Out of This World was made available for the iOS (iPhone and iPad) and later Android. The game also arrived on Steam for the first time in 2013. These versions were created by DotEmu and distributed by Bulky Pix.
- The ability to switch to the original and HD graphics at any time
- New intuitive touch controls
- 3 difficulty modes - Normal (easier than original game), Difficult (equal to original game) and Very Hard (more difficult than original game)
- 100% remastered sounds and FX
- Game Center support with 13 achievements
- 5 languages support (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish)