Game Review: The War of the Worlds (XBLA)
Release: October 21, 2011
Genre: Side Scroller
Developer: Other Ocean
Available Platforms: Xbox 360 (PlayStation 3 later)
MSRP: 800 MS points ($10 US)
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and up)
It is only appropriate that our review of “The War of the Worlds” should post at Halloween time, the anniversary of the historic 1938 radio broadcast, which like this game, was an adaptation of the 1898 H. G. Wells book of the same name. This re-imagining is quite different from the radio broadcast or the popular movies, all set in New Jersey or California. Staying far truer to the book, this telling is set in London. For those who are unfamiliar, the story is about an invasion of Earth by Martians who are hell-bent on eradicating the human species.
“The War of the Worlds is a dark and breathtaking new vision of the classic H.G. Wells novel, retold as a single player side-scrolling action-adventure, narrated by the acclaimed and distinguished actor, Patrick Stewart. Set in London, the gameplay narrative parallels the timeline and events from the 1953 movie adaptation, but introduces a new story arc, characters, locations, and sub-plots. With gameplay paying homage to classic cinematic platformers such as Flashback, Out of This World and Prince of Persia, the game follows the exploits of an unknown everyman struggling to escape the Martian invasion of London and rescue his family. Forced to think through insurmountable odds, players will outsmart an army of alien tripods, spiders and drones as they make their way through a landscape of total devastation.” – Other Ocean
The game focuses on the survival efforts of Arthur Clarke as he searches for his family while the World crashes down around him. Our first glimpse of the invasion is in the background at he rides on a passenger train during the opening title sequence. Brightly lit meteors streak down from the sky, one finding the tracks ahead, derailing the train, and so our journey begins as we climb from the wreckage.
Even though the overall arc of the game is to find Clarke‘s family, the main focus is on trying to survive from moment to moment. You will leap from car to car, hide behind walls, dodge heat rays and outsmart alien probes in traditional side-scroller style. What is not so traditional is the level of difficulty that this game quickly ramps up to, and sustains after the first few chapters. As the story progresses it is obvious that our protagonist is not nearly as agile as the level designers had hoped, making him feel heavy, clumsy, and slow to respond.
One could not hope for a better narrator than Patrick Stewart whose theatre trained voice breathes life into the classic words of this tale. The story is told over top of the action as it happens, much like an audio book in sync with the events of the game. The artwork is dark and dreary composed of mainly black and white artwork with colored highlights. At first glance the game looks and feels much like Limbo due to the layered animation with out of focus action in the foreground, but the game mechanics set it far apart from the accessible likes of Limbo.
With such a widely loved intellectual property such as The War of the Worlds combined with the worldly voice talent of Patrick Stewart, it would seem that this game should be aimed at a rather broad audience. Unfortunately, poor controls and highly frustrating level design that calls for more accuracy than the main character can provide breaks this game completely. Add to this a useless checkpoint system that causes you to repeat long sequences of tedious maneuvers over and over again and you have a potential candidate for worst game of the year.
Be aware, downloading and playing the demo will give you a sense of the beautiful artwork in the game but fails to expose you to the any of the difficulty since the first couple chapters are there to establish the story and acclimate you to the controls. Just past the end of the demo the difficulty scales up ruthlessly.
Although The War of the Worlds is seductive; It’s wonderful to listen to and beautiful to look at, and the demo seems completely reasonable, this game is not fun at all. Casual gamers should steer completely clear of this game which must have been forged in the pits of hell for only the most masochistic of gamers with a consuming need to achieve the impossible. For the few extreme hardcore gamers that like this sort of thing, this game will provide you with hours of joy and mental anguish. For the rest of you, do yourself a favor; satisfy your craving for The War of the Worlds with the free book from Project Gutenburg or the public domain audio book at LibraVox.
- Classy artistic presentation
- Perfect narration by Patrick Stewart
- Impossibly difficult chapters
- Frustrating lack of checkpoints
- Sluggish controls
- Satan approved – 100% fun free
Final Score: 2 out of 10