Published on October 26th, 2011 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
The War of the Worlds XBLA Review
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network
Develoer: Other Ocean Interactive
Release Date: October 26, 2011
MSRP: 800 MSP ($9.99)
H.G. Wells’ timeless novel about the invasion of Earth at the hands of towering Martian behemoths comes alive in this Xbox LIVE Arcade adaptation, delivering a dramatic and harrowing tale of the brutality and destruction of the extraterrestrial assault. In this title, gamers explore a devastated world that’s been overrun by hulking alien monstrosities and must do anything it takes to survive.
Set in the timeline established by the vintage 1953 movie adaptation, The War of the Worlds introduces new characters and details that keep the authentic cataclysmic feel of the original story, and deliver a unique gaming experience that delves into the dystopia of a crumbling society.
Players take on the persona of Arthur Clarke, the game’s protagonist who must trudge along the ruined city of London, England in order to his beloved family. The War of the Worlds is a 2-D side-scrolling platformer that places emphasis on timing and reflex skills, yet there is less action than classic side-scrollers. Instead, this XBLA title focuses more on the devastation of the extinction of mankind from a terrifying alien force.
Utilizing dismal and gloomy visuals and environments that remind players of the award-winning Limbo, the game possesses elements of a psychological thriller and displays the haunting mayhem that consumes society. Patrick Stewart’s excellent narration brings a true sense of the havoc that the Martians unleashed on the world, and his voice continues through nearly every part of the game which is somewhat akin to Bastion’s use of in-game narration.
While the visuals and Stewart’s honeyed voice are impressive elements of the game, this XBLA title falls short in the actual gameplay mechanics. Our protagonist constantly reminds gamers how weak humans are with nearly every movement, and if you make one single mistake you’re dead. There is no use of a health system, yet there are infinite continues which means the game isn’t over until you’re done.
Overall the control scheme is pretty basic. Arthur can run, jump, and roll…and that’s about it. Throughout the game players will have to dodge everything in sight–including fire–and use their timing and reflex skills to avoid environmental hazards like smoke and sparking live wires. Like any platformer, players will have to make extensive use of planning their jumps accurately.
This is where the game falls flat–literally–because many of the platforms are rickety and will fall under Arthur’s weight, giving hardly any time to plan their next leap. To pour salt on the wound, the platforms sometimes move up and even teeter back and forth, making every failed attempt at jumping quite frustrating.
The foreground sometimes obscures player’s vision, and oftentimes gamers have no idea where the foreground and background end and the actual platforms begin. It’s somewhat like the early Philips CD-i console games where it’s hard to discern the environment from the paths and platforms. This is frustrating and aggravating and many times gamers will be forced to take blind leaps and guesses as to where they can land.
Another disappointing feature in this XBLA title is that there are no weapons at the start of the game. Gamers are always reminded just how weak humans are compared to the menacing alien threat, and at the beginning they’re armed with only their wits and reflexes. I do realize that the story is about how humankind endures the destruction of a Martian invasion, however this a game, and as such it should have some sort of gameplay value. Instead, players feel like they’re playing a book rather than an action-packed side-scroller.
The main problem with this game is its tremendous focus on visuals. The graphics are decent, and the overall styles are very appealing…however one of the main aspects of a 2-D sidescroller is the gameplay mechanics. If you don’t engage players into an action-packed and enthralling experience where they aren’t reminded how weak they are compared to the enemies, then players aren’t going to have fun. Games are about entertainment, and the XBLA iteration of The War of the Worlds will likely put some players to sleep from boredom.
The game tries too hard to bring elements of suspense and drama–which are great aspects for a movie, but not necessarily for a sidescroller–and inject them into an arcade-style classic platformer. The narration is a great touch and acts as a guide to the horrific crisis, yet most gamers who enjoy this genre are interested in the actual gameplay features rather than the story arc.
While Other Ocean Interactive’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic is graphically and visually impressive, the 2-D sidescrolling gameplay elements are not. With numerous frustrations like teetering platforms, obscured vision and lack of action, this XBLA title falls short in delivering an enjoyable experience and instead delivers unbalanced and boring gameplay. Throughout the game players feel as if they’re at a disadvantage and weak, which is realistic to the authentic dramatic feel of the story, yet it’s not appealing to gamers who enjoy classic platformers.
Unless you’re the type of gamer who enjoys slow platformers with have emphasis on puzzle-solving and critical thinking, The War of the Worlds might be a title you should steer clear of. If you’re curious about the game, try out the free demo and find out for yourself if the game is right for you.
The War of the Worlds is now available on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 MSP ($9.99). For more information please visit the game’s official website.
+ Impressive environments and visuals
+ Impeccable narrative by the legendary Patrick Stewart
– Lack of gameplay features
– Somewhat boring
– Protagonist is weak and unentertaining