War of The Worlds – XBLA Review

Filed under Reviews, XBLA Reviews

War of The Worlds Review – The Dark Souls of Puzzle Platformers:

Most of us are familiar with the book-to-movie adaptation of War of The Worlds that starred Tom Cruise and sometimes this War of the Worlds gets confused for it. This game is also based on the book by H.G Wells, but features a plot different from the movie. Since it’s developed by Other Oceans, who have an unsparing love for puzzle platformers the result is a game that both tests your patience and rewards you with a fleeting delight when you complete even the most mundane of tasks.

From the start the most noticeable aspect is introduced, the narration that is being done by Patrick Steward. His performance is absolutely sublime and fits the setting beautifully. It’s also something else to be guided through the game by none other than Captain Picard as your main protagonist. You play as Arthur, a simple man who goes off in search of his fiancée and little brother after the invasion has hit early 1900’s London.

The main gameplay elements are completely recognisable from early puzzle platformers like Prince of Persia (The first one) and early Castlevania games. You move with the D-pad (or analogue stick) and only have two useable buttons which are jump and use. The controls feel rather stiff for the things the game expects you to do. Some puzzles require expert timing in which failing to do so means instant death and sometimes the controls do not respond as well as they should or you do something completely different to what you expected.

Speaking of instant death, you will certainly see a lot of it in this game. The game is tough as nails and if you allow it, it can frustrate you to a monumental degree. At one point in the game I was stuck for 2 hours on a single section. It required absolute precise timing or you would die and when you do die (which you will) it takes you back a good way off to your last checkpoint and you have to start the whole section over again. It does come down to simple trial and error, but sometimes the game can be unfair.

The object of the game is simple. Run. All you have to do is get away, but your progress will be hindered by patrolling drones that shoot laser beams if they spot you, black smoke that kills you, spider like things that want to eat your brains and all types of nasties. For the most part you don’t have any weapons so your best bet is to just avoid any enemies you see.

The art direction for this game is spot on. There are some pretty breathtaking visuals, but sadly all of them are in the background most of the time. The visuasl have a distinctive noir atmosphere and colour and sometimes draws inspiration from Limbo’s visuals. The drones and war ships are meticulously detailed and include lights, special animations and various colours. The visuals of the area you can actually move in looks very retro, but it fits.

In terms of sound, the music is fitting to the era and situation, but because you die so many times it can soon become monotonous and make you despise it. When you die, it does not continue from where it left off, it starts over and that soon becomes irritating. The sound effects do a great job with laser beams sounding like laser beams and electricity sounding very shocking.

The game is good value for money as I played it for a total of 10 hours, but most of that time was spent dying and that does not really count well in its favour. The dying is not because of lack of skill, but rather lack of good controls and a finicky engine. I cannot count how many times I died from missing a jump by a fraction of a centimetre and sometimes I died while still being alive. I just got a game over screen, but I was still moving around and it happened more than once.

Graphics: 80/100

War of the Worlds sports some amazing visuals with its noir art direction and 1950’s background style. The various enemies and elemental effects are meticulously detailed, but is let down by poor character animations.

Sound 85/100

Patrick Seward does an amazing job with the voice over narrative. The background music does its job and creates an ample atmosphere, but considering you die so much it can become irritating.

Delivery 60/100

The puzzle mechanics work for the most part and are somewhat inventive, but the game sometimes goes out of its way to outright kill you. Some sections will have you pulling out hair because you didn’t press the jump button a split second sooner and had to start the entire section over.

Overall 75/100

A remarkable game with an excellent story let down by some frustrating mechanics and odd controls. If you like a challenge and are very patient then this game is just for you. If you’re just looking for fun then try somewhere else.

 

Game Reviewed By:

Marko Swanepoel

 

 

 

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