War of the Worlds

February 14, 2012 by

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Other Ocean” publishers=”Paramount Digital Entertainment” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”October 26, 2011″] The 1898 (Yes 1898, as in 114 years ago) novel by HG Wells has had a controversial and interesting history of adaptions. The most famous being the radio adaption in 1934 narrated by Orson Welles, it caused a panic as many listeners tuned …

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Other Ocean” publishers=”Paramount Digital Entertainment” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”October 26, 2011″]

The 1898 (Yes 1898, as in 114 years ago) novel by HG Wells has had a controversial and interesting history of adaptions. The most famous being the radio adaption in 1934 narrated by Orson Welles, it caused a panic as many listeners tuned in late missing the disclaimer that it was a piece of fiction. The book has also seen film and television adaptions but surprisingly only a couple of video game adaptions. Published by Paramount Digital Entertainment and developed by Other Ocean Interactive, War of the Worlds sets itself in the timeline of the 1953 black and white movie adaption. While the movie took place in California, the game goes back to the books setting of England and London in particular. Does Other Ocean bring HG Wells timeless tale to a new audience marking a new bright point in the works long storied history or is it just another blip that will remembered as a one liner on a Wikipedia article?

Narrated by the great Patrick Stewart, War of the Worlds follows Arthur Clarke as he platforms his way through the dangerous invasion of London, England in search of his family. While keeping in tone with the novel, the game focuses on the devastation and near extinction of man by the superior invading Martian forces. The atmosphere of the game resembles that of indie darling Limbo. The soothing voice of Patrick Stewart lulls you into a false sense of security as you traverse the black and white levels. Not all is black and white as the special effects and lighting are colored creating an impressive visual. Patrick Stewart is not the only great thing about the audio as the ambiance and sound effects definitely add to the atmosphere of devastation.

The gameplay is obviously strongly influenced by the old 2D Prince of Persia games. Character movement and platforming skills feel like they were lifted right out of those games. Arthur Clarke feels lanky and the jumps are vertically tall so that as he grabs ledges he easily hangs with his long frame. Even more so than the games the gameplay was inherited from, War of the Worlds is not forgiving of mistakes. Simple misjudges often spell doom for Arthur Clarke. Cheap death is common, so much so, that the achievement for beating the game without dying in one sitting is deemed impossible and the developer says only 1 in 148,000 will get all the achievements in the game. Even if not going to the hardest achievement, War of the Worlds makes the game hard on players with the poor check pointing and a save system that only saves at the start of a new level.

The lack of real action outside of the platforming can make War of the Worlds tread on the boring line in terms of gameplay. The game’s downfall is that it focused too much on presentation and keeping the tone of the novel that it forgot that it needed to be fun. Despite the lack of fun factor, War of the Worlds is a prime example of how games can be art since even the gameplay invokes that sense of helplessness that the HG Wells embodied in his novel — Roger Ebert be damned.

Score: 6/10

War of the Worlds will leave players torn between art and gameplay. In a perfect world, the gameplay would be fun and add to the art rather than lacking. Unfortunately we are stuck with 2 elements of a game that make a great game on opposites of the coin rather than working together for a fun experience.

About Brandon Koch

I write stuff. I play stuff. I code stuff.