This game was completely off my radar. When I received it I had seen nothing about it, which I realised is incredibly rare these days especially with so much media available online. Having said that I am pleased to say that I was very happy with what I found. A 2D side-scrolling platformer which has clearly taken inspiration from other games in the genre, both old and new.
Take the gameplay mechanics of Prince of Persia, a hint of the level design in Pitfall, the narration from Bastion and just a dash of the art style from Limbo; place them all in a blender and the result is The War of the Worlds. Sounds like a recipe for success and for the most part it is; but there are a few problems that hurt the experience.
Okay I’m going to start with the narration as that is the first thing that caught my attention upon loading this game up. It’s Sir Patrick Stewart, or simply Patrick Stewart as he is credited in the game; I like to think he was just being modest. The way the narration is delivered is very similar to how it is in Bastion. As you are playing Patrick Stewart reads the story in the style of an audio book. It’s not as spontaneous as the narration in Bastion appears to be, instead it’s activated when you reach certain points in the level. In fact it’s a great way of recognising that you have reached a checkpoint.
Now onto the game itself. I think people are either going to love or hate it. I feel that most people around my age (27 going on 18) and older are going to absolutely love it as the difficulty brings up nostalgia of how unforgiving the games of our childhoods were to us. One hit and your back to your last checkpoint. You have no weapons to defend yourself in the early stages, just your legs to run, and you will do a lot of running. Trial and error is the mantra of this game; simply put, you will die… a lot! To be honest I am still yet to finish it. I’m getting there though. It’s a feeling I have missed from gaming days gone by, genuinely learning from my mistakes as I go along. The satisfaction you get from finally breaking through a part that has had you stumped for the last hour is quite simply amazing. It’s the kind of feeling that makes you pause the game and give yourself a pat on the back, only to go back in and hope that you just crossed a checkpoint. Sadly the platforming isn’t quite as tight as a game like this demands. When it works it’s fantastic but every now and then you just know your character didn’t do what you wanted him to. Additional problems with the speed the protagonist performs his actions paired with the pixel-precision required for certain areas, exacerbates the control frustrations. Luckily the checkpoints soften this a little bit as you don’t have to replay too much.
The visuals in this game were another high point for me. In the opening part of the game you are on a train and everything is in full colour and everything is calm. The following level sees most of the screen presented in black and white with only hints of colour in elements like fires and your character. This contrast fantastically presents that the world is hanging on by a thread. With the protagonist being coloured I felt like he was humanity’s last hope, especially as most of the NPCs are not coloured. Also the way the game moves is almost rotoscopic; like a stop motion film, it’s a brilliant effect and helps set the sombre tone perfectly.
The soundtrack in this game was performed by a full orchestra and it does a great job of getting your blood pumping in some of the “holy crap I’m being chased by a giant tripod” moments. I cant see many people saying it is better than the amazing soundtrack by Jeff Wayne but it does exactly what it has to do and just like the visuals in the game, it sets the tone perfectly.
Overall I am very happy I got to give this game the time it deserved and I hope you don’t let it pass you by. It’s a hard game but stick with it and it will reward you ten-fold. Some of the platforming issues can get frustrating especially when you know you’ve gone a long way just to die unfairly, but I implore you to stick with it. This game has so many good things going for it and it would be a shame for it to be overlooked. Not to mention Patrick Stewart doesn’t like quitters and you don’t want to disappoint him now do you?
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 26/10/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of The War of the Worlds for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.