Friday 30 November 2012

The War of the Worlds (XBLA) – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

I’ve been meaning to review The War of the Worlds (XBLA) for quite a while, but to do that I felt I had to finish the game, and that hasn’t happened; in fact, I don’t think I’ve got anywhere near the end. Written by Christopher Fowler, and narrated by Patrick Stewart, this side-scrolling platformer sets the story in 1950s London, which puts a very interesting twist on the narrative. For example, the player hears BBC radio broadcasts announcing the invasion. Though it was a game I bought less to play than because I thought it would be interesting to review, I was surprised by how good it was, at least at first; a bit slow, maybe, but diverting, beautiful, and often quite frightening.

However, it has two huge problems. The first is that the game is far too difficult, with fiddly controls, tripod-high difficulty bumps, instant death, and widely-spaced checkpoints. The children were frequently in hysterics at my lacklustre attempts to escape the death rays. I doubt I’d have kept plugging away if it hadn’t amused them so much. The second problem is that the difficulty level turns its biggest strengths—the excellent animation, narration and writing—into weaknesses, as you get sick to death of seeing and hearing the same things over and over. If you’re a fan of games with old-school difficulty settings, this might be worth a go, but it’s definitely not recommended to more casual gamers.

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