If you haven't been to a library or a high school English class lately, you may not know the story of H.G. Wells' War of The Worlds. Published in 1898, War of The Worlds is a tale of alien invaders that rend asunder civilization as we know it -- or as dudes in the late 1800's knew it, to be precise. It's been adapted into films (one of which stars Tom Cruise) and even a few games prior to this one. This WOTW game adaptation tells the tale of Arthur Clark, a man traversing the ruined city of London as the aliens descend upon him. So how does one of history's greatest and most repeated stories stack up this time around? Here comes the breakdown.
It's the end of the world as we know and I feel fine: What do Arthur, London and the aliens all have in common? They're presented in a 2D, side scrolling platform format. Gamers will be equally awed and disturbed by War of The Worlds use of lighting, shading and some truly amazing backgrounds, however, Arthur suffers from choppy animations. Would it have been too much to ask to make him move faster as more enemies approach? I mean, if someone was trying to incinerate me, I know I'd pick up the pace a little. Regardless of Arthur's choppy animations, his speed or lack thereof, no design in this game looks ugly or upsetting to the eye. If you liked the way Limbo looks (another game that used lots of black and white) chances are you'll love the way that War of The Worlds looks.
Everything is trying to kill you: Outrunning smoke was actually pretty fun -- and different! In some areas smoke will seep into buildings and players will have to open doors and vents to keep themselves segregated from the smoke that threatens to choke Arthur to death. Still don't feel threatened enough? Don't worry, carnivorous plants and spiders are trying to kill you too posing as bridges and hiding in dark corners, respectively. Have fun!
One hit wonder: War of The World features a level of controller snapping difficulty reminiscent of old NES games. Arthur has the constitution of wet tissue paper; even Phoenix from Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is more durable than him. Arthur is limited to standard "I'm a dude," movements: running, jumping and he even gets a sweet axe, but at the same time, falling a short distance that would result in a sprained ankle for most will result in death and respawning for Arthur and the player. I'm not asking for a HUD or a life meter, that'd take away from the clean presentation.
Checkpoints? Yeah, right: There are checkpoints available to take the sting out of dying, where these checkpoints are is a mystery. There's no indicator to let you know that you've arrived at a checkpoint and that it's totally okay if you get vaporized or fall off a stoop. I know the game is taking place during the destruction of modern civilization and there can't be a gigantic Sonic the Hedgehog goalpost, but a little white flag or a makeshift debris fort would've worked nice too!
Fireside chats: Some awesome news reports accompany Arthur's narration, providing a bit of back story. Unfortunately, there are huge images to go with these news reports and they take up part of the left side of the screen. If the player is headed left, he'd better like waiting for the news report to be over before proceeding; otherwise he'll be running into enemies or God-knows-what. Since most players will be dying and respawning a whole heck of a lot, they'll have to listen to old news reports each time they respawn.
War of The Worlds: hard? You bet it is. It's like trying to escape from a post-apocalyptic city where everything is trying to kill you, which means the game developers did their job. WOTW suffers a little from jerky controls and repetitive narration (unless you can go without dying, which I know you CAN'T) and a lack of distinct checkpoints (for when you die, which you WILL). Still, if you like puzzle platformers then give War of The Worlds a shot. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving War of the Worlds the Video Game 3.5 stars!!