The War of the World Looks Pretty, but Boring

By Ryan Winslett in Previews/Impressions
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am
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You can't judge a book by its cover. Usually that phrase is used to describe something you would have enjoyed had you not passed it up due to a lackluster presentation. Unfortunately, if my time with Other Ocean's upcoming XBLA/PSN take on the H.G. Wells classic, The War of the Worlds, is indicative of the final product, the inverse of that meaning can also be accurate.

 

I had the opportunity to watch two levels being played of The War of the Worlds downloadable game during E3 and, despite its captivating appearance, the gameplay looks anything but.

 

One glance at a War of the Worlds screenshot and your mind will likely jump to last year's hit title Limbo. The game has a distinct black and white artstyle with color only being utilized for the characters and invading alien laser beams. It grabs your attention and, despite the fact it isn't due out until around the end of the year, it already looks pretty dang tasty.

 

Once the eyes-on demonstration began, though, it became apparent that beauty may truly only be skin deep. Gameplay at first reminded me of the PS1 classic Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey. The War of the Worlds is a side-scrolling platformer with the character able to run, jump, duck, roll and climb. Unlick Oddworld, though, that appears to be the extent of your available actions.

 

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The object is to sneak about undetected by the alien hordes, hiding behind bunkers, crawling under tanks or ducking into tunnels. This all seemed fine and dandy at first, but once the two levels were complete and that was literally the extent of the experience, I was left wondering how long timed dodging and sneaking could remain entertaining.

The story follows a London born Average Joe on his quest to locate his wife and brother. The whole thing is narrated by none other than Patrick Stewart, but even that couldn't brighten my outlook on the game.

 

The team promised that checkpoints would be generous in the final code with no loads between deaths. While the mechanics are simplistic, it does look like timing your way through this game is going to be a tricky feat. I'd like to say the challenge of memorizing each level's pattern is the main draw, but nothing here looked compelling enough to warrant that kind of dedication.

 

The code was early and the developers still have six months to pull everything together, but at this point I can't say my hopes are set too high for The War of the Worlds. But I'd ceartainly like to be proven wrong.

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