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Nigel Taylor
Arcade: Adventure
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

Ogilvy the astronomer always sounded like a bit of a twit, but at least he went down in history by coining the famous lines that almost became the chant of a generation in Jeff Wayne's musical adaptation of the H. G. Wells novel War of the Worlds. 'The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one,' he said. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one - but still they come! War of the Worlds is described as a graphics arcade/adventure strategy. In a superficial way it resembles Valhalla visually, in as much as 'you' are animated. The adventure element comes in that you are supposed to move in directions when possible, the arcade in that you are frequently opposed by the Martian fighting machines which will blast you to death unless you can run from them.

The game starts on Horsell Common, Surrey, where the still cooling cylinder has landed. The top unscrews and a Martian fighting machine emerges, firing its death beam. You are given three options - make a run for it, hide in the bushes, or stand very still. Hiding is the best bet and you will escape. Pressing a key results in your finding yourself on a nearby road in the company of an artillery man. You can move via the cursor keys and the landscape of fields and houses scrolls past. Each screen section ends and allows you to walk to the edge before cutting to the next section. Occasionally roads lead north or south. Any direction may be hazardous if you encounter a fighting machine.

On running away from one you tend to get lost and wander around for a while. Companions are inevitably turned to ash by Martians if you manage to escape from a Martian. You are searching for your fiance, Carrie, and the object of the game is to reach the main Martian encampment by visiting six specific locations. These must be visited in the correct sequence and on the correct days. As a result of this, the game plays to its own time scale, beginning on Monday morning. If night falls, you must find a house to shelter in or die of the cold. Only houses with open doors may be entered.

Food and drink must also be discovered, although you start with three bottles (unspecified contents) and three loaves. More bottles and loaves are dotted around the streets (again, reminiscent of Valhalla). Getting caught in the panicking crowds fleeing London is not very pleasant and may lead to your untimely death by trampling. As the game progresses the Martian Redweed spreads its baleful, bloody influence, draining your strength if you get entangled in it.

The Hobbit held clues which were to be gleaned from Tolkien's book - War of the Worlds relies on your knowledge of Jeff Wayne's album, and occasionally musical clues are provided. To help you visit the six locations correctly, they are featured in the game in their correct order in Jeff Wayne's musical version of War of the Worlds.


'Looking through the review copies for this issue, War of the Worlds stood out due to its artistic cover and larger sized cassette case. Loading it revealed a lengthy introduction to War of the Worlds with a few instructions included. It looked great. The second part loaded after a long wait, the action started - text and a menu selection with a time limit. Graphics finally appeared on the screen - stick men, primitive looking houses and poor use of colour. Your man moved quite slowly for a stick man and the key responses were very slow. The game itself has too many random features in it and totally lacks content.'

'Jeff Wayne's musical version was a long-lived album hit and with his name firmly attached to this computer version with its excellent cover, I thought it was really going to be something, but sadly it lets the player down all the way along the line. The least of the problems being the Spectrum's inability to match the strength of the original soundtrack! The two-pad load is irritating these days, and any atmosphere which the words from the musical version might have conjured up for the player are well and truly lost by the time the long second load is completed (this can be got around for second time playing by typing in LOAD "L2 " and playing tape as normal). The two title screens are really very good so the let down when the game graphics commence is all the bigger. At a first glance Valhalla comes to mind, but the detail and animation of these stick figures is quite primitive and the backgrounds aren't as good either. As to the game itself, is wandering up and down endless roads all identical except for a caption below the playing area informing you of where you are, very much fun? The thrill of encountering a Martian fighting machine is dulled by their absolute similarity and the arcade effect ruined by the inevitability of having to avoid them with incredibly slow, jerky movements that take no account of a player's skill. Very sadly, a total failure in my estimation.'

'Any sympathy I had with War of the Worlds evaporated after being killed a few times and having to wade through a key press, read the summary of failure, key press, slow tune over title, key press, jolly whizzing things, repeat setting up phrases about the cylinder landing and reselect to hide in the bushes. Should you miss your cue at this point it all happens over again. I timed it this whole procedure from the moment of death takes 1 minute and 23 seconds. After an estimated seven deaths within the first hour, this means I spent almost ten minutes solidly watching the repeat routine. The game itself does play like an adventure - you can forget the arcade bit - but it really revolves around walking along streets, picking up bottles of wine and loaves of bread, finding a house for the night, and staying clear of Martians and panicking crowds. Since you have no control over these random elements there is little if any strategy involved either. I really had expected much, much more.'

Control keys: cursors
Joystick: Protek, AGF
Keyboard play: poor
Use of colour: very good title screens, limited during play
Graphics: ditto
Sound: generally poor in game without Currah, reasonable tunes
Skill levels: 1
Features: Currah Microspeech compatible
Originality: based on a 'novel ' idea but the implementation spoils any effect
General Rating: Below average and, at its price, poor value for money.


Screenshot Text

One of the excellent title screens in War of the Worlds.

Another Martian fighting machine blasts you into the dreaded set up mode.