The idea of making a computer game for The War of the Worlds seems obvious, aliens come to Earth and attack everything and everyone and a hero who is just trying to survive while Earth’s governments try to beat off the aliens (ooh er!), and several attempts have been made throughout the years. However, making a game based on Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds struck me as a little odd. I don’t know if there’s ever been a computer conversion made of what is essentially a double album musical, even if it is based on a best selling sci-fi novel.
The game was produced by CRL in association with ORP and judging from the advert it was slated for release on a slew of platforms, but only seems to have made it out on the ZX Spectrum.
Here is CRL signing the deal for the game back in 1984
Why this is is a complete mystery as CRL released dozens of games on both the Spectrum and C64 platform, admittedly a fair amount of them suffering bad reviews at the time, but a quick scroll through the archive list on World of Spectrum shows just as many with very high ratings.
The game itself is described as an arcade adventure game, and seems to mix the graphical text adventure format with basic arcade features. The spectrum version reminded every reviewer at Crash magazine of the game Valhalla.
To complete the game you have to visit several places in the correct order, to find the Martian base. According to Crash, knowing the album helps you figure it out as they are in the same order as the hero visits them on the record, but according to Sinclair User you can’t complete the game without knowing the album.
The year before the game was due to be released there were two “˜The War of The Worlds’ games released, but both were for the Spectrum 16k, so you’d think that if any it would have been the Spectrum version that would be pulled, not the C64 version. Perhaps the most obvious reason why the game was pulled on other formats was that frankly the reviews were poor with both Crash and Sinclair User giving it low scores. With so many titles being released constantly at CRL, maybe they just pulled the game to concentrate on more eagerly awaited titles.
Well, in 2013 – programmer Jeff Lee got in touch and informed GTW64 that the game was cancelled in the Autumn of 1985. It is suggested that the game was cancelled after Jeff Wayne got cold feet after poor reviews of the Spectrum game. The game overall was to be a right to left scroller which used extended background mode and featured a warship sailing around the Kent coast to do battle with the tripods. There were to be other levels apparently – which may have been the arcade adventure elements.
The game never really got past the design stage, and Jeff just managed to get a prototype scroll engine going before it was canned.
Regarding the sound – Jay Derrett confirmed that he had no involvement on the C64 version at all.
Sadly it seems that Jeff no longer has anything of the game, so for now check out the Creator Speaks for details about the game from Jeff.
Contributions: Andrew Fisher, Jay Derrett, Jeff Lee
Jeff Lee speaks about work on War Of The Worlds:
“I was the programmer on this one. The general idea was that the player sailed a warship around the Kent coast and battled with the alien tripods. There were going to be other levels, but this initial design was all I saw and worked from. It was a right to left scroller that used a rarely used graphical mode on the C64 called Extended Background Mode.
This had something to do with the colour combinations I needed to get in the backgrounds, but apart from the white cliffs of Dover being part of this problem, the details escape me. According to my records, it was pulled in the late Autumn of 1985. I gathered that Jeff Wayne got cold feet after the poor reviews for the Spectrum version. This makes sense – it was unlikely to do with sales, which were healthy.
War of the Worlds got little further than several screen design sheets from Ian Ellery, and a scroller I worked up as my first piece of coding on the C64. There was a meeting with Jeff Wayne in which he kept reminding Clem and Jay that he wanted the aliens to have green eyes. The game was intended to have digitised speech. Our in-house joke was that we’d make a demo where the aliens, instead of roaring ‘Ooo Laaah!’ would do it in a camp voice. Soon after production was started it was stopped though. After that, I went on to start a new version of Rocky Horror Show on the Spectrum 128K. Jay asked me how it felt to come out of the frying pan and find myself in the fire.”