The Game: The Martians are coming! And they’re coming in colorful vector graphics! The tripod-like Martian War Machines land, extend their legs, and begin marching inexorably toward your cannon, pausing momentarily to sweep the bottom of the screen with their deadly heat rays, or hurling spirals of energy your way to slow down your cannon. You have a shield that can offer you mere moments of protection, but if it wears out or you find yourself in the Martians’ sights, your spiky-headed cannon operator is fried, and the cannon is promptly manned by another spiky-headed gunner. When your spiky-headed infantry is exhausted, the Martian invasion continues… (Cinematronics, 1981)
Memories: An entertaining variation on the basic game concept of Space Invaders, War Of The Worlds is quite a tricky game. From a visual standpoint, for line art, the Martian War Machines are menacing foes, and it could be that this is their best moving-image representation, possibly even better than Pal or Spielberg managed. (The rotating “Cylon eye” effect adds a lot of frisson, especially when the heat ray unexpectedly shoots out of it and blasts you!)
The Martian tripods aren’t just wily, they’re tough to kill. Each shot knocks them down a notch, cutting off their legs and slowing them down until, finally, they’re a helpless saucer on the ground – but if you don’t get to it in time, that saucer will go airborne again, presumably to come back at you later once it’s repaired. And, of course, trying to get a grounded saucer is just what that saucer’s fellow invaders are waiting for you to do. Make no mistake, War Of The Worlds is a tough game.
It’s also two games: it was originally released with black & white vector graphics, and Cinematronics later upgraded it to full color in 1982, long after color vector monitors had become the norm (after the release of Atari’s Tempest coin-op).