War of the Worlds was an old vector arcade game released by Cinematronics way back in 1983. This game was meant to be a 3-D vector version of Space Invaders. Fewer than ten of these were made. It was supposedly coded for a color X-Y monitor, but it appears that they all shipped with a black and white X-Y monitor instead. Games simply don't get much more uncommon than this. There do not seem to be any factory units left for this game at all. But one collector found an unused conversion kit for this game in a warehouse a few years back. It is the color version, but so far it appears that he has not installed it in a cabinet yet.
The reason this game never went into wide production was twofold. The first reason was that it was simply too easy. Games that are too easy don't make a lot of money. The second reason was that the hardware simply wasn't good enough to run the game, it lagged a bit from time to time, and arcade games are not supposed to lag. Some newer ones do from time to time, but lag in early 80s games was almost unheard of. It is really too bad that they never quite got this one together. This is by far the best of the "rare" vector games.
This is one great looking game. You control a little tank that can move back and forth at the bottom of the screen, your enemies are martian walkers that advance on your position with some of the smoothest movement I have ever seen outside of a modern polygon game. I could go on about the martians forever, but just try it out yourself in MAME, they really are just about the coolest early 80s enemy ever.
Each martian takes several hits to destroy, as you are actually blasting their legs out from under them. You can protect yourself from their shots by using your shield button, but use it sparingly, as you only have a limited amount of shield time.
This game is fun in the same way that Space Invaders is fun. Simple alien blasting that anyone can understand. The gameplay might have been a bit primitive for 1983, but it looked so awesome that it didn't really matter.
It is hard to say what a War of the Worlds machine really is. There is a black and white picture of one from an old advertisement that shows it in the same cabinet as Armor Attack, along with sideart showing a martian walker. But that simply does not seem to exist anymore, so instead I will talk about the conversion kit that does exist.
The War of the Worlds conversion kit came with a red and yellow marquee that had a fairly simple game logo on it. The monitor bezel showed the curved surface of an orange planet, along with some generic outer space stuff. The control panel has graphics showing a ruined city, and the legs of several giant martian walkers. The controls are all pushbuttons, no joysticks or anything like that at all. The game came with a plastic monitor overlay meant to give color to the black and white monitor, it made the upper and lower areas red, while the center area was yellow (it also had a hand drawn city scene way in the background).
The existing kit was meant to retrofit a black and white Armor Attack machine, which was why it came with a monitor overlay, even though the game was capable of generating color all by itself.
Where to play
You have two options when it comes to playing this game. You can load it up under MAME, or you can go over to Tom McClintock's house and beg him to put his kit together and let you play it. The choice is yours!