Look for me on Xbox live. My gamertag is S T Hedgehog, and you can find me playing Worms most of the time. Literally, out of the 24 hours in the day, I will be playing Worms around 13 of them. It’s a testament to the infallible Worms formula — even though Team17 has managed to royally bone this new version from just about every angle they could imagine, I still play it religiously.
Here’s an explanation for those unfamiliar with the Worms series. You control a team of four worms on a 2D landscape, each of which has 100 health points. Your opponent also controls a team of four worms, and you take turns pounding each other with bazookas, shotguns, sheep, grenades, bananas, air strikes, etc. Bringing any worm’s health down to zero will cause death, as will blowing him into the water. The two teams alternate until one team has no worms, at which point the other team hops up and down and says “Hooray!”
Despite the cartoon-y graphics and bizarre premise, “Worms” is actually an intensely tactical game. Let’s say you have two enemies, Blaine and Mack. Mack has 50 health, and he’s on the other side of the map. Blaine is standing right next to you and he has 25. The obvious choice would be to kill Blaine while you have the chance, but what if you know that it’s Mack’s turn next? Maybe a better idea would be to go for the best cover you can find so that Mack has no chance of hurting you, then kill Blaine next turn. Maybe you want to trap Mack with a girder so that he has to waste his turn getting out. Maybe, if you’re good, you can get some high ground and nail Mack with a sheep for 65 damage.
There’s a simple pleasure when your plan works, especially in multiplayer games. Maybe the other guy thought he was far enough away from the water, but you fire punch him into the mine and he flies off the side. Maybe you put your Worm right on top of an enemy so that nobody can touch you without hurting the other guy. Maybe you use your first shotgun shot to drop one guy into the other and then kill the first so that his explosion will kill the other.
Worms makes no attempt to be realistic, fast-paced or graphically impressive. It doesn’t need to be. Why would it emulate any kind of reality when bazooka-toting worms are so much fun? Why would it try to be fast-paced if taking turns makes it different from anyone else? Why would it update its graphics when worms are so simple? The series has tried to change its basic formula before, and failed every time. This new “Worms” is conceptually identical to the very first version, and we thank Team17 for that.
Of course, there is virtually nothing about this new version that Team17 hasn’t managed to fuck up. All levels are randomly generated in only four different landscapes. Half of the old weapons are inexplicably gone — neither the holy hand grenade, nor the mortar, nor the carpet bomb, nor the super sheep, nor even the flamethrower are anywhere to be found. All matches take place with four worms per team. Weapons send worms flying half as far as they used to. The single player mode, which used to be 40 meticulously designed missions on brilliant maps, is now just 20 randomly generated skirmishes against alternately infallible and idiotic computers.
Anybody who has never experienced Worms before should buy this game. You’ll be amazed at how this premise manages to be as fun as Halo. Anybody who remembers Worms from their childhood and wants a chance to sheep once more should buy this game. Hell, everybody should buy this game, it’s only eight bucks.