Review by Derek Zoolander
"Beware; the end of the worm is nigh"
There’s something special about controlling little invertebrates as they kill other invertebrates. Maybe it’s the endearing nature of the worms, what with their cute faces and phrases; maybe it’s the nicely drawn surroundings and surreal backgrounds; maybe it’s the high-tech weapons and lovely explosions. In any case, Worms Armageddon is a damn addicting game. The concept is simple, but ingenious tactics and good use of weapons and utilities is what’s needed for success in this game. It might just seem like a few squishy-wishy worms blowing each other up, but it’s actually a mean strategy game underneath.
Basically, you control a team of worms (there are usually four worms on a team), and your goal is to defeat the opposing team of worms by killing them all. Worms die when they fall in the water that surrounds each stage, or when they run out of health. Worms is a turn-based strategy game, meaning that you and your opposition take turns controlling one of your worms at a time. In each turn, which usually lasts 30-60 seconds, you can move your worm (through slow crawls and jumps) to safer terrain, or you can attack another worm; you start out with a large inventory of weapons. If you attack another worm, injure yourself, or run out of time, your turn is over. Each worm starts out with 100 health, and this health will be whittled down through the use of weapons.
The game is played on varying landscapes. The landscapes include arctic/Antarctic snowfields, forests, jungles, castles, fields, and more – almost every setting imaginable for a game will be present as a playing field. While the playing fields will vary in terms of colours, graphics, size and shape, they’re all fundamentally the same in that the terrain is fixed and not very interactive. You can’t ‘climb’ trees or ladders, and all terrain has the same characteristic in that bumping into any part of the landscape will cause your worm’s movement to be stopped – no matter whether it’s a thin branch or a thick wall. In a similarly bizarre twist, no part of the stage will ever ‘move’: you can destroy the base of a pole with explosives, but the rest of the pole will still remain in the same spot, eerily floating in air. This rigidness of the terrain is quite weird and annoying at first, but you’ll soon get used to it. After all, the terrain is just there to provide strategic outposts, hiding places, etc. Any graphical embellishment just serves to brighten up the game.
The huge number of terrain sets and the random map generator mean that you’ll never get the same playing field twice – meaning that there’s lots of variety in strategy since a different terrain will require different movement and weapons. What’s more, each landscape is littered with randomly placed proximity mines and what seem to be candles or oil lamps. These add some further strategy into the mix: you can hit worms into proximity mines or proximity mines into worms, or you can blow up the lamps and watch the napalm fly everywhere. It’s fun for the whole family!
The most important part of Worms is, of course, the weapons. From proximity mines to bazookas to firearms, there are literally dozens of weapons you can choose from. However, you only get to use one weapon per turn, so choose wisely: while each weapon is capable of wreaking large amounts of havoc, they also have unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, the shotgun gives you two shots and is good for multiple targets or as a power weapon, and yet it’s not very damaging; and conversely, the bazooka can destroy large amounts of landscape but is tough to aim. There are projectiles, launched explosives, mine-type explosives, assault rifles, and of course, more unique weapons such as mole bombs (perfect for surprising an entrenched opponent), sheep launchers, and petrol bombs. There are also various handy gadgets – ninja ropes for access to high places; teleports for quick strategic moves; and jackhammers/blowtorches for those crafty players who want to hide underground, where one is oblivious to assault. Handy powerups and utilities also drop periodically from the sky. The amount of strategy is really quite high; it’s not only a target-practice exercise because factors such as the wind, the terrain, surrounding mines, and placement of worms play huge roles.
While Worms Armageddon isn’t vastly different from previous incarnations of Worms, the new features that are present are really quite nice. For example, the ‘Select Worm’ utility lets you choose any worm and then move it around or attack – no more waiting for the worm’s turn before moving. This is great for strategic placement. A few other new utilities and weapons have also been included in this instalment, making it more fun and strategic than ever.
There aren’t any special effects, but the simple visuals do the job perfectly. The levels are usually coloured in even, pastel shades – almost Yoshi’s Island-esque – and look very nice and cute, in a surreal sort of way. Worms are tiny squiggly things, with little faces. There’s not a huge amount of detail in the worms or the levels, but everything still looks presentable and fits in with the simple style of the game.
The explosions are standard, but the drifting napalm that accompanies certain explosions looks very neat (and is just as effective). You can see the napalm spread and eat away at the landscape and any worms that might be unfortunate enough to be in the way. Weapon effects are usually nice and creative, and the flamethrower/Uzi effects will remind you of those childish cartoons you used to watch. The effects are always simple, though, and never seem too realistic. In this game, that’s a plus.
The sound, while presentable, isn’t particularly memorable. My favourite aspect is the worms’ lines, for example, “Take cover!”, “I got you back!”, or “Heheheh.” They’re all spoken in childish voices and, coupled with the amusing lines that pop up on top of the screen when something major occurs, set a pretty humorous atmosphere for your little worms’ antics. The other sound that’s in the game is decent, but nothing memorable. Explosions, gunfire, rockets whooshing through the air – we’ve all heard those before. The mostly-quiet music, with prominent percussion, is decent as background noise but still not very memorable.
Play on random maps, or play over the Internet. Twiddle with the options – change the time limit for a turn, or the weapon/ammo properties, or the contents of crates. Change your worms. Change their starting weapons. Create your own maps. There’s tons of replay value in here, so if you’re a diehard Worms fan you’ll never have to play two identical games. This random, ever-changing nature of Worms is a definite plus for the diehard Wormer. Unfortunately, if you can’t find anyone to play with over the ‘Net then the replay value will suffer, because playing solely against the computer can get frustrating. The computer usually uses only projectiles such as the bazooka or grenade, which it has perfect aim with; what it doesn’t do is use utilities or advanced weapons well. This can get a bit grating, watching the computer befuddle you with perfect missile strikes while you confuse the computer with teleports and other utilities – but hopefully, you’ll have human enemies to play against.
Worms fans, unite! A lovely turn-based strategy game with nice humour, simple, fun gameplay and complex tactics, Worms has something in it for everyone; whether you want to have some simple fun launching rockets at each other, or use dirty tactics like mine-laying and underground bunkers, you’ll be delighted by all the things you can do in this game and the many possible variations. The nice graphics and sound also add extra style into the mix. Appealing to both die-hard gamers and newcomers alike, Worms Armageddon stands as one of the best games in the Worms series. Eminently replayable, it might seem weird at first, but it’ll grow on you. That’s a guarantee.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/01, Updated 11/16/01
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