Review by Gruel

"Dude, I swear I saw them swimming in boats!"

The Worms franchise has been around for a while now. It all started on the PC in the mid 1990’s, as plain ‘ol Worms. The first game was a 2D, turned based action-strategy game. During game play, several teams of four worms would compete in a war type battle, using many weapons and tools to take each other out. One of Worms’ highlights was its wide arsenal of weaponry featuring classics like the Bazooka, Shotgun, and handy tools like the Ninja Rope. Worms proved to be a success on the PC, and was ported over to the console on the Playstation.

Worms’ success gathered a following of the game, and the developer at Team 17 started to spawn off more sequels. The first was the simply titled “Worms 2” that continued on the same tradition and game play as the first Worms but with an expanded weaponry, and more tactics involved. Team 17 dished out two more sequels after Worms 2 that carried on the exact type of game play. They were called Worms Armageddon, and Worms World Party. Both games kept on expanding the depth of the classic Worms’ game play, but by the time World Party was out, that same game play was getting stale.

So in late 2001, Team 17 made the first Worms’ spin-off title which was Worms Pinball. Obvious by the title, you played on several pinball boards that contained features and characters from the past Worms games. Now Team 17 has introduced to us another spin off of the Worms franchise. This one is called, Worms Blast and takes a puzzle approach to the series.

There isn’t too much of a background story to Worms Blast. All that goes to it is that several of the old characters from past games, as well as new ones being introduced go around a set of islands completing all the puzzle challenges. This story isn’t going to win any outstanding awards, but it does its job by setting the premise for the game play, and that’s all we need.

Worms Blast isn’t just your average Tetris or Bust-a-Move rip off. It has a unique engine that classifies it as its own puzzle game. All rounds of play take place in the ocean. You control a worm in a little boat. The drop box usually has multi-colored blocks in it, with various other goodies like crates that contain power-ups and weapons. There are also stars within the blocks that you must collect when they fall so you can spell out “Blast” in order to do a special attack. Your worm starts off with the classic Bazooka as its default weapon. However, by collecting the crates you can gain access to other old favorites like the shotgun, and laser.

When you start playing, a random colored missile fires out of your bazooka, and you want to do the obvious by matching it with its corresponding colored block. When you do, you’ll knock off that block, and form a chain reaction with all the other same-colored blocks connected to it. If you hit a different colored block, it’ll change from the old color to the color of the missile you fired, and it’ll screw up your strategy. Don’t try to outsmart the computer either, because it’ll pick up on some cheap tactics. For example, say there were only green and red blocks that needed to blown away, but your colored missile is at blue, and you decide to just fire it away from the drop box and into the water. If you try this cheap tactic, the AI will knock your ass out by dropping a weapon down on you. You have a life bar, and it depletes as you take punishment from doing those kinds of moves. There are other things to watch out for, such as other objects randomly falling down on you, and your water level. It slowly rises during game play. There’s plenty of other things to learn about this, and thankfully there’s a great tutorial included to teach you all the ropes of Worms Blast.

There are a few ways to play Worms Blast, with the main mode being billed as “Puzzle.” In Puzzle mode, you have a good dozen stages that stretch across the islands, with each stage containing a few puzzles to them. These stages do get incredibly harder as you go on by giving you stiff time limits and other objectives to meet. By completing this mode you unlock several hidden characters and mini-games in the Tournament mode. Tournament mode is composed of several variations of mini games that involve spaceship patterned blocks, and shooting lots of targets in set time limits. Some of these mini games are surprisingly addictive, while others are major yawners and grow old all too fast.

The two player mode is where the game shines. Two worms are blasting their own blocks away, and whoever gets their set done first wins, but there’s much more involved also. The “barrier” that separates the two drop boxes opens up at random times, giving you keen opportunities to fire a missile and mess up your opponents block pattern. You can also get power ups so you can perform air strikes or drop other objects on your opponent in hopes of eliminating them by knocking out all there life.

I got addicted to the two player mode, and spent many rounds against the computer. Two people can go at it from the same computer with the keyboard, but sadly there isn’t any support for controllers. Another option that isn’t here is online play. I was kind of shocked by this considering many of the past Worms games on the PC had online play. Even the Dreamcast version of World Party contained online play. The main Puzzle mode provides a good challenge, and unlocking all the characters and mini games makes it worth your while.

The visuals for Worms Blast aren’t anything that you’d need a high end PC to run. As a matter of fact, the requirements are quite low. You only 450 Mhz for the recommended settings. Just like past games, the graphics for Worms Blast are simple, and look like they came out of the 16-bit era. Everything is still in 2D, but what’s here looks crisp and polished. All the graphics are bright and colorful, and a bit on the cute side (is this a reason why the Gamecube is the only console to get this title?). There are some slick animations here when you pull off some huge chain combos, and the power-ups that fall from the sky are impressive as well. The good thing about these simple graphics is that it provides a constant, fast frame rate. The loading times are also only a few seconds long, and there isn’t much waiting at all.

I remember one of my favorite things from the past Worms games were all the witty comments your characters said as they were in war. You could even change the tone of voice to one of several world accents. However, things aren’t as great in Worms Blast. The characters still shout out comments here and there, but nowhere as often as in the past titles. I was also disappointed the accent selection was taken out! I want to my wacky sportscaster voice back, dammit! The background music for the main menus is a simple catchy tune, it isn’t too impressive, but it fits for this type of gaming. All the audio effects are right on the mark, and Worms' marks will be happy to know with most of the weapon effects we remember from the past games still in tact!

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 5.2
Game play: 8.5
Replay Value: 7.3

Overall: 7.0

Worms Blast proves to be a fresh entry into the puzzle genre that mostly consists of tired sequels and uninspired rip offs. It’s not the most technologically advanced game out there, but its puzzles are fun to play, and the two player mode is very addicting. If the game included some online play and a few other much needed features, then this would’ve been perfect! If you’re a fan of puzzle games, or especially a fan of the Worms games, then make sure to pick this one up. It’s a steal for only $20.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/30/02, Updated 10/30/02


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