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Worms: Open Warfare 2 (DS) artwork

Worms: Open Warfare 2 (DS) review

"Even though there's an effective tutorial at the onset of the game (which you can skip if you're so inclined), getting a handle on the destructive implements available can prove difficult. Options like the flaming fist that lets you knock your opponents backward with a cry of “Shoryuken!” are cool and have predictable results, but more standard fare like the bazooka definitely doesn't."

Like its predecessors, Worms: Open Warfare 2 is nearly impossible to hate. With the franchise's usual sense of humor, challenging battles against the computer or online opponents, portability and some optional mini-games that make special use of the DS hardware, you might suppose this outing would be irresistible. Unfortunately, even for those who love legless wonders, a few issues muddy the waters.

The general idea behind this and other Worms titles is that you're in charge of a squadron of worms with plans to blast the snot out of the enemy group. You and your adversaries might all be food for fish, but you carry deep grudges; only over-the-top violence will satisfy your blood lust. It's silly, of course, but therein lies the appeal. If you don't smile at the thought of an earthworm whipping out a bazooka and turning the landscape into a series of charred craters, I fear for your immortal soul.

That's only the game's concept, though. What about the game play? It turns out that even once you move beyond the amusing notion of angry fish bait, Open Warfare 2 remains intriguing.

Like its predecessors, the game places you on a hand-drawn map (though there is plenty of background movement) and lets you wage war. Combat is turn-based. When a battle begins, all of your worms are situated at key vantage points, while the same is true of your competitor's squirming troops. With your turn, you can then move your active soldier into a better offensive position and in most cases launch your attack using one of the many available weapons.

Those weapons are where problems begin. Even though there's an effective tutorial at the onset of the game (which you can skip if you're so inclined), getting a handle on the destructive implements available can prove difficult. Options like the flaming fist that lets you knock your opponents backward with a cry of “Shoryuken!” are cool and have predictable results, but more standard fare like the bazooka definitely doesn't.

The elements are to blame for that. You might look at a worm on a ledge above and think that you can turn him to ash, but if he's too far away, you have to account for astonishingly powerful wind gusts that could take your mortar and send it just about anywhere (including right back at you). Seemingly simple assaults sometimes become absurdly difficult. Even navigating the map can prove difficult when a simple hop at zero gravity turns into a dip in the ocean (an instant death). Your computer opponent rarely makes mistakes, though. He knows just where to aim shells to consistently blast you from across the map. He knows how to get around, too. The ease and frequency with which the AI manages complex, long-distance strikes is exasperating and unfair.

Worms veterans might think that the complaints up to this point just sound like a lot of baseless whining. After all, there are some people who really get the franchise and love the complexity. What about them? Well, they may still have mixed feelings.

That's mostly true because of hardware limitations (or programmers not yet comfortable with the way the DS works). You might not expect it of a cartridge-based game, but Open Warfare 2 has load times. Worse, they're console-sized. It just doesn't make sense, not when the on-screen visuals seem like the sort of thing you might anticipate from the Super Nintendo. Even the occasional video is so pixelated that it can't possibly be a factor. Despite the rousing soundtrack and the occasional digitized worm voice, you'd think delays would be minimal.

Special mini-games designed specifically for the DS really highlight that flaw. In one of the three varieties, your worm starts on one side of the map and you guide him to the other by drawing lines on the screen. However, there are surprise complications. Two seconds in, you might realize that you overlooked something, then wait 10 seconds to make another attempt, only to find something else you missed. It doesn't take long at all--particularly with the more involved puzzles that so frequently rely on trial and error--before you're spending more time watching load screens than you are actually playing!

If the developers forgot about some of the hardware's strengths, though, at least they remembered its online capabilities. In fact, matches against people from halfway around the world are the number one reason to keep playing! Signing onto a wireless network is painless. I was able to instantly find a satisfying match (which I won, in case you're wondering) on my first attempt. Players vote on settings before beginning battles, or can simply let the game decide. If people continue supporting online play, Open Warfare 2 could represent a lasting value to gamers that relishes a worm-infested internet and could potentially keep them playing for weeks. Unlockable content and the ability to customize everything about your worm squadron (right down to victory dances) could have a less profound but similar effect if you lack a wireless network.

Worms: Open Warfare 2 feels like it was made for a disc-based system but crammed onto the DS cartridge just because it could be. Attempts to hide any resulting issues only exacerbate them, yet charm and a timeless concept triumph anyway. The result is difficult to hate, even if it's equally difficult to love. Online play could easily keep this game in rotation for a long while, especially if newcomers are willing to devote the time it takes to learn the ropes. For returning Worms enthusiasts looking for a way to take their carnage on the road and for those who are sick of typical DS fare, Open Warfare 2 comes recommended. Even if that's not you, give it a shot. Preferably with napalm.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (September 21, 2007)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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