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Worms (Xbox 360) artwork

Worms (Xbox 360) review

"Team 17 once did their level best to jump the shark, but, as seems to be the trend these days, have established a series reboot, travelled right back to their humble beginnings and rediscovered the magic all over again."

I need to exercise caution here: in talking about Worms, I may betray how, once upon a time, this simple little strategy game took over my life. On several occasions, I was late for dates, sporting events and weddings thanks to my bizarre love of controlling little invertebrates armed with bazookas and grenades, wanting nothing more than to pummel, explode and prod any enemy opposition into oblivion. I wasnít alone: back in 1995, Worms was a Big Deal, appearing on any platform that still held a glimmer of relevance and effortlessly roping anyone foolhardy enough to even glance at it into an unstoppable spiral of addiction.

Team 17ís comedic strategy peaked at around 2001 with Worms World Party which was able to offer seamless online play that defined the experience, setting up uncountable leagues and clans, each spewing their own unique rule-sets and parameters. Then, Worms jumped the shark: its brave and sturdy attempt at strolling into 3D aside, spin-offs including golf and puzzle games (as well as a cancelled kart racer) defamed the product, forcing many to re-evaluate their view on the series. The allure was lost as even titles based on the Worms of old offered little new; between the sorry attempts at asserting the franchise into new genres came brand new titles that were little more than add-on packs.

Worms bucked that trend when it hit XBLA in 2007 when the title was scaled right back to its original 1995 roots. Gone were the weapons of wholesale destruction, like the Concrete Donkey or the Holy Hand Grenade; this wiping of the slate even filed away several items once present in the original. Bungee ropes designed to allow worms safe passage from long descents were scrapped, making reliance on the ninja rope tool even more vital. The rope, the most useful tool in your arsenal, has long been an oft-abused instrument, allowing wily players the chance to defy gravity with imposable physics. These acts, while still possible, have been vastly scaled back, and the ability to build momentum with a rope swing and barrel into stationary targets has been done away with completely.

Gone also is the ability to use cluster grenades to inflict one hit kills. Worms have a scalable HP count that defaults to 100, and, back in the day, finding a worm squashed into a tight space and introducing him to the confined blast of a cluster bomb resulted in unimaginable rape as each and every cluster exploded right in his face. This has been nerfed. The fragments of grenade now have the threat level of a kitten.

The only high-powered weaponry left is the chaotic Banana Bomb (the bouncier cousin of the cluster bomb, force fed generous helpings of explosive overkill) and the fickle Sheep. The sheep, a simple-minded grazing animal used since early time for its woollen coat, also has a rather nasty explosive side. Release one of the woolly buggers, and it will charge in a straight line, trying to leap over the more simplistic obstacles. Thereís a big downside: misjudge the distance it needs travel, and you might find it bounding into a harmless pit, over the side of the level into the murky waters of death or, worst of all, turning around and legging it right back towards you.

Itís moments like the odd turncoat sheep that cement the game in the memories of everyone. We all remember doing something incredibly dumb, like not take the wind into account when firing a long-range bazooka shot and seeing the shell lazily drift right back at us. Or of having an attack backfire, exploding an incontinently placed napalm barrel or hurling a mine right at the feet of our last worm. The unpredictable chain reactions caused by wholesale damage are as brilliant as they are fearsome. A simple grenade could blow up half the scenery, catapult worms off screen for instant death, scatter a group of mines in random directions or explode harmlessly in mid air.

Groupings of worms are easy prey for a player with a jetpack, a stick of dynamite and ill intentions, while dark side players will find a cosy little corner, block themselves in with a steel girder, then start a network of underground tunnels while others curse their name. You can die through a couple of shotgun blasts to the head, through a Street Fighter II inspired uppercut (complete with Ryu-tinted headband and iconic move cry) or, if youíre a soulless bastard, by sneaking up on someone near the edge and prod them gently to their demise.

Recent worries that this version of Worms would become obsolete now that Worms 2: Armageddon has joined it on XBLA are understandable, but hardly justified. While the second outing does scale back up the weapons of mass destruction and offer more options for Team 17ís unique brand of warfare, thereís a simplistic charm still to be found in Worms. Tributes to the past rarely pay off and instead do little but expose the cracks in our rose tinted glasses, but in remembering what the title was all about, updating little but the graphics and a much better way to play online, Iím able to lose large chunks of my life again. Team 17 once did their level best to jump the shark, but, as seems to be the trend these days, have established a series reboot, travelled right back to their humble beginnings and rediscovered the magic all over again.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (August 16, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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wolfqueen001 posted August 23, 2010:

Nice review. I'm a huge Worms fan, did you know?

...Worms Armageddon is awesome. I honestly don't think I could go back and play the original if its as short on the weapons and things as the newer version, simply because I'm so used to it. I suppose we could argue which one adds more strategic value - having more or less ways to blow people up - but I'll save that for another day. However, I'm glad you didn't lump Armageddon in with the sell-outs and "add-on packs". Truth be told, this one, Worms: Armageddon and Worms: World Party are the only games in this series that I've heard of. Heh.
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EmP posted August 23, 2010:

Maybe I'm doing that one next. Do you know? I don't! I'm wonderfully unpredictable.

I've not read True's review, but if he suggests the original had the holy hand greande, he's plain wrong. Oh, True; you and you factual instabilty. For the record, while I remain a fan of World Party especially, the overkill weapons took a lot of the thought out of the game. A clever darkside could be effortlessly nuked with a concrete donkey drop and some weapons were simple click here, kill that whihc you couldn't defend against. A lot of games of WWW depended less on skill, and more on who got lucky with the ammo crates.
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wolfqueen001 posted August 23, 2010:

Well, I don't really know about World Party (I've just heard of it, not played it), but if it's anything like Armageddon, I never had an issue with the ammo crates thing. The thing is, a lot of the "overkill" weapons were only available through those crates (provided you had the appropriate settings for that... You could 'cheat' if you wanted, but that's just dumb). Crates only ever pop up every few turns, and they're completely random and in random locations, so I found that, while playing, it was fairly balanced. I mean, even if I could reach one before and enemy did or either one of us blew it up on accident (or deliberately), it could be completely useless. So basically I found myself relying on more of the conventional weapons like the shotgun, bazooka and grenade despite the potential for mass destruction.

I will agree about some of their uses, though. Like homing pigeons (one of my favorites) all you had to do was click where you wanted it to go then shoot it. At least with homing missiles you had to consider wind and distance (or at least distance... wind wouldn't make sense for a homing device). Of course, the latter did about half as much damage, too, so I owuldn't call it overkill.

EDIT: I realize that all my admittance to not playing many of the games in this series undermines my "huge Worms fan" claim, but I promise you, Armageddon has influenced me so much, that I'd happily try any of these others, whether I've heard about them or not, provided they're on par with what I've experienced. (And it sounds like they are.) Doubt I'd want to try all the stupid spin offs, though.

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