WORMS’ mixed bag needs to dig itself out of a hole

Posted: July 12, 2009 in Shooter, Strategy

Through the years and the past year really with the iPhone/iPod touch platform, WORMS has seemingly been the holy grail when it comes to trajectory turn-based gameplay. On the PC, it was one of the most popular games in the category for its combination of graphics and humor. Unfortunately, while the version that is out now for the platform may appeal to WORMS fans, its laggy performance and limited content make it rather disappointing in other comparison to other games in the category namely IUGO’s Star Hogs. Agree or disagree, I call it like it is.

WORMS is a turn-based combat game where you control teams of WORMS battling other worm teams in different terrains. The game offers a nice degree of flashy graphics, and the humor with accompanying voiceovers is as good as the original. The game has two modes of play: Single Player and Multiplayer. Under Single Player, there are three submodes: Quick Game, Practice Match and Challenges. Quick Game will take you through the best of 3 series with 3 difficulty modes: Easy, Normal and Hard. Practice will take you through gameplay where the enemy worm teams don’t fire back. Challenges offers 50 pre-set missions battling various numbers of enemy teams in different terrains. In each of these you can choose to play as the Champions, iTeamsters, Old Skool or New Skool.

The game lacks a campaign mode which is where I think WORMS misses the boat. In addition, the WORMS franchise has always been at its best when it comes to multiplayer. and this iteration is no exception. Unfortunately, you’re limited to local multiplayer which is frankly another disappointing turn of events. In multiplayer, you have options to edit your team and member names, but unlike other versions, you cannot determine the weapon set. Both oversights seriously take away a huge part of the depth.

In terms of enemy worm teams, there are several each with their own attributes if you can call them that.


Animation and graphics aside which by the way look great, the controls tend to be temperamental and not optimized for the platform. For one, the game is zoomed out too far to begin with. You can zoom in and out by pinching the screen or pan the screen with two fingers. In both cases, the responsiveness seems sluggish and requires too many motions, but it works.

When moving and repositioning WORMS under a time constraint is challenging enough, but you don’t want the controls to be part of that challenge. There are two hot zones located on either side of the screen which are used to guide your WORMS in the desired direction. For the most part this works fine, but there are occasions when they are not responsive. When a worm is designated as the shooter, and arrow appears above his name. From here, you can move the worm, tap to jump or flip, or choose to aim and shoot. Tapping to jump or flip can be a touchy experience and often what will happen is the worm will flip in the wrong direction. Is this a big deal? Not in the scheme of things.

Aiming and shooting can be an issue. A cross-hair will appear that you can use to aim and shoot. To position the cross-hair, you use your finger to adjust the angle. I’m running on an iPod Touch 2g 3.0, and in general, I don’t have many issues with non-responsiveness unless it’s in the game itself. There is a slight lag with aiming almost jerky in some ways, although the shooting mechanism works perfectly fine where you hold down to increase the level of power.

In the game, WORMS have a multitude of weapons to choose from. For those new to WORMS, there is a weapons help section under the Help & Options section. In a gameplay situation, it’s not the most practical set up to flip back to the H&O section, and a better scheme would have been to provide a brief description in the actual weapons selection queue. A Weapons icon appears in the lower left corner providing access to your arsenal. Weapons are limited with supply indicated by a number. Many of the weapons are actually not active and are acquired by picking up special weapons drops that occur during the game. There’s a good variety here including bazooka, grenades, dynamite, shotgun, bombs and even a kamikaze weapon. Some have fuses with a time delay so you can place them and run.

Each worm begins with a value of 100 and as they take hits, the number decreases. WORMS will die once that number hits zero or they fall into a watery grave. As I mentioned, each side is given a few seconds to reposition and decide strategy in between turns with a timer appearing in the upper right corner. One note to mention is that while playing in Challenges mode, the AI tends to be on the weak and slow side. In some cases, the AI was just lame constantly shooting weapons in the water or hitting the side of mountains.

The game has a good deal of humor that is apparent with each shot, and the animations are done extremely well. But WORMS is a mixed bag in its current form. While the game is well presented, the content is lacking and the gameplay needs tweaking. WORMS fans will find this to be a good pickup in hopes of future updates to smooth out the issues. My guess is this and the WORMS reputation will move it quickly up the iTune charts. But the reality is that this game is far from being there. There are other games with more depth available. As for me, being a neutral party neither a WORMS fan nor naysayer, the game is unsatisfying and cracks are showing.

Albie Meter: 3.5 Stars (performance issues, limited multiplayer and no campaign mode hinder WORMS; game has potential, but those new to this may want to look elsewhere for now)


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