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Review by: David Laprad
Published: January 14, 1997
Two years ago, the clever developers at Team 17, based in England, quietly unleashed an addictive turn-based strategy game called Worms. The concept was simple: players commanded a team of worms armed with ridiculously destructive weapons in an attempt to defeat other, equally well-equipped battalions. Apparently, the little wrigglers harbor a deep-seeded hatred for one another, and delight in the glorious and inventive destruction of their own kind. The demo hit the Internet with little fanfare, but before long, word spread through the newsgroups about this terrific title. It quickly developed a cult following, and soon garnered eight industry awards and enough sales to warrant a sequel.
Worms 2, which contains an entirely new code-base, takes the superb qualities of the original and piles on all the extras fans have been demanding. There are over 60 new weapons, stereo-enhanced sound effects, a myriad of tools and editors that allow players to configure nearly every aspect of the game, new characters, full-motion video, improved graphics and animation, and variable skill levels. Like all good sequels, the additions and improvements serve to polish and refine the game.
Fortunately, the developers preserved the core concept, as well as the delicate balance of strategy and mayhem. Essentially, between two and six teams, either computer or human controlled, of up to eight worms each battle for supremacy over randomly generated terrain. The teams take turns attempting to send the opposition to worm heaven (or hell, given the sheer joy they take in the savagery) with a zany assortment of weapons and tools. Worms die when they lose all their energy or drown. The winner, of course, is the team that manages to survive the commotion with all innards intact.
Players have a limited amount of time to let loose on an enemy or move to safety before the game switches to the next player. There is also a time limit for each round, after which the game enters Sudden Death. In Sudden Death, each worm’s energy is reduced to one unit so that the slightest hit will send him whimpering to the grim reaper. Because the levels are randomly generated, there is literally an unlimited number of arenas to play in, keeping the gameplay fresh. The title’s replayability is definitely one of its strongest assets; a powerful motivating factor for playing “just one more game” is to test the nature and effectiveness of a new weapon or tool.
Each team of worms enters the arena with an extensive arsenal of devastating weapons; however, many of these weapons are limited in supply, so the player must approach the game strategically in order to succeed. At times, the terrain can be positively unyielding, requiring cautious execution. Depending on the landscape, available weapons, and the skill level of opponents, players will either need to play defensively, hiding their worms until the proper moment, or indulge in heedless destruction. Because there is such an immense selection of weapons and tools, there are many things to consider prior to making a move: Will I expose my worm to harm? Will I be able to successfully execute this strike? If I make this move, in what ways might my opponent respond? Am I really thinking this hard about saving a worm? Yet the game is so full of surprises, there is rarely a moment when the player can feel absolutely safe. Once, when I felt I had safely secured my final, lowly worm (Richard Scarry reference, in case you missed it), on the far side of the screen, behind a cliff, the enemy launched a napalm strike from directly above. Roasted worms, anyone? Like all good turn-based artillery titles, the unpredictable nature of the game keeps it stimulating.
If there is one overriding concept, other than violence, that pervades the game, it is humor. The opening full-motion videos, of which there are several, had me rolling on the floor, and perfectly set the stage for the carnage that ensues. In one, two worms try to better each other by alternately revealing bigger, badder, and better weapons, starting with relatively harmless looking swords and ending with monstrously large futuristic missiles. The conclusion of that cinematic, which I will not spoil, perfectly nails down the point that the order of the hour for these mentally unbalanced annelids is overkill. The sword would have been just as effective, but missiles are much more fun.
Now, if you are ready for the real dirt on the sequel, read on.
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