Where oh where would Team 17 be if it wasn’t for Worms? The studio has done quite a few other games worthy of note (anyone remember Alien Breed?) but let’s face it, Worms has pretty much kept the studio in the public eye for a good couple of decades now, and there’s no sign of the franchise slowing down.
After a few unsuccesful dalliances with 3D, it’s nice to see that Team 17 have gone back to basics with Worms 2: Armageddon on the Xbox Live Arcade. It’s 2D – and so it should be, because 3D just ruins the Worms experience in my humble opinion. And it’s chock full of weapons, bizarre destructible landscapes and the type of uniquely quirky humour that is synonymous with the series.
Worms 2: Armageddon isn’t a new game by any means. Appearing on the PC some years back, it introduced the cartoony worm style most players are familiar with. Assuming that you’ve been leading a worm-like existence deep down in the bowels of the earth for the past couple of decades, Worms is a turn-based strategy game where our spineless chums wage war against each other with a variety of death dealing weapons. Worms with bazookas? Worms with grenades? Worms throwing exploding sheep at each other? You’ve got all that, and more.
The thing that marks worms out is the use of wind and the use of parabolic trajectory physics. Bear with me on this one, because it’s a lot simpler than it sounds.
Most of the weapons in Worms rely on your accuracy in judging how much power you need to apply to a weapon in order to overcome the undulating landscape, the air movement present on your particular turn, and the heft / weight of your chosen weapon vs its destructive power when it reaches its destination. In the case of the core weapon, the bazooka, you fire a projectile – so if you’re on the other side of a hill from your enemy, you need to fire up and over that hill with enough power to nail them.Got that? Good.
When you start to factor in other weapons types like grenades, air bursts and even those bizarre exploding sheep, you start to see how Worms 2: Armageddon swiftly becomes horribly addictive and engaging. Played against the CPU with your motley band of four worms, the game’s fun enough. Played against a few human players (maximum of four teams on XBL) the game transforms into the ultimate way of settling those post-pub arguments.
The game begins by letting you customize your own team of worms. Everyone has their favourite naming conventions. For some reason (probably lost in the mists of time) I always call my team the Blackadders so you’ve got Edmund, Baldrick, Percy and Melchett to contend with if you ever take me on online. Once you’ve named them you can assign comedy voices to them (posh british accent for me, please), stick comedy hats on them and even give them a unique gravestone marker for when they wriggle off this mortal coil.
Choosing the landscape you’ll fight on comes next, and these can range from simple islands in the middle of a body of water, to huge complex cavernous levels that really need some serious strategic planning to circumvent.
In single-player mode, the game leads you through a series of tutorials to get you used to the main weapons types. For new players, this is an essential way of getting to grips with the action and learning just how all that parabolic trajectory stuff works.
Once the tutorial is done and dusted, you can choose to launch straight into a mano vs CPU game (or mano vs mano if you fancy tackling a human opponent either taking it in turns with them sitting in the room with you, or on Live via the internet). If you fancy something a little more objective based you can choose to tackle the game’s main campaign mode, which sets you a series of challenges and stacks you up against a series of opponents of varying skill and difficulty.
The genius of Worms 2: Armageddon lies in its relative simplicity to pick up and play. Various games have tried (and failed) to capture the genius of Worms, and it’s still testament to the fact that nothing comes quite close enough to matching the gameplay that the only other game on Xbox Live that’s worth considering is the previous Worms effort offered up by Team 17 back when the 360 was relatively new to the market.
For the price of 800 points you might be torn between picking Worms 2: Armageddon or its predecessor Worms (which currently retails for 400 points). W2A is slightly more polished and offers up a lot more of the specialised weapons types that only came into play in later iterations of the game (the Holy Hand Grenade, the Super Sheep, the exploding little old lady). Lots of neat little touches to the game’s visuals have been shoehorned in (love the Teleport sequence) and there’s a lot more customisation here – in fact you can earn tokens in game to spend in the Worms Shop, outfitting your slimy little buddies with all manner of embellishments to truly mark them out as unique when you enter into online skirmishes.
It’s easy to see why the game has such staying power as no two games are ever the same, and even for single players there’s an extensive campaign and puzzle mode to chunk through even if you never take the game online.Worms 2: Armageddon is probably the most accomplished and polished version of the game, and one that’s eminently suited to the Xbox Live Arcade. Though I slightly miss the facility to generate random landscape types, this is a tiny insignificant niggle. Worms 2: Armageddon is sublime and should definitely be high on your XBLA shopping list.