Worms Reloaded PC, Mac Review

It’s hip to be 2D again. The developers of Sonic the Hedgehog have relented after years of struggling to perfect a major 3D transition, with the upcoming episodic Sonic 4 title. The good people at Team 17 have either seen this and the potential pound signs in it, or come up against the same problems with their own 3D projects. Or both, of course.

As I write this, the Windows via Steam release date for Worms Reloaded has been and gone. Being privy to the game for a few days has given me the opportunity to see just whether they have metered that oh so fine balance between old and new. Have they resisted the temptation to flower the thing up with gizmos, throw away game modes and the like? And if this is so, have they gone too far with this premise and essentially re-released Worms World Party?

Well there needn‘t be worry. Rewinding to World Party as the yardstick for this new release, and you see subtle and almost universally welcome changes implemented. The 2D graphics are still pretty much the same, with added textual oomph for the backgrounds.

The sounds, ambient music and trademark accents and battle cries are the same as they were in 2001. You are of course equipped with new weird and (not always wonderful) dialects. On the subject of personalisation, along with still being able to customise the little fellas headstones; they now don headgear. Be it the battered leathery bonnet of a middle aged peasant, knights helmet, or the black humour inspired ‘hook’ through the worm, you will not be found wanting.

Worms is of course a game that delights in its black comedy, as ably demonstrated by the gameplay of all previous titles. I mean, where else can you ‘prod’ someone to death? Throughout the 2D era, the developers managed to incorporate ever more gloriously macabre means of administering last rites. These were always variations on a theme. Exploding sheep lead to exploding old women. And mad cows. And moles. Air strikes shared the wealth with napalm strikes and carpet bombs. Then you had the even more ridiculous, bombastic weaponry. The concrete donkey springs to mind.

Its creators just had fun with an originally very simple concept. It did get a bit absurd with Worms Armageddon, but then, the clue is in the title. Ultimately though, the controls and means of accessing such bizarre machinery are the antithesis of this – have always been incredibly quick to pick up.

With Worms Reloaded, there is a return to this know-where-you-stand approach. It is quick and easy to adapt to on any platform. Having played Worms World Party not so long ago (on PC), it is essentially exactly the same. And really, this is what you want. A solid, reliable base to begin reassembling the madness on.

So what new features are there? Well, electromagnets are a particular favourite. Either of the “attract” or “repel” variety; they will draw or repel mines and all other manner of metal to/from their intended target. As you can imagine, this can operate as an excellent defensive strategy, or act as the inspiration for a malevolent offensive. You can place sentry guns that will sit and monitor a short area of your choice. Should an enemy worm so much as wander past and they will know about it sharpish.

Toolbox options can include the dastardly “Steal”, which if used provides access to your opponents weapons draw. In a similar vein you can actually raise a worm from the dead, should you receive the pickup and his cartoon grave still feature on the landscape. Where the skunk was a largely ineffective part of your armoury, it has been replaced with something that makes far more sense – a poison strike. Catching a full team of worms with the wasting agent is infinitely more frustrating and potentially crucial for a victim than if it were just the odd one. And the little blighters are even more animated than they used to be – with low HP a worm will go faecal coloured and start looking rather sorry for itself.

So it’s still great fun. But what of its options and game modes?

Single player has all the usual suspects, a simple single match, or a custom one. You can enter a training mode to hone your skills or do what I did and tackle the Campaign Mode. This starts off nice and simple and builds with difficulty at a decent gradient. It acclimatises you to your arsenal with various missions that make specific use of certain items. One thing I will say with regards to the CPU difficulty – it’s fine, but why on EARTH from the very outset must they be accurate to within millimetres with grenades and guns? Everything else is pretty slapdash and generous and yet on this front it is completely unforgiving.

The multiplayer is really where the game achieves a long and happy life, as has always been the case. You are still able to flick through game modes and preset rules such as Crazy Crates, Fort (for the more cautious), and Armageddon. Fort was rather dull during my short game with Team 17’s PR, but this had more to do with the fact that we were both abjectly awful.

Certainly more pressing is that the game felt like it had a couple of bug related blips during the multiplayer tryout. Incessantly typing “HAHAHAHAHA” on the chat screen at the point of victory caused the game to freeze for all parties on a couple of occasions. It is unlikely that this will be a particularly regular problem, but I would exercise caution nonetheless. These hiccups aside, Worms Reloaded is a welcome, engaging and worthwhile title, and a measured balance of old and new.

8/10

by

Version tested: Windows, Mac OS X

Developer: Team17

Publisher: Team 17

Genre: Strategy game