By Greg Newbegin
On its initial release 17 years ago (yep, I feel old too), Team17's Worms was a roaring success - the turn-based gameplay really suited the local multiplayer that was popular at the time. In fact, it was one of those titles that "everybody" knew about. It was fun, it was funny, and it was fresh.
For me, though, the love ended shortly thereafter. Subsequent releases were simply a rehash of a game I'd already played to death, and I pretty much ignored the series over the years - I didn't even realise there was a relatively brief (and extremely unpopular) foray into 3D. Now - all these years and 17 revamps later - I put up my hand to try the recent release, Worms: Revolution.
What's so revolutionary about it, you ask? Well, at face value, not much. However, scratch a little deeper, and you'll find some new additions that make this a fresh new take on the Worms series - and this was a pleasant surprise.
The core gameplay is still the same 2D turn-based warfare that we all know and love; however, it looks much better. The new 3D engine models the environments to provide perceived depth to the 2D plane. It looks pretty good, and it's kind of interesting to see things going on in the background while a match is played out. It has no effect on the gameplay, of course, but it really makes things look better overall.
The big change, though (in my opinion at least), is the addition of water as a tool, obstacle, and weapon - no only can worms still fall to their watery death, but players can now manipulate water to their advantage. For example, there are small caches of water strewn around the level - blowing a hole in the side of the "container" will unleash the water onto unsuspecting worms below, washing them away, or drowning them (slowly) by covering their heads. The addition of water bombs and water pistols also provide similar functions, and this simple addition really adds to the Worms world. However, I do think the worms drown FAR too slowly - only 5 HP per turn? Almost seems pointless...
There are also environmental objects that can be manipulated - either by hitting them with projectiles, or by use of the new "telekinesis" power - this was not something I used very much, in fact, many of the environmental objects were more of a hinderance than a help, and I found myself regressing to the same od "thow a grenade - fire a rocket" style of gameplay that I always used.. Still, it kind of shakes things up a little to have some of these objects lying about.
Another addition is in regards to the TYPES of worms themselves - you can now have a scientist, heavy, soldier, and scout, each with subtle differences to the other. The soldier worm is essentially the same old familiar worm from previous titles, while the scout is small, fast, and can jump further; the heavy is stout, tough, but moves very slowly, and the scientist... has a big head and confers a +5 HP bonus to all allies every time his turn comes up. This means you can also create your own formations of worms - you want all scientists? Go for it! All scouts? Your choice! With the freedom to name and dress up your little dudes, you'll never wonder which worm is yours again. That said, though, I didn't find this changed things up for me to any great degree.
For single player, there are 32 campaign levels (however, 8 of these are training). Each level puts you into an environment against a bunch of other worms, and lets you battle it out until there's only one team (and occasionally only one worm) remaining. The usual story. There's also a Puzzle mode, which puts the player in charge of a couple of worms with limited weaponry, and challenges them to discover the (often only) path to the enemy, and finish them off. As each level only provides the specific items that are required, it can be quite tough, and I found myself really enjoying the 20 puzzles (again, 5 are training) - possibly more than the campaign.
Of course, Worms has never been about single player, and it's here that this game shines. I found the AI in the single player campaign levels to be far too accurate for my liking (pin point accuracy EVERY DAMNED TIME), so it was refreshing to play against a flesh-and-blood human, whether they were in the same room, or just simply on the same planet. Add to that the ability to customise games to your liking, in addition to several interesting multiplayer modes, and you have a good little time waster on your hands.
Overall, this is the same game you've played many times before, but it's been given a new coat of paint, and this one sticks. It feels new, it's a lot of fun, and the new water physics add a new challenge to the gameplay. As a single player title, it's relentlessly difficult, and I found myself frustrated on more than one occasion, but as a multiplayer title, it's pure gold. And did I mention that it's narrated by Matt Berry of IT Crowd and Mighty Boosh fame? No? Well it is, and I had a hearty old laugh listening to some of the ridiculous lines Team17 dreamt up for him. In fact, without Matt Berry narrating, I might not have had the resolve to continue after the first few levels...