Since the mid-'90s, I've been unable to look at the common garden worm without wondering "How many kills does it have?" or "Does it have a shotgun?" I blame Team17 for this entirely; their military-minded, wriggly warriors make these animals seem ferocious.
Unfortunately, my love of these warmongering creatures has diminished over the years. The awkward switch to 3D left nothing but disappointment in its wake, and my interest has yet to be recaptured by the later iterations. My current wormless existence is about to get shook up, however, as original Worms creator Andy Davidson and Team17 have been hard at work making the latest title, Worms Revolution, forward-looking yet still able to inspire a great deal of nostalgia.
Worms Revolution (PC [previewed], PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Team17 Software Ltd.
Publisher: Team17 Software Ltd.
Release: October 10, 2012
Most of my fond memories surrounding the Worms franchise involve other people; people who were once friends but became, at least for the length of a round and probably the rest of the day, sworn enemies. Given the online mode, there's little reason not to want to take on another human commander of worms, however, on the off chance you don't want to deal with people or you have a repellent personality, there's a healthy amount of single-player content in Worms Revolution.
Even if you are eager to take on your pals in worm-on-worm conflict, it's probably worth taking the first part of the campaign, the tutorial, for a spin. You only get one worm to control, and enemies are static, passive things just waiting to be brutally murdered. There are quite a few new features, so it's a good place to come to grips with them.
Throughout, players are mocked, berated, and occasionally congratulated by the sexy voiced funny-man, Matt Berry (IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh) in his role as disgraced, mentally deranged wildlife expert Don Keystone. Fans of his comedy stylings will find a lot to delight them here, as the writing seems tailor made for his delivery, and I have no doubt that you lovely Americans will enjoy the oh-so hilarious accent and funny British words.
The tutorial stage of the campaign is drawn out over eight levels, which strikes me as a ridiculous number, and I must admit I found myself extremely bored after only one or two of them. Only Berry's narration made it tolerable. Thankfully, once that's over, it starts to pick up, and you finally get your full squad of violent, psychotic beasties.
The campaign will take you to many colorful battlegrounds; mundane places turned interesting due to the worms' tiny size. You see, unlike in previous titles, the worms and their surroundings are actually scaled more appropriately, and animated scenes play out in the background with large rats scurrying about, or massive pelicans. Littered around the environment are human items such as mobile phones or Zippo lighters, and they can often end up obstructing your progress and require a lovely big explosion to remove. Sometimes, these obstacles can be transformed into weapons to turn against your enemies, especially if these obstacles happen to be explosive or, even worse, filled with water.
Right from the start, the battles can actually be a bit tricky. It's not because the AI is particularly good -- though sometimes it seems like the enemy worms have the accuracy of Robin Hood -- but rather because of the obstacles scattered throughout the levels. While mines and explosive barrels are undoubtedly threats to watch out for, or use to your advantage, it's the water that you really need to keep an eye on.
Water has always been a threat in Worms, but never before has it been used so widely, and as a weapon, no less. Water pistols and water bombs can be used to drown or knock down rows of foes, the jelly-like liquid carrying them down to their doom, while the water in the actual environment can also be manipulated to great effect. Pockets of water locked away in caves exist above and below the battlefield, and a well-placed explosive or an accurately fired rocket can turn these wee pools into deadly weapons.
One of my favorite things about the campaign was how it showcased some wonderful level design. Team17 clearly went all out to create interesting game-spaces, and it really made me eager to try my hand at it, too. Unfortunately, the landscape editor was unavailable in the preview build, so I had to console myself with the developer's intricate creations.
On top of the campaign mode, the other single-player feature is the puzzle mode. Instead of straightforward battles, these levels teach players slightly more advanced strategies, and task them with thinking outside the box a little bit.
To call them puzzles is a bit strong, though, as they struck me as more like extra tutorials, especially given the hints provided by Don Keystone. Still, they can be quite fun and feature interesting scenarios from defending fellow worms to murdering worms using only a weapon which will not actually kill them.
The single-player content seems surprisingly robust, if not nearly as fun as playing with other people. As a way to practice and hone strategies, the mode more than does the job, but it's unlikely that people will be spending very much time with it. I really hope they do, though, as Don Keystone is quite the character and makes the campaign and puzzles amusing.
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