Sometimes it takes a couple of tries for a game to really click with me. With the Worms franchise, this started a year before the original Half-Life was released, started again around the time the XBox 360 launched, and ended today. It’s not a pop-the-champagne moment or anything but I’m glad I finally understand enough to truly get it. The warmongering invertebrates have thoroughly engaged me since I downloaded the game. In other words: This game rules really hard.
Spongy Pink Warfare
Since 1995, the Worms series has documented an ongoing armed conflict between two war-ravaged nations of nightcrawlers. As Glorious Leader of your own worm army, you must traverse a randomized, fully destructible environment — or “theatre,” if you will — and neutralize all enemy combatants with the aid of cutting-edge equipment like teleporters, air strikes, jetpacks, and explosive sheep. Learning the items in your toolbox of murder is key if you wish to secure your faction’s future prosperity in such a volatile geopolitical climate. Each has a specific tactical use and comes with its own set of benefits and limitations. A shotgun, for instance, is probably best for close encounters with solo enemies, while a banana bomb is good for groups at medium range.
Creative tacticians will have no problem finding a use for every tool at their disposal after a few hours’ playtime. Developer Team 17 has boasted crazy weapon variety as a key selling point since the franchise’s Amiga days, and the experience shows. Some items may be a little more useful than others, but none feel gimmicky or totally without worth.
One of the game’s coolest features isn’t related to the gameplay at all. Because I am a weirdo, I got immense satisfaction from being able to honestly say things like “Hold on, I’m picking tombstones for my worm army” and “Look! This worm’s wearing a pink top hat” to my poor confused wife. If you’ve never seen a worm soldier in full plate armor call in a bunker buster on his sombrero-clad rival, it’s a sight to behold. Believe me.
In some ways I think it’d be easier to come into a game like this having never played one of its predecessors. There’s a fairly steep learning curve either way, but learning the concepts and controls at the same has to be easier than adapting your brain to a touchscreen control setup. I will say that the lack of an in-game tutorial for total newbs baffled me. It’s a fairly complex game, and absorbing everything you read in the play guide is next to impossible. Even finding the guide can be difficult if you don’t know it’s there: I only found out about it through the hints that sometimes display on the load screens.
Once you get a feel for the controls it’s a whole different murderfest. Moving the soldiers around feels fluid and responsive most of the time. Menu navigation, an important factor in a game with timed turns, is very touch-friendly as well. Equipping a worm with a jetpack, flying to an enemy, and dumping a load of TNT on his head never felt so natural… or something.
Campaign Of Terror
The game’s Campaign mode consists of five six-level chapters plus a bonus chapter containing five levels at the end. Each chapter follows a specific theme;”Manhattan,” for instance, features a city skyline background, while “Sport” has your army battling atop athletic shoes and basketballs. Beating levels gets you coins, which in turn can be spent on ridiculous worm accessories for your collection. Overall it’s a setup that lends itself nicely to mobile and serves as a sort of advanced tutorial in lieu of any real one.
War With Strangers
Every played Mario Party by yourself? Once you’ve experienced a frantic, screaming, cursing game of Worms with your buddies, that’s what the single player can start to feel like. Multiplayer is every bit as important to the franchise as rocket powered livestock. I’m pleased to report Armageddon carries the torch on that end just fine — setting up a remote match over Wi-Fi is simple, assuming there’s someone online to play you. Better yet, the game is just as smooth as a CPU match once you get down to business. I played several remote and local matches and can’t remember experiencing a single instance of lag or slowdown in that time.
Smooth net play also makes local matches with two devices an absolute blast. Same device play works in theory, but I don’t necessarily like playing hot potato with expensive electronics — especially with a game as tense as this one. I’ve seen games nearly come to blows without someone’s phone accidentally getting dropped. God help the person who breaks his buddy’s screen during a particularly brutal loss.
The Art Of Worms
The game’s backgrounds and environments look good. The characters, on the other hand, don’t, but mostly because the restrictive zoom makes it hard to see them. I don’t recall any other title in the series keeping the camera so far from the action. Depending on your eyesight this may or may not be a problem for you. For me, it was bad enough to make me switch to my tablet, which didn’t make things that much bigger and made my load times about half again longer. Not a wonderful tradeoff.
Worth The Scratch
I have zero problems recommending Armageddon, even at its current $5 price on the Play Store. It’s a great value if you never touch the multiplayer and a stellar one if you do. Some of the best franchises don’t last more than two or three titles, let alone eighteen years. There’s a definite reason for that. Download the game and see for yourself.