After all that we have seen from Worms 2: Armageddon, I was extremely interested to try out a franchise I was very unfamiliar with but looked to be a lot of fun. After hearing that the game includes a strategy element mixed in with a whimsical humor, I thought that this downloadable game was sure to be the type of bite sized pick up and play content that any gamer would love to have on their console.
My only fear going into the game were the controls. As a franchise introduced for the PC, I wondered how the game would fair with a controller. Would it cause an immense frustration as I struggled to complete simple tasks in the face of a steep increase in difficulty or would the game's art style, sense of humor, and over the top weapons work together so well that every moment was a joy to experience? Being a newcomer to the Worms, I attempted to immerse myself in the experience as best I could to find out.
From the beginning, players are able to create a unique worm team: naming them, choosing their voices, their color, and their helmet. After you have customized your worm team, newcomers to the game can choose a set of tutorials that will help introduce basics of Worms while veterans can jump into either some multiplayer matches or right into the single player campaign.
The conceit of Worms is easy to learn but difficult to master. Armageddon's campaign missions come in three varieties, each unique in their execution. The general battle mode begins with two sets of worms being scattered across the map, both enemy and friendly. From there, a home team worm is given a fixed amount of time to move, attack, or any combination of the two in an attempt to deplete an opposing worm's hit points. This continues until either all enemy or friendly worms are dead. The second game type requires a singular worm to work their way through a maze-like map using one of the games various transportation devices. One mission sees your worm navigating his way through a maze filled with sentry guns with only a jet pack at his disposal.
The final game type is the most challenging but also the most rewarding to figure out. In this type of mission players are asked to complete a simple task with a given number of items. Usually the worms in this mission are incapable of movement, instead requiring the player to either complete one or a combination of moves in order to eliminate a given number of worms. Though these missions are the most unlike the battle game type found in the majority of the game they are the most engaging. Forcing players to sit back and plan using physics, geometry, and an understanding of properties such as magnetism can make for some of those real “Aha!” moments that are so rewarding.
Each of the mission types could make for their own unique campaign but bringing them all together in one package helps break up the repetitive nature of the game. Combat can become frustrating at times, so I recommend playing Worms 2 in small doses. There were times early on where I felt that the opposing worms were making the same mistakes I would expect from another human player (a misjudged grenade toss that instead kills the thrower), and then other times it feels like the game is working against you changing wind conditions to favorable during enemy turns and then returning to normal. The biggest factor that exacerbates the frustration beyond belief is the controls. Armageddon was clearly not developed to be very controller friendly. There were many times throughout my entire campaign where I found myself constantly fighting to execute the proper action. Towards the end the game begins to swing in favor of the opposing team so much so that I had to question whether I was even enjoying myself. While it might be frustrating at times, there are some truly nail biting moments in the game, most notably the “down to the wire” one worm versus one worm showdowns.
If there is one element of Armageddon that shines above all others it is the overall style of the game. Developer Team 17 has created a game where everything from the animations to the voice acting seems to bring about a sense of whimsy, akin to the games from the 16-bit heyday of video games.
The weapons at the worms' disposal run the gamut from shotgun to air strike and depending on what weapon you choose you may have the option of targeting a singular enemy worm or attempting to strategically take out a group. Though some of the weapons will be ignored, many of them become your best friend. For example, the bazooka is easily the most used weapon in the game, but requires the most strategy taking into account wind resistance and angle of fire. Other items like the dynamite deal out the most damage, but require gamers to put themselves at risk as they place themselves in enemy territory. No matter what weapon you choose each has their strengths and weaknesses, but finding the right combination can help you make quick work of enemy worms.
Online play is the real bread and butter of Armageddon. All of the minor gripes I had with the game were either rendered irrelevant due to no computer interaction or were equally inflicted upon both player teams. The strategy of Worms really comes into play here as you casually conserve your special weapons for that deathblow. If your only interest in Worms 2 is for the single player then you are in for some hair pulling moments. Watching as another player struggles just as much as you makes for kills that feel earned and for a more rewarding victory.
Visuals are top notch in this game. It isn’t your standard graphically impressive game, but the vivid aesthetic combined with detailed explosion animations makes for an enjoyable experience. The destructible environments in the game do sometimes defy logic, leaving pieces floating in the air, but many times destroying the environments is required and is extremely satisfying. Eliminating the ledge beneath a worm’s feet forcing them to fall to their doom never gets old and is always the most insulting method of destruction.
My major gripe with the game, besides the frustrating “it’s working in their favor” moments and the "give me a mouse for accuracy" controls, is the audio. While the worms’ voices are perhaps the most entertaining element of the game, after a point they become both repetitive and at times annoying. Beyond that there were certain moments where the background music or ambiance would cut out leaving me with only the sound effects of the weapons and worms to listen to. This can easily be patched in the coming weeks but it was definitely a weak spot in an otherwise polished experience.
Overall, Worms 2 Armageddon is a game that is fun in small doses, much like any downloadable game should be. It suffers from a few control issues that hold it back from being a game that doesn’t ultimately frustrate you. The art-style, animation, and voice-overs are all so whimsical you can’t help but smile and online-play is Armageddon’s strongest selling point, taking seemingly juvenile worms that fire weapons and turning them into strategically maneuvered soldiers out for blood. Multiplayer is the main reason Worms will continue on as a strong franchise for years to come. Unfortunately once many of the problems kick in it doesn’t matter how high pitched the worm voices are, you just can’t continue playing.
As a $15 downloadable game, Worms is worth picking up if you are a fan of the bite-sized pick up and play combat or are an established fan of the property, but don’t expect a perfect game. The worms might look unsuspecting and at times will make you laugh, but they have a deep dark secret behind their eyes.
Worms 2: Armageddon is available now for the XBLA and PSN.