Written by: Rik

Date posted: March 29, 2005


Wanton destruction in the ice. Unless set to ‘idiot’, the CPU is remarkably accurate with its grenades.

In the middle of a passionate rant elsewhere on this site [EDIT: So passionate, it’s now been deleted], I made the seemingly outrageous claim that the original Worms game was the best and that though its sequels were more flashy, but pale imitations of the original concept. I have long held this opinion, having bought Worms 2 and been extremely disappointed with it, and have seen nothing in either Armageddon or World Party to change my mind.

Before we start, a quick note: I know that even the original Worms borrows heavily from early ‘aim and fire’ games, specifically one called Scorched Earth. And just in case some smart-arse decides to make the point that if I make my pro-Worms argument from my ‘simple concepts are best left simple’ stance, then I should be recommending Scorched Earth, not Worms, let me politely rebuke them now. With Worms, Team 17 took the promising concept of Scorched Earth, polished it, gave it personality and brought it to the masses, far away from the sweaty school computer rooms it had previously inhabited. So there.

You can name all of the worms in the game. Here we have Rik in the fiery stomach of hell. With Shane Warne.

Taking control of a team of four worms (whom you may give amusing names at your discretion) you must take on and destroy another team of four worms (whom you may or may not choose to name after people you despise) using an array of weapons at your disposal. The core skill in the game is being able to fire your weapons with some degree of accuracy by judging the correct angle and the right amount of power to give your shot. However, because of Worms’ turn-based nature, the player must also consider the potential for retaliation by his or her opponent, and hence it requires a level of forward planning that reveals a level of depth to this simple-looking game. While games against the computer are reasonably good fun, multiplayer is where the real fun is to be had. With two reasonably skilled players, tactics play an increasingly important part in the quest for victory and, as with all good games, tempers get frayed and nerves are tested.

Stoo lines up Eamonn Holmes…

But you probably knew all of that. Back to the reason for this review: why is Worms better than its sequels, which brought improved graphics, sound effects and weapons? Well, the best way I can start on this is by saying: ‘Oh No! More Lemmings!’ Lemmings was a classic, but its success ensured that sequels were produced that were not only inferior to the original product but also soured the public’s attitude towards the series as a whole. When Lemmings came out the stars of the game were perceived to be loveable little creatures which could feature prominently in the game’s marketing campaign. By the time Lemmings Paintball came out, people had quite frankly had enough of the damn things. What’s more, the desire on the part of the developers to give fans of the original some new features meant that subsequent Lemmings games were overly and unnecessarily complicated.

So it is with Worms. Yes, in the sequels you have better graphics (although the worms look less cute and more obnoxious) and more weapons etc. But the games are less enjoyable. Worms didn’t need more weapons, still less to be a good-looking game. Christ, Worms was ugly even by 1995 standards, but people didn’t care because the game was so enjoyable to play. The additions brought by Worms 2 were unnecessary and added nothing to the game. In fact, I still can’t aim properly in that game. The new target and power system looks very nice, but I’ll be buggered if it helps me the way it’s supposed to. And don’t get me started on the ‘humorous’ cut-scenes.

Some Streetfighter-esque moves are available for close-range use – with the names changed slightly to avoid any lawsuits, of course.

God, I sound like an angry old man here, shaking my fist at kids for knocking over my dustbin. But I back my judgement because I don’t often feel this way, and certainly not strongly enough to start claiming all sorts of crazy things about games being ‘better in the old days’. The fact is that I enjoyed Worms but not the sequel, and having bought Worms 2 preferred to go back to the original. I seem to recall at least a few people agreeing with me, not least my girlfriend, and that is indeed a rare occurrence. Still, I’m keen to canvas opinion on this one, so if you feel strongly inclined either way about the Worms issue, drop me a line.

In years’ to come we shall fondly remember Worms, and deservedly so, because it’s still a fun game that runs on a crap computer, and you can play multiplayer with a great number of people all on the same machine. The gameplay is very carefully and finely balanced so that it falls into the ‘easy to play, difficult to master’ category, and for me it deserves recognition above its sequels.