When it comes to great four-player party games a lot of people love Bomberman, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. But I'm going to disagree with those choices. Sure it's fun trapping your friends with bombs and using Mario to beat people up is therapeutically, but for me the greatest party game ever conceived is Worms. There's just something about Team 17's classic turn-based army simulator that gets my blood boiling and heart racing. I love the cute graphics, the oodles of silly weapons, and yes, I even love the Worms' theme song. So that's why I was so excited when Microsoft announced that Team 17 would be bringing their party game to the Xbox Live Arcade, I couldn't wait to finally play this classic game online.
But not everything is as it should be; this recently released Xbox Live Arcade Worms is not the same Worms I've loved for so many years. Perhaps it's because I have such fond memories of Worms Armageddon for the Dreamcast, but there's something about this newest version of Worms that just feels limited. While it's nice to see a fairly cheap ($10) version of Worms that you can play online, I kind of miss all of the functionality, game modes and weapons that were available on other recent versions of the game.
In Worms you play a team of four individual worms who are randomly scattered around a large destructible level. Each team takes turns moving one of their worms and then using one of the weapons to cause damage to the other teams. This turn-based gameplay continues until there's only one team standing, and that team is the winner. It's simple, yet there's enough depth and skill to keep you wanting to play long after you've mastered the basics.
A round of Worms can take anywhere from a few minutes to close to a half hour. Throughout the game there's a timer that counts down your remaining time, once the clock strikes zero all of the remaining worms see their life go down to 1 hit point and the water at the bottom of the screen starts to creep up (drowning anybody that is unlucky enough to be in its way). There's a lot of strategy involved in when to use your weapons and when to simply get out of the way and hide. If you use all of your better weapons too early you won't have them when you really need them, but at the same time you might not make it very far if you don't use these weapons. You can also pick up special boxes that give you extra health and weapons, but these boxes are often in precarious locations and will involve you doing some work to secure them. Either way, Worms is the type of game that can change on a moment's notice; you never really know who's going to win when you start playing this game.
The fun of Worms has always been connected to the cool (and often outrageous) weapons you can use. In past Worms games you've been able to select from literally dozens of different weapons and items, but this Xbox Live Arcade version limits your selection to a mere 22. For the most part the popular weapons have made the leap to the Xbox 360; you can expect to fight with the bazooka, grenades, fireball, dragon punch, air strike, exploding sheep and banana bomb. However, it's worth noting that a lot of the fan favorites from other versions of the game have been taken out completely. Gone are things like the holy hand grenade, homing pigeon, battle axe, mad cow, and old woman. In fact, for some odd reason they have completely taken out some really useful items, such as the bungee rope (which allowed you to jump/fall off of ledges without getting hurt) and the pneumonic drill (which gave you the ability to drill straight down).
While I understand why some of the more powerful weapons were taken out, it's extremely disappointing to see some of the very best weapons completely removed from the game. You can still get the job done with the 22 weapons and items found in this version of Worms, but the selection feels like a major step backwards after having all of these choices in previous entries.
Unfortunately the weapon selection isn't the only thing that feels limited in this version of Worms. It's troubling to see how few backgrounds and level textures there are packaged in this game, in its current state there are only three different backgrounds for you to play with. These backgrounds are certainly good looking (better than any other Worms background has ever looked), but considering that other Worms games offer dozens of backdrops it's disappointing that there are so few available here. As it is you can play this 2D game in front of Big Ben, a sinking Titanic, or a giant erupting volcano spewing lava. Thankfully you will be able to choose from a lot of different shapes for your level, but it gets somewhat old looking at the same pictures in the background game after game.
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