|Simple games rule. Games like Chess and Poker are incredibly easy
to learn, and it's a cliché to say that they require a lifetime to master, but it's also
true. Likewise, Worms Armageddon is a masterpiece of simplicity that takes a few minutes
to learn, and years to master. The latest version of the cult classic series brings
improvements and the same old verve, expanding the Worms front ever further into the
In Worms Armageddon, the storyline is basically negligible. The worms are fighting to save their world. It doesn't matter which worms or which world, just that you're on one team and you've got to destroy the other team. The game comes with some readymade human and CPU only teams, but it is much more fun to make up your own team. You can pick the language or accent the worms will use during your game from a list that ranges from Brooklyn and Angry Scots to Russian and Japanese. The terrain for each level is randomly generated, and you can customize that in all kinds of different ways as well. In short, Worms is, in a lot of ways, whatever you want it to be.
But it's mostly a revamp of that classic game from the early days of computing where you have a base, your enemy has a base, and you lob projectiles at each other, changing the angle and velocity of your shot until you wipe out the other guy. I remember playing that game on my old Texas Instruments TRS-80, and it had a brief revival with the shareware game, Scorched Earth, in the late 80s, early 90s. In Worms Armageddon, you basically do the same thing, except you have five worms under your control, you can move your worms, and you can pick from an arsenal of over 60 really great weapons. You position yourself on a 2D map, and try to kill off the other guys.
Like I said, the beauty of Worms is in how simple it is. You really are just lobbing different weapons at the enemy, and there isn't a whole lot to keep track of during the game. The simplicity forces you to rely on strategy to win, rather than reflex or twitch, and it's the variety in the game that keeps it interesting. Your arsenal includes basic weapons like hand grenades, uzis, axes, and air strikes, but also veritably wacky weapons like sheep, mole bombs, bannanas, mad cows, and old women. Each weapon works differently, and each is suited for different tasks. Learning each weapon greatly increases your skill at the game.
The graphics are done in a campy, Saturday morning cartoon-esque style that works perfectly. A game like this that were very realistic would be incredibly gorey, and the cuteness of everything allows you to completely ignore the fact that you're blowing little worms all to hell with your flying sheep. It's hilarious to set the old lady on some poor worm. She goes scooting across the field, muttering to herself, and counting down until she explodes in a giant ball of fire and destruction. It's all just so darn cute.
Worms Armageddon is a great party game, too, because up to four people can play at the same time. You can set overall time limits on your game, so if you're playing with a bunch of newbies you don't have to sit there all night watching them try to figure out how to work the ninja rope. It is an easy game to pick up, and did a wonderful job of entertaining small groups at several holiday parties this season. However, don't get me wrong when I mention that it supports up to four players. It does not support the MultiTap, which is a serious faux pas. Rather, it forces you to pass one controller back and forth. While Worms Armageddon is still playable, it's not very friendly to living rooms involving a coffee tables or open containers. The passing of the controller and ensuing cord tangles are a nightmare.
Although I resent any forced movement, and passing the controller is a kind of movement, if that were the only flaw in the game, it would still get five stars. No, my other complaint affects the gameplay, and that is unforgiveable. On every TV I've tried Worms Armageddon on, you are forced to either cut off the top or the bottom of the screen. There is an option for centering the display, and even a switch to put it in widescreen mode, but nothing helped. On most games, the edges of the screen are not too important, and if you have to fudge a little on one side, you can still see everything you need. In Worms Armageddon you either cut off the settings for your grenades and bombs, or you cut off the timer and energy display for all characters.
I think it's odd that these things could be overlooked, and it strikes me that the port from the PC version should have been done a little more carefully. Clearing up the display and MultiTap oversights would exponentially increase the playability of Worms Armageddon. Regardless, it's a damn fun game. For most gamers out there, Worms Armageddon will be everything you've ever hoped for, but didn't know you needed. For the few who are easily annoyed, you may want to do the rental thing first, but be careful. You could spend days playing Worms Armageddon without even realizing it, and end up with a hefty late fee.