I imagine it can be difficult for a game designer to keep a series fresh after a decade of annual releases. I imagine this because it’s not even easy for us reviewers to find the words to make these games exciting, even when they are still genuinely good. Since its debut on the Amiga in 1995, the Worms series has become flagship for Team17, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. Worms 2: Armageddon is a port of the 12th game in a series that is now up to around 16 or 17. In the grand scheme of things, that might not sound very exciting, but it’s the little night crawlers’ first go-round on the Android, and it’s a fitting entrance.
For the uninitiated, Worms is an evolution of the classic Artillery Duel that grandpa gamers might recall from gaming’s Stone Age. Younger gamers might prefer to think of it as a competitive multiplayer Angry Birds. It’s a turn-based affair, where teams of tiny worms, armed to the teeth, arc projectiles toward each other until none are left standing. Over the years, the series has added new weapons, more players, and online multiplayer, but the core formula hasn’t changed much. Hell, even the graphics are still pretty similar.
Despite growing predictable, Worms remains the undisputed king of the turn-based artillery genre. Unlike other similar games, you can scooch your worms left and right, hop, and even backflip. The arsenal of items available is massive, ranging from homing missiles to air strikes, as well as special use items like teleports and a jetpack. Some of these items can be used as much as you like, but most are limited use items, and making the most of your stockpile is the key to the game’s strategy. Explosions yield a satisfying impact, sending your enemies (and sometimes your allies) sailing through the air. Knocking worms into the water below nets an instant kill, and a close-range shove can sometimes be enough to take out a precariously positioned foe.
Armageddon’s arsenal is like a Worms series greatest hits. There are more than 40 different items, each with their own behaviors. Some of these require a great deal of finesse, while others are an almost sure-fire hit. There’s no tutorial to walk you through the unique properties of each of these, so you’ll have to experiment in-game with the clock ticking down, which can be pretty intimidating. Luckily, there’s a single-player campaign to work through, which is good to get players ready for multiplayer battles.
Worms 2 offers both local and online multiplayer. The local “hot seat” option is works very well with the turn-based gameplay, and seems like the most fun way to play. Online is perfectly functional, but the slow pace of the game can be a little wearying when you can’t smack-talk your opponent or share in simultaneous joy and anguish of a well-placed hit. Even more worrying, the game often has trouble locating opponents to play, even shortly after the game’s launch when one would think usage would be at its peak. This doesn’t speak well to the long-term viability of the online game, but it’s still good that the option is there.
Worms 2: Armageddon may not reinvent the series or imbue it with new life, but it doesn’t have to. Armageddon’s greatest ambition is to deliver the best version of the old-school Worms formula, and in that it is a great success and a perfect Android debut. Despite the sometimes slow pace, which hasn’t been altered for the mobile release, it looks great, controls well, and delivers the definitive Worms experience on the go; something no long-time fan of the series should be without.
Is it Hardcore?
Worms 2: Armageddon stays close to the series’ roots, but delivers a polished, complete experience that may not innovate, but still manages to satisfy.