Version tested: Wii
In 1998, my best friend and I spent hours playing Worms 2. We played it in a basement flat in Catford, him sitting on a broken office chair, me on a rickety piano stool, taking it in turns to shove each the other out the way and grab the mouse. We watched the action unfold on a 14-inch CRT monitor, while a CD drive made of whalebone and powered by steam whirred away under the desk. For hours.
Imagine if someone from the future had come to us and said, "In ten years' time, you will still be playing Worms. But you will be playing it on a 46-inch high definition flatscreen television, using motion-sensing controllers which will be wirelessly connected to a hugely popular Nintendo console the size of three DVDs." What would we have said?
"What's a DVD?" first off. Then, "You mean there will be a console more popular than the Dreamcast?" and "Will there be hoverboards?" and "Are they doing another series of This Life?" At which point the man from the future would lose his temper and say, "Look, I'm really here about the Worms thing," and we'd go, "Oh. Brilliant!"
But what if the man replied, "Well, not really. See, you will still be playing Worms in ten years. Almost exactly the same game, in fact. Only rubbish. And it'll look crap on your massive telly. And the motion-sensing controllers will be much fiddlier to use than a mouse. And 90 per cent of the other software for the Nintendo console will be collections of appalling mini-games, and you'll be forced to play them until your elbows crack and your wrists snap, like the modern-day equivalent of a lockjaw girl in a match factory, just so you can afford to rent half a paving slab in a part of London that has more murderers than tube stations. Also don't rely on the State pension."
Lost in space
He'd have been telling the truth, unfortunately. I'm going to spend my old age living under a bridge and eating out of bins using a fork I have to hold with my toes, and Worms: A Space Oddity is rubbish.
For those who aren't familiar, it's the first Worms game for the Wii and the 56,978th in the series. Worms is a strategy game involving turn-based battles across 2D landscapes. (There were some flirtations with 3D and "forts" a few years ago but all that's best forgotten.) What made the original games great was the huge satisfaction to be had in annihilating your enemies, and the huge range of weapons you had to do them over with.
Not to mention gadgets such as bungee ropes, girders and blowtorches that helped you navigate battlegrounds and take cover. There was real scope for working out increasingly creative and ever-more gratifying strategies. As a result, the winner was left brimming with joyful satisfaction, while the loser was filled with rage. Boiling, spitting, furious rage. The kind of rage that makes a grown man push a woman off a piano stool, say.
There are 17 weapon and gadget options in Worms: A Space Oddity. That includes the surrender flag and the miss-a-go skipping rope. You also get a rocket pack and teleporter, a laser sight for practicing shots, a digger and girders. So that leaves ten weapons, many of which have been given odd new names. The bazooka is an 'impact frag', the grenade a 'time frag', the uzi a 'blaster'. Instead of air and napalm strikes, you get 'UFO' and 'drop ship' strikes. Then there's the 'astro punch' (dragon punch), 'atom pack' (dynamite), 'cluster frag' (cluster grenade) and 'guided frag' (homing missile). The only remotely silly weapon is the 'robo sheep', which scampers across the landscape until you detonate it.
Perhaps they were forced to give the weapons fluffier names to please Nintendo and/or secure the game's 7+ PEGI rating. But it's unlikely that's also the reason there's such a limited range of weapons. Why no Holy Hand Grenade or Ming vase? Not even a super sheep or banana bomb? Not to mention the fact there's no bungee rope, which makes getting around levels much more difficult.
To make matters worse, the control system makes the weapons a chore to use. The pointer sticks to the edge of the screen if you're more than a metre and a half away from the telly. It jerks around on menu screens. Scrolling around landscapes, done by holding + and moving the remote around, is a slow and awkward process.
You move worms and aim using the d-pad. Selecting weapon power is done by moving the remote up or down and pressing B to lock. Then you flick the remote forward and release B to fire. It works okay, but it all feels fiddly, unnecessary and ultimately tedious.
A Wii game just wouldn't be a Wii game without a bunch of poor-to-middling mini-games, and there are six included here. They involve doing things like twisting the remote to pilot a spaceship through a cavern, or using it to control worms wearing rocket packs. They're all available in multiplayer but first you must unlock them in story mode, which involves playing through dozens of extremely boring single-player levels. None of the mini-games are worth the effort.
There's no online multiplayer mode, which has caused complaints (you can read some of them, plus a response from Team 17, in one of our comments threads). I couldn't care less. For me, most of the fun of Worms has always been being in the same room as your opponent, trading insults, laughing at them, pushing them off piano stools et cetera. I can see why this might be a dealbreaker for some people, but there are plenty of other factors worth smashing the deal to bits for.
Take the price. Like Worms on Xbox Live Arcade, Worms: A Space Oddity is a 2D strategy game with visuals and gameplay that haven't changed in ten years. The former has the added bonus of online play, if you like that sort of thing, and costs GBP 6.80. The latter has no online play, a poorer control system and worse graphics. It carries an RRP of 39.99.
It's one thing to churn out the same game ten years after it was made. It's another to churn out an inferior version and charge people full whack for it. Even when you take into account the online discounts possible at Amazon or Play, Worms: A Space Oddity is less enjoyable than the Worms game I was playing ten years ago, and the Worms game you can buy on XBLA for a fraction of the price. "Mr Future Man," I'd say, "You can keep your new fangled motion-sensing controllers and your console the size of a DVDA, or whatever it was. Sounds like we're better off sticking with Worms 2. I'll have the telly though."
4 / 10