Spineless... but in a good way!
Although it seems almost pointless, I suppose one ought to kick off a Worms World Party review with a brief description of Worms in general. I can't that there are people in our audience who have not played it, or who have not at least heard of it, but lets be gentle. Worms is a two-dimensional turn-based action game. At the start of any given level the game produces two to four teams of invertebrates on a randomly formed battlefield, and each team receives a whole shedload of weaponry to use in the elimination of the others. It's a turn-based action title where (by default) players have a set amount of time to manoeuvre one worm per turn into position and fire off a weapon. Some weapons allow only one blast per turn (e.g. bazooka), while smaller weapons (handguns, shotguns etc) allow for two or even three smaller pot shots. Also inventoried are a number of scaling implements, including the legendary ninja and bungee ropes. Things like pneumatic drills, girders and the like can be deployed, and the entire landscape after a number of turns on each side is often literally a hollow crater of its former self. So those are the basics. More experienced players will tell you about your Worms' ability to swing Tarzan-like across a roofed-level using the ninja rope, or drop sticks of dynamite off the edge of a cliff directly onto an enemy. Or the legendary Sheep weapons, joined by a mole weapon in the last adventure. Sheep can be let off the leash to bound along bleating and then remotely detonated if they reach their target. Moles on the other hand tunnel all over the shop and then explode. It's a bizarre mix of the fantastic and the almost real.
The ins and outs
Although it smacks of the sort of game that could do with an isometric or perhaps even fully three-dimensional conversion, developers Team 17 have never felt the need to change tack, and we agree with them. Worms World Party is one of a scant few new games still coming out with a default 2D perspective and it's refreshing to see. The game is all about the excitement and the gameplay, and the sheer joy of pulling off an amazing ninja-rope-dynamite move, or landing a cluster bomb two feet from your enemy's feet with one second left on the fuse. Visually then World Party is nothing new - it looks just as Worms always has looked, and the Dreamcast does it plenty of justice. Thanks to the various zoom and view commands, you can alter the distance away from the action the camera is and such to your own specifications too, so no complaints there. Moving on from which, the control system itself is pretty basic, although if you don't take in the manual before you start you might run into difficulties. In all honesty though, there is nothing like you and a vaguely competent mate huddled round a machine playing Worms World Party, be it a Dreamcast, a PC or whatever.
World Party does the sensible thing you see - it makes additions but it doesn't change anything. This could be viewed as lazy, but the additions are 20 much-needed advanced training missions, a full 40 single player missions using exotic backgrounds including tributes to some big games of the past amongst them, and a refined Deathmatch mode. As previously mentioned, Worms World Party on the Dreamcast also introduces a wonderful Internet-play option, which is the only thing in a long while other than Phantasy Star Online that has given me cause to plug in my Dreamcast modem. Since the game is turn-based, latency is a non-issue and network play against someone else on the Internet is perfect. Four players together in the same game - that's even more impressive. If Sega or Team17 don't run some sort of online tournament this writer will be most upset. Instant messaging is available in the lobby if you have a keyboard or dare to attempt it on your joypad, and despite the facelessness of playing a game like Worms against a stranger, there is no joy like knowing that he just fired a bazooka at the wall right next to him, bounced 40 feet into the water and is now screaming four-letter words at the lampshade. Oh baby.
The usual options return for customizing your Worms team and saving them to VMU. Custom sound schemes are available, as are custom gravestones for when they bite the dust, although we would have enjoyed an option to download new sound schemes from the Internet if possible. Granted it would have been difficult to ensure that all players had the same schemes and VMU data storage would have gone through the roof, but there simply aren't that many currently available, and dammit I wanted an Obi-Wan Kenobi worm! It's hard to think of anything in the Worms World Party formula that deserves criticism, but I suppose one thing is the music. Although subtle and unassuming as it probably should be, there are very few themes and they all seem to be rumbling with a bit of drum work. Some sort of jovial ambient nonsense would have filled the gap. Elsewhere the sound effects are superb of course. Boom, bang, crash, clatter, thwack etc. A good spread. Ah, the other problem (in my opinion) is the price. Okay, so all Dreamcast games generally launch at £29.99 these days, but by reading this review you demonstrate your ownership of a PC, and you don't need a beast of a machine to play it on the PC either. At £14.99 in many places, you have to seriously consider just how important Worms on the Dreamcast is to you. The online play options are included in the PC version and there'll be a darn sight more customisation available to you no doubt. If you can handle being sat at your desk while you castrate some spineless pinkies, then go for the PC version, but if you need to be flopped drunkenly on the couch with a few mates, the Dreamcast it is.
I'm really fond of Worms World Party. It's a top quality game, and the jewel in the crown on the Worms series. The only thing in the Dreamcast version that lets it down is the price tag compared to the PC release. You can't fault it as a game though, and that's why we're here. If you've never owned a Worms game, you have no excuse, and even if you have, the Internet play is worth the asking price in itself.