Blowing up cartoony worms is more fun than it sounds. Team17’s Worms series exploded onto the PC gaming scene in 1995, adding a touch of Lemmings-esque dark humor to the formula of taking turns to shoot projectiles at an opponent across a deformable landscape.
The cute little critters wasted little time after conquering the Amiga, expanding to several other platforms and a franchise with more than a dozen entries. Now they’ve set their sights on Android with the excellent Worms 2: Armageddon. And the good news is that the series is intact and just as compelling on mobile.
Worms 2: Armageddon is an amalgamation of successful elements from all the prior Worms games, pitting you in a tense turn-based struggle between cute anthropomorphized worms intent on killing each other in the wackiest ways possible. It’s completely ridiculous, and that’s a good thing.
Die worm, die.
It was originally released on Xbox Live Arcade way back in July 2009, with iOS and PlayStation 3 ports following in late 2010, and has now finally teleported over to Android.
If you’ve played a Worms game before, you’ll know what to expect, but here’s a quick rundown for newcomers to Team17’s twisted brand of worm warfare.
Explosive Team Play
You control a team of worms (usually four to begin with), each with its own name and a number above its head to represent its current health. On a colorful 2D battlefield, your aim is to destroy all worms on other teams with an array of weird and wonderful weapons — such as explosive sheep, bazookas, banana bombs, and dynamite.
Wacky tools of destruction.
Teams take turns, Artillery-style, with you being forced to deal with whichever worm you’re given — the game cycles through your team members, rather than offering you a choice of which worm to control each turn. You have a time limit each turn — usually 45 seconds — with which to make your move, and the game ends when either one team is left standing or the clock ticks down to zero, in which case the victor is the team with the most health.
It’s wacky, slapstick fun, especially with a few friends to jokingly berate your every move. Multiplayer comes in both local “hotseat” and network varieties. If you want to play against people from the other side of the world, you’re out of luck, but Worms was always the kind of game you enjoy with people in the same room.
You can choose the game style, selecting from any of 12 default modes or your own custom ruleset, and add computer-controlled opponents to spice things up.
You can alter lots of settings to create custom game styles.
The procedure for adding your own game style is not immediately obvious. You need to tap on the gear icon on the title screen, then choose Game Style and tap on the scroll with a plus sign over it. You’ll then be prompted to enter a style name before you can set your own rules for things like turn length, worm health, fall damage, destructible terrain, weapon drops, magnets, and starting supplies.
The campaign mode holds up much better than I’d expected, providing more than 30 challenging levels that pit you against multiple computer-controlled opponents all crying for your blood. These computer worms ramp up quickly in ability — they make smart decisions and pull off trick shots from fairly early on — but only gradually gain the upper hand in health.
Much like real players, they sometimes make bizarre, clearly suicidal choices, but generally they’ll put your worm-killing talents to shame. The same goes for computer opponents in other modes — they’re more predictable than human-led teams, but they’re deadly precise.
Body Count mode is perhaps the best way to challenge yourself in solo play. It lets you test your mettle against a never-ending torrent of psychotic worms — kill one and another, stronger worm takes its place. Survive as long as you can, then rack up a big score — with bonuses for any double or triple-kills you managed.
Body Count is all about survival…and picking on worms weaker than you.
I spent the most time in the campaign, but I had the most fun in multiplayer and learned more from Body Count — which doubles as a fine palate cleanser after an intense match.
The presentation is top-notch, with gorgeous visuals, excellent music, entertaining and charming sound effects (including loads of one-liners from the worms), and the kind of polish you’ll only get from experienced developers. But all this comes at a price.
Worms 2: Armageddon requires a high-end device to run smoothly. There are no settings for lowering the detail, so you just have to put up with the frame-rate hiccups on older and slower devices. This unfortunately affects gameplay, too, with intermittent sputtering just as you’re measuring up a shot, and — as per Murphy’s Law — always at the most inopportune moment.
It’s worse on phones, where the scaled down action affords smaller margin for error. The phone experience is generally pretty good, though, provided you have good eyes. You can zoom in and out and pan across with gestures, but it’s still cramming a classic PC game onto a much smaller screen than it was originally intended for.
Zoomed out on a phone, everything is really small.
Swagger in Your Style
There’s plenty of unlockable swag that you can buy with credits earned in the campaign, but even without the extra hats these worms have a swagger that will win you over and get you smiling. They ooze personality, dancing in place between turns, screaming when they see a live mine, and cheerfully blowing themselves to kingdom come when their health runs out.
It’s brilliant to see such a celebrated series treated respectfully on Android. Worms 2: Armageddon is the real deal, and it loses very little of its charm in the transition to mobile. A much-needed save/autosave feature is the only notable absence, along perhaps with online multiplayer.
But this is otherwise a fantastic port of a great game, every bit as enjoyable now on Android as it was on consoles a few years ago…provided you play on a tablet or larger phone.