Hands-onWorms Blast GameCube

We play a near-final version of Ubi Soft's puzzle game for the GameCube.

We recently played a near-final version of Worms Blast for the GameCube and were surprised to find that the game does not follow the traditional strategy-based gameplay the series is known for. Instead, Worms Blast is a puzzle game that plays very similarly to Super Bust-A-Move.

There are two primary gameplay modes: puzzle and tournament. The puzzle mode is the game's single-player experience, and it begins with a lengthy tutorial outlining how the game plays. Once the tutorial is completed, you begin tackling the game's 22 single-player levels. The tournament mode facilitates head-to-head play, and this is where the game truly shines.

The object of the single-player modes in Worms Blast is to clear the entire screen of colored blocks. When playing the game in the multiplayer modes, the object is to outlast your opponents. No matter which type of game you're playing, the rules remain the same. There are nine characters to choose from, seven of which are playable from the outset and two of which are unlocked in the puzzle mode. Characters sit in boats with large cannons mounted in them and float on water. As the game progresses, the water level gradually rises, bringing your character's boat closer to the blocks. When your character touches the blocks, your game is over. But there are many ways to either lower the water or take out the blocks.

You control the lateral movement of your character's boat with the analog stick, and shots are fired with the A button. Pushing up or down on the analog stick will change the trajectory of your weapon. The stock weapon in the game is a blaster that charges in power the longer you hold the A button. Learning how to use the power of your shots will serve you well. In order to demolish a block or set of blocks, it must be struck by a shot of the same color. If there is a string of blocks all the same color, the entire string will be destroyed. If you miss with your shot and strike the wrong colored block, the surrounding blocks will all change to the color of the shot. Completely missing all blocks will cause an anvil to fall from the sky and damage your character's boat. When your boat's buoyancy meter is depleted, the game ends.

New weapons are awarded for collecting the crates that fall into the water, and switching to them is as easy as pressing the B button. The shotgun fires a straight shot and has no power meter. It's deadly accurate, but you can't see the actual shot, so aiming can be a challenge at first. The laser shoots through all blocks and can even be used to dislodge blocks on your opponent's side of the screen, sending them tumbling down. But you must be careful when using the laser, or you could sabotage your own side of the screen. The grenade can be shot into the air, and it will bounce around until it's manually detonated. It can come in handy when you're trying to reach out-of-the-way blocks on top of the pile, but its bouncing is unpredictable and therefore can lead to problems. The dynamite sticks to whatever it touches and has a five-second fuse. Once you shoot the dynamite, it's best to get as far away as possible.

There are also plenty of different block types to keep the game interesting. Anchor blocks are almost indestructible and they hold up all other blocks. Once a block has lost contact with an anchor block, it falls into the water. Rainbow blocks will explode, and if you shoot the right one, it can initiate a devastating chain reaction that can cause blocks to come showering down, so it's always wise to shoot them with caution. Stars can also be hidden among the blocks, and if you free one and collect it, the water level will fall on your side of the screen.

Worms Blast features a colorful yet simplistic look. The backgrounds are completely static, and character animations are kept to a minimum. They'll paddle back and forth as you move them but will do little else. The weapon effects are somewhat subdued, and overall there's not much to speak about where visuals are concerned.

With 22 single-player levels and virtually unlimited replay value in the multiplayer modes, Worms Blast is a game that puzzle fans should keep an eye on. With the variety of weapons, power-ups, and blocks, the action manages to be intense at all times. Fans of the Bust-A-Move franchise will enjoy the similarities between it and Worms Blast, while appreciating the slight changes that make it unique. Worms Blast is currently scheduled for release on August 20. We'll have more information when it becomes available.

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