When worms go to war, no force on earth--except perhaps a good, strong rain shower--can stop them. The Worms series of turn-based strategy games has been around for more than a decade, and after making a series of unfortunate transitions to 3D, the Open Warfare series plays to the series' 2D roots. We recently had a chance to play the Nintendo DS version of Open Warfare 2, as well as learn about the new features in the PlayStation Portable version of the game.
As a sequel, Open Warfare 2 has made a number of changes to improve upon the portable original. Graphically, the game will support 32-bit textures on the PSP; on the DS, the game will sport an entirely new game engine that will feature more detailed-looking worm characters (even though they're still tiny) and the same cartoon-inspired environments Worms fans are used to. Unlike the last Open Warfare game for the DS, gameplay will now use both screens, meaning that you can run into some extra-tall objects on certain maps that span both screens. You can also use the DS stylus and touch screen to choose your weapons from Open Warfare 2's vast arsenal.
The single-player component of Open Warfare 2 will have a campaign, puzzle, and quickplay modes to work your way through, all of which will involve turn-based combat between different Worms factions. The DS version will also include an exclusive laboratory mode, which features three minigames that make use of some of the DS's other unique features. In Blow for example, your goal is to pilot a parachuting worm through a maze; as he glides to the ground, you can give him a boost into the air by blowing on the microphone of the DS. The second minigame, Blast, is similar to the first, in that your goal is to get your worm to the other side of the map. However, this time you're blasting him in the air by tapping on the screen with your stylus at various points near your worm. Draw, the final minigame, is perhaps the most complex of them all. The goal, once again, is to get your worm from one side of the map to the other, and he'll be propelled by mines that blast him into the air. The twist in Draw is that it requires you to literally draw obstacles onscreen that will help your worm move along. For example, drawing a simple horizontal line will cause your worm to bounce off into an entirely new direction. We suspect this mode will merely be a lot of trial and error, but it might appeal to puzzle fans.
The battles in both the DS and PSP versions of Open Warfare 2 will take place on six different themed scenarios, four of which have been announced so far (Pirates, World War I, World War II, and Cold War). When battling it out, each of these environments will include specific world events that will affect the battle--in the Pirates level, for example, the tide will rise or fall, and if any of your soldiers are too low on the map, they'll fall victim to the tide. We like to think of it as a sad by-product of global worming.
The PSP version of the game will have downloadable maps from previous iterations of the Worms series, including favorites like Air Race, Beached Sub, Chateau, and Tugboats. Both versions of the game will also include a landscape editor that you can draw new maps for your worms to battle it out on, using one of the supplied backdrops as scenery. You can play custom maps in single-player on the DS version (as well as single-card multiplayer), and the PSP version of the game will let you share maps with friends.
Both versions of the game will include 24 weapons, eight more than the original Open Warfare. Included in the list are the boomerang, the bunker buster, the electromagnet, and the sentry gun, among many others. The boomerang is handy for knocking opponents off of ledges as well as grabbing power-ups that are far away. The bunker buster is basically a drilling bomb that is handy for rooting out your enemies when they're hunkered down under cover. The electromagnet has different effects when used with allies or against enemies. As a defensive tool, it repels all metal weapons, such as grenades and bazooka rockets. When used offensively, the electromagnet attracts all metal weapons, such as cluster bombs or rockets; in this way, you can use it to focus all your firepower on one particular spot. The sentry gun is essentially an automatic weapon that will fire at any enemy who gets within its range. In addition, the game will include special weapons like the Buffalo of Lies and the Concrete Donkey, both of which Worms fans will recognize as part of the ongoing Worms mythology.
Other modes in Open Warfare 2 include a puzzle mode, where you have a limited number of weapons and a set number of enemies to take out. Though the enemies won't fight back, the challenge is to defeat all the onscreen foes with your limited resources. Multiplayer modes include race and fortress mode. In race mode, the idea is to race from one end of the map to the other using ninja ropes and other tools to see who can cross the finish line first. Fortress mode features two teams squaring off in their respective forts and lobbing weapons at one another until one is declared the victor. In addition, the game will include some customization, where you can personalize everything from your worms' hats to their victory dances, and you can even design a flag for your forces to rally behind.
Both games will include wireless multiplayer; the DS will feature online stat tracking of wins and losses, as well as single-card play, hot-seat play, multicard play, and online play using Nintendo Wi-Fi. On the PSP, you'll be able to play online or via ad hoc, form clans online, and check your leaderboard status on an Open Warfare 2 Web site.
In all, Open Warfare 2 seems like it's got a lot going for it, and it's a nice step up in quantity from the first game in the series. Fans of tactical, turn-based combat, or fans of worms with silly accents, might want to give this one a look. The game is due for release in August, and we'll have a full review once it hits store shelves.