Do you ever wonder what worms do in their free time? The third chapter of the popular Worms series, Worms Armageddon, has you believe that instead of just hiding under rocks and floating down storm drains, worms are actually ruthless militant creatures with boyish British accents that constantly fight each other. This simple, somewhat innocent premise sets the stage for an excellent turn-based strategy game, as Worms Armageddon is not only the best Worms game, it's also an incredible multiplayer experience.
The concept is pretty simple: You control a team of well-armed worms, and your objective is to kill the other worms any way you can. You do this on a 2D plane that's usually a series of odd platforms and objects precariously placed over deadly water. (Worms can't swim.) The combat itself takes place in a series of timed turn-based rounds that seamlessly flow into each other. Each of your worms shares a collective arsenal from which you can choose all sorts of weapons - from the devastatingly serious to the laughably wacky. From there, you switch to a manual aiming and firing scheme used to unleash your weapon of choice at the worm you're targeting. This leads to all sorts of havoc, as combat tends to lend itself to poorly aimed explosives and the fun effects they cause.
The worms and everything around them have a distinctly animated look to them. Big eyes and oddly shaped household items show the comic-strip influence of the graphics, and combined with the simple 2D layout, it makes Worms Armageddon something of a throwback to the old school. The detail is simple but effective, and it helps support the humorous themes running through the game's elements. Switching to more offbeat weapons will generally change your character's appearance - a worm will don a headband before administering a dragon punch, and a worm armed with a battle-ax is also outfitted with a Viking helmet. Explosions and animations are simple - worms shuffle along when you're moving them, and explosives blow up within a pretty obvious radius. Still, more detail to some animations, such as the shotgun fire, could have provided Worms with a bit more graphical prowess and, in turn, could have helped sort out exactly where the blast hit (or missed). A serious humor element is added to the gameplay in the form of the worm's hysterical speech. Unfortunately, the N64 version doesn't allow you to set what type of accent your worms speak in, and instead simply randomizes the speech patterns of your worms. So the computer decides which of your worms will be a redneck, which will be British, and which will be Asian. Squeaky, high-pitched speech fills the game with colorful comments from your worm army as you play. If a live grenade is tossed next to you, your worm will scream, "Run for it." If it completely misses, your worm will ask, "What was that?" This effect is only mildly cute and strictly tiptoes the fine line of being annoying. Other sound effects - such as explosions, bouncing grenades, and submachine gun fire - are done well and lend a bit of realism to an otherwise unrealistic experience. Mild, almost unnoticeable music plays in the background and helps you focus on the task at hand. The only particularly bad thing about the audio is the German beer commercial-like Euro-dance that pulses over the title screen. Still, a few button presses, and this is all but forgotten.
It's the weapons in this game that make it really fun. Every combat game may have grenades and shotguns, but not a whole lot of them have pneumatic drills, ninja ropes, supersheep, and sticks of dynamite. This huge assortment of instruments used to deal out the pain keeps things fairly fresh and funny, as each weapon has its own silly effect. Still, there are some weapons that are just too powerful, and once you've mastered them, they have a countereffect on the gameplay. On top of that, instead of switching off between worms, the turn system switches off between teams - meaning a team with a single worm will get four turns before all four worms on the other team get a turn. This makes it unduly difficult to kill the last worm on a team, as he easily gets a tactical advantage with his multiple turns. It's terribly frustrating to be killed before you can even get a shot off. Multiplayer is where this game is at. You can play up to three different friends with Worms: Armageddon, although you'll have to do a lot of controller passing while you play because Worms: Armageddon only supports one controller. Still, once you get used to tossing the controller to the right person the multiplayer gameplay speeds up. And because most players can think pretty quickly, the multiplayer gameplay quickly turns into a barrage of havoc, with grenades and bazooka rounds flying all over the place. The easy-to-pick-up gameplay makes this a great party game, and the ensuing hilarity from the calamity that is bound to happen makes this a game everyone can laugh at.
Unfortunately, the single-player game just isn't as good. The computer still has eagle-eye accuracy, and down to its last worm it is capable of factoring in wind, trajectory, and ricochet, so it can place that one deadly bazooka shell halfway across a level, through a series of ledges, and right on top of your worm. This makes it all the more frustrating to play against the computer, as it seems to almost cheat. Still, the AI is capable of doing some pretty lame things itself, such as bouncing a grenade back to its sender or shooting the floor out from under itself. But the AI definitely favors certain weapons - the bazooka, grenades, shotgun, and mines are all high on the AI's list of weapons of choice, while the dragon punch, the battle-ax, or the Uzi are almost never wielded by the computer-controlled worms. The single-player game is definitely best on the N64, as the time spent waiting on the AI worms to plot their moves has been reduced significantly over the PlayStation and Dreamcast versions.
Worms Armageddon is designed so you can play with other people, and the single-player match is really no substitute. If you've got plenty of friends who spend their time lounging around your place, definitely pick this one up for some rewarding gameplay and good laughs. Although the game has its weak points, the solid gameplay and simple control make this game a must-have for anyone who likes to play games with other humans.