Every now and then a game comes along that is addictive, challenging, and entertaining all at the same time and yet can't really be explained as such to someone who hasn't played the game. Worms 2 is such a game. I have started this review seven times now, and each time I've been thwarted by the difficulty of explaining exactly why blowing the crap out of armless, legless cartoon characters with ridiculously overpowered weaponry is as much fun as it is. But that's my job, so here goes.
First, the somewhat empirical description of the game: Worms 2 is a 2D turn-based strategy game that puts you in command of a team of worms armed with predetermined amounts of arms and ammunition and sets you out on a fully destructible battleground to kill one or more similarly armed enemy teams. Every so often a care package will fall from the sky and can be collected by your soldiers. These packages contain health, new weaponry, or a bomb (these you don't want). On each turn, you select one of your worms, move it around on the screen with your arrow keys, select a weapon or tool, aim, and determine the amount of force you want to put into the shot. Some of the weapons included - like the bazooka or shotgun - have an immediate effect, and others - like the grenade - have a timer that will tick off before detonation. That's it, there's nothing more you need to know to play this game. Pretty simple, eh?
So why is Worms 2 so much fun to play? That answer comes in several parts. First off, the simple rules and basic control structure make it a game that anyone can learn to play in about five minutes (now that you've read this review it won't even take you that long). Even so, the well-designed physics model ensures that the longer you practice, the better you'll get (if you think you're going to be able to hit a target across screen by lobbing a three-second grenade on your first try, you're dreaming). This minute-to-learn-lifetime-to-master kind of setup is the most basic component of making a game that people will want to play again and again.
The second great thing about Worms 2 is that it appeals to the destructive side in all of us. Everything in the game can be destroyed: ground, girders, houses... whatever. This not only opens up a whole new world of strategic play options (why waste a lot of time shooting someone over and over when you can just destroy the ground underneath him?), it's also pleasing to your inner child who has secretly missed shooting his Star Wars figures with a BB gun for years. The battlefield's changing nature gives you a feeling of control over your surroundings, another great feature to be included in the game design primer.
Thirdly, Worms 2 is funny. From the artwork and animation that feature these bloodthirsty little critters shooting, punching, and blasting one another to kingdom come, to the brilliant sound effects that let you customize the voices of your worms to everything from a 007 wanna-be to a Scottish killer, the game does everything in its power to keep you laughing as you play. When done correctly, this too is another feature of great games.
Finally, Worms 2 is a great multiplayer game. Whether you're playing at home with some of your friends (and with up to 18 players by hot seat, you're a lot more likely to run out of friends than you are to run out of game slots) or playing over the Internet (up to six players here), the game is designed to let as many players as possible get into some competition that's impossible not to love. Since the game also allows you to change screens, weapon options, and about a billion other things (a slight exaggeration, but let's just say more than I want to count) about the way the game plays, you can always set up a game that's different enough from the last time you played to be interesting.
Reading about Worms 2 is no comparison to playing it. This is one of those games that, even if it doesn't sound that great on paper (or onscreen... whatever), is still worth purchasing on faith alone. If you're interested in action or strategy games, and you're looking for a title that you'll still be gathering friends around to play well into the next year, Worms 2 is the game for you.