For years, worms have played unlikely heroes in their quirky but tactically sophisticated series of turn-based strategy games. Worms World Party brings the insidious invertebrates to the N-Gage in a blend of classic Worms gameplay and multiplayer options via N-Gage Arena and Bluetooth connectivity. Even without these components, Worms World Party is a solid game with the right combination of variety and challenge that will keep you entertained for hours. Although it neither deviates from nor plays as well as the previous iterations of the series, Worms is still pretty fun.
The Worms series is as prolific as it is bizarre. For years, players have been afforded the opportunity to control a tactical team of worms and to take out an opposing faction through a host of destructible environments. Even though the affront is usually in the form of some truly bizarre weapons (the sheep gun immediately comes to mind), the strategy is still quite complex.
At the beginning of each match, you are presented with at least eight randomly positioned worms (or more, depending how many teams are playing) in an environment replete with hills, bridges, land mines, and water. You take turns with your opponent, choosing a move for each worm that will maximize the damage inflicted upon the enemy. Sometimes this requires repositioning the worm, using one of your many weapons to alter the environment around a worm, or just going right after the target itself. Extra damage is done if you inspire a nasty fall or if you can blow a worm into hazardous environments--particularly into water, because anyone who has been outside in the rain knows the relationship between worms and water. Because of the plethora of available weapons and moves, as well as the numerous possible scenarios, each game is unique and challenging within itself. The depth of the gameplay, however, makes it a little overwhelming for a newcomer, and you will likely suffer many injuries before figuring out exactly how to use all the weapons to their greatest potential.
Thankfully, there are several different ways to get acclimated to the game. The most obvious is through the extensive training mode. Training provides practice for both weapons and movement-aided tools, such as the ninja rope, which can be used to position your worm carefully before using a weapon. Although each turn in-game allows you only one chance to use a weapon, you can move for as long as time permits. However, as with the weapons, most of the tools in-game are in limited quantity by default, so you'll have to use your teleports and parachutes frugally lest you leave a worm stranded on an area of the map with no way to attack or defend itself. The weapons vary from standard weapons, like the shotgun, battle-axe, and grenade, to the offbeat skunk, sheep, and air strike. Not only do the weapons vary in style, but also in damage and range as well, so you can often find a weapon that will fit your exact situation, no matter how unconventional it may be. Some elements of the gameplay simply require practice, however, like using the wind (as indicated by an onscreen meter) to help guide your weapons. If you want to jump into gameplay, you can select either quick game or mission mode. Quick games are just single instances of gameplay, but missions offer specific challenges that usually involve maneuvering around certain hazards and getting to an enemy worm before he gets to you.
If you want to play around even more and try out different options, then try custom mode, as it allows you to really cultivate any kind of gameplay that you want. The depth of customization is truly remarkable. You can select any of the 21 terrains or create your own randomly generated one. If you choose to create your own, a random surface structure appears, over which you can apply the water level and theme of your choice and then select the number of objects and bridges that will appear. You can alter the worm health levels and all of the in-game timers, as well as opt to place the worms on the map manually. This iteration of the game also features the Wormpot, a slot machine-type system where you can select three gameplay settings that will apply to the custom match that you're creating. These settings might include the types of weapons that have the most impact or the frequency of the dropping crates and health packs around the map. Beyond that you can fine-tune the gameplay even further by choosing exactly how many and what kind of weapons players will start off with, as well as all kinds of game settings, like whether fall damage is on or whether the worms should be allowed to move at all. You can change and customize anything to the way you want it.
The single-player is certainly rich in and of itself, but the multiplayer is where Worms gets the opportunity to show off, or at least should, if everything goes as planned. The Bluetooth functionality of Worms World Party is well implemented. The range of playing between multiple headsets isn't extraordinary, but ostensibly you would want to be in close proximity to your opponents for maximum taunting. The game options are just as rich in the multiplayer as in the single-player, since both Bluetooth and Arena offer the same depth of customization. At the time of our review, the Arena playability was shaky at best, and there were quite a few problems connecting to the Worms server and getting a game going. If this worked more consistently, it would be a great feature. But as it stands, this aspect of the game is a little too problematic to recommend.
Part of the appeal of Worms is the quirky humor exhibited in small details throughout the game, particularly the sound effects. Team sound effects can be edited to a whole slew of accents including "Angry Scots" and "Thespians." While these are really quite amusing, the repetition of the worms' taunts can get tedious during longer WWP sessions. The rest of the game's atmosphere is just as bipolar. While the graphics are good, they don't look much different than the graphics of previous versions. Despite the naturally slower pacing of turn-based strategy games, Worms sometimes feels a little too sluggish. In general, the presentation could have used a little more work, given that the gameplay itself is so strong.
Despite the game's variety, Worms World Party doesn't advance the series much. Longtime fans might be sick of how stagnant the games are, or conversely, they might be pleased that nothing has been changed too drastically. Regardless, there's no question that this game offers a well-rendered Worms experience on the N-Gage. The best reason to pick it up is if you have the opportunity to play Bluetooth against multiple friends, or if you'd like to take your Worms with you. This iteration of the series might not be flawless, but it manages to be quite fun all the same.