Worms may not have been the first to do what it did; very old games like Artillery for the Apple II and Scorched Earth for DOS were the pioneers of its subgenre of strategy titles, the "artillery game". However, Team 17's Worms did revive the once-dead subgenre (which was once tainted by real-world war and political issues), and popularized it enough such that many spiritual successors were still made to this day.
Worms 2 was one in between the revival of the subgenre and the contemporary artillery games of today. Like its predecessor, it is a turn-based game set in 2D, side-scrolling levels. It places players in rotational control of the titular characters, which are still very heavily armed with all kinds of outrageous weapons and still trying to murder each other.
A fan of the franchise would notice that the worms have received overhauls in their looks. The worms no longer resemble the spindly creatures that they were in the first game, but are now pudgier. This allows for faces that are more expressive, with their larger eyes being especially more prominent. Their bigger forms also now stand out better from the rest of the map, which is a plus. (In fact, the revamp of the artstyle has been retained throughout the series.)
As in the previous game, there are two opposing teams of worms, armed by default with some "basic" weapons, the most prominent of which is the bazooka. They are inserted into a 2D level with an environment that can be literally chewed up with liberal application of firepower. The worms are expected to either damage their opponents directly or to damage the environment enough such that their enemies fall into hazards or out of the level altogether.
The player has to guide the worms under his/her control to get to where he/she wants them, before eventually deciding to fire off a weapon, which will end his/her turn (unless his/her worm gets into a mishap that forfeits the turn). If the player wants to speed things along, there can be a timer that limits the time that the player has in controlling the worm, the expiry of which would force the player to forfeit his/her turn.
The player can move worms about with the keyboard's directional inputs, but the player would soon realize that as in the previous game, the worms can be a bit cumbersome to move about, especially when the environment has been torn up. They do appear to be much better at clinging to surfaces than their predecessors though; they can cling to surfaces of up to thirty degrees and slightly more in inclination before the game's physics scripts for gravity cause them to slide down and fall off whichever edge that they encounter.
Unfortunately, there isn't any visual indicator as to how far a worm can hang off a ledge before falling off, so the player will have to depend on his/her experience and hunch on how far he/she can push a worm before it slides off into the brink (or drink). Even after a player has played the game for a long time, it is still not possible to succeed every time due to how the game wrecks up the environment in sometimes unpredictable manners.
The worms can also move about with other means other than crawling around, if the player can get the items necessary for these other means. They include ninja ropes that allow the worm to swing around, parachutes that allow worms to fall down otherwise painful heights (having the worm falling down and hurting itself will end the player's turn immediately), sci-fi doohickeys to help the worm teleport to a random location (with possible nasty results) or items to bungee jump. However, these apply even more physics scripts onto the worm, reducing the player's control. In other words, they are risky things to use, but the reward of getting a worm over to a point of vantage can be difficult to resist.
Depending on the settings used for the match, there may be more hardware and other supplies introduced into the level through the parachuting in of care packages. These care packages are generally labelled according to two categories: weapon pick-ups or health pick-ups. The latter generally produce expectable results, that is, some replenishment of health for the worm that retrieved them, but the former are more unpredictable, or more precisely, luck-dependent.
Opening them causes the game to roll on a list of weapons that are allowed for the match, meaning that the player would have to be lucky to get what he/she wants for his/her worm. If the player is jinxed enough, he/she gets nothing but a lit bomb for his/her time and effort spent in getting the worm to the package.
However, the player is given the options to alter the settings of the match, such as what are in the care packages and the presence of winds (more on these later). These can help luck-averse players reduce a lot of uncertainties, though the content of care packages are ultimately still randomly rolled and hidden to the player.
Worms 2 still retains the feature that allows the player to control the power of a shot, which controls the arc and range of the shot and for some weapons, their damage. However, the game still retains the power swing mechanic, which causes the power of a shot to fluctuate until the player decides when to commit it. Of course, the visual indicators used for the fluctuating power and the rate of fluctuation is still plenty manageable, but considering that the player does not get to see the arc that the shot fired will travel, giving more control to the player over the power of a shot would have been very much welcome.
(Of course, it can be argued here that this has been a staple design in artillery games for a long time, but those who uphold the essentials of the strategy genre would argue that this has always been a mistake as it mixes in the factor of reflexes into gameplay that is supposed to be all about strategic thinking.)
There are a few factors governing the physics of a projectile in motion. There is always gravity, which will always make certain that projectiles that run out of thrust will fall down, and there is wind, which alters the direction of projectiles that are buffeted. Weapons that do not fire actual projectiles that exist in the game world as a substantial object, such as shotguns and machineguns (which merely fire sprite-based particle effects), are not affected. Worms are also affected by gravity but not by wind.
The physics scripts are very simple, as is understandable for games of that time, but are otherwise functional and very adequate. Rookie players may have some frustration over trying to get projectiles to hit where they want initially, due to the lack of any visual aid other than the charging cone that shows the extent of the shot's power and the general direction it would go. However, eventually, the player will learn how to angle shots right and reliably land them.
Helping that happen are certain designs that reduce the vagaries of luck. The most significant of these is that wind strength and direction are made constant when a shot is fired, so a player's shot won't be wasted due to the wind suddenly changing. However, the player has to match wind direction with shot power; the wind will still change as long as the shot is still being charged. This means that the player still has to contend with fickle luck somewhat (because the player cannot control the wind like he/she could shot power), and having a timer limiting the player's decision makes this even more frustrating. Of course, the player can always turn off the mechanic of wind before a match, which is convenient.
Theoretically, a player can force enemy worms into hazards by pushing them around with gunfire and explosions, but they are just as likely to be forced out of harm's way due to the physics governing their motion. Rapid-fire weapons especially tend to fall into the latter case, as the victim may be jerked around by the gunfire, causing many shots to hit the environment instead of the target and thus be wasted. These shots also chew away terrain, thus possibly causing the worm to drop out of harm's way (though it may end up somewhere worse instead).
This means that if the player wants to make reliable use of the environment to kill enemy worms, the player may have to use explosive one-shot weapons like grenades and bazookas instead of the more exotic ones. (incidentally, these reliable weapons are designated by default the starting weapons of every worm.)
Terrain is also another factor that the player has to consider, though it is a lot more in the control of the player. As in the previous games, the environments are composed of what are islands jutting out of water. As mentioned earlier, the environments can be damaged to chew them away, possibly causing worms to fall into hazards. However, badly chewed up terrain is not conducive to the use of weapons that bounce around, namely grenades, because they can easily get caught in potholes instead of bouncing where the player wants them to bounce to. This means that grenades and weapons with similar physics become less useful late into a match, when the environment is all chewed up.
Yet, despite how entertainingly malleable the environment is, observant and sceptical players would notice that the game still makes use of the same trick in the previous game: converting a large piece of cartoonish artwork into a huge sprite with borders that can be altered with gunfire and explosions.
There is no difference in structural properties from one object to another; all of them, from steel girders and huts to igloos and giant pieces of candy, all blow up the same. This means that only the initial geometry of the environments would matter in a match; its themes are just there for aesthetic ornamentation that would be literally blown away as the match progresses.
Of course, one can argue that technological limitations at the time prevented more sophisticated environments from being crafted, and this would have been an acceptable counter-argument, but only for this game; later games would show that Team 17 is more than happy to just rehash this concept.
The strongest appeal that Worms 2 has is its repertoire of weapons, which is expanded beyond that in the first game. Some weapons in the original that has been known to be quite reliable, like the bazooka or shotgun, return, as do regular grenades, which appear to have remained as bouncy as ever.
Some of the newer ones fulfill tactical gaps in the designs of weapons in the previous game, or overcome the problems with firing projectile-based weapons as mentioned above. However, they often come with disadvantages, both intended and unwittingly introduced.
An example is the Homing Missile, supposedly an upgrade to the Bazooka. It can independently chase a target that the player chose, is immune to wind and has unlimited thrust, but it is not smart enough to go around terrain. Another example is explosive Sheep, which can be released, after which it acts like a moving bomb (something that wasn't prevalent in the previous game) but is easily confused by chewed-up terrain.
Certain categories of weapons may even seem impractical, such as close-combat-oriented ones. For example, there are the Fire Punch (which is a tribute to a certain Capcom fighting game) and the (returning) Baseball Bat. Getting a worm close to another is an occurrence that is so rare that these weapons would be just as infrequently used, but they are still there for purposes of humour.
Some others are outrageous, and perhaps even overpowered. These are rarer as a result of balancing designs, but unlike the aforementioned weapons, they circumvent a lot of the rules that govern more mundane weapons. One of these is the Homing Pigeon, which is an upgrade to the aforementioned Homing Missile that now recognizes terrain and obstacles and goes around them. Some more examples include virtually all of the air strikes in the game, which can cover huge expanses of terrain, which can be devastating if teams are cloistered separately in different sections of the map.
Some weapons combine the strengths of two or more weapons, or have designs that overcome the weaknesses of the latter. One example is the Homing Cluster Grenade, an outrageous weapon that can be lobbed like a grenade but detonates to release homing rockets. Another is the Banana Bomb, which can be remote detonated at any time when it is bouncing, instead of the usual timed fuses that other grenades have.
Then, there are weapons that are deliberately overpowered, often doing what they do to humorously silly aesthetic effects. The Holy Hand Grenade is one example, being a powered-up version of the regular grenade that can easily blow enemies sky high and harm them some more with the fall or simply dumping them outside of the map, to the chorus of a musical tribute to Monty Python's infamous take on the King Arthur fable.
Yet, these unbelievable weapons are one of the appeals of the game. Many of them haven't been seen in video games before, what more the Worms franchise, and would be plenty entertaining to players who are looking for something zany and comical. Speaking of comical, there would be a lot of guffaws to be had from watching the overwhelmingly powerful but rare Concrete Donkey crushing away an entire column of the map.
There are also certain items that are of more utilitarian uses (though they can still be used to harm other worms). Examples include Blow Torches, which can be continuously fired for some time to burn away terrain – or other worms.
In the previous game, the player can only chew apart the environment. In Worms 2, the Girder item lets the player deploy a shield in front of his/her worm to spoil the plan of any enemy that is attempting to exploit a clear path to the player's worm. However, the girder is no tougher than the rest of the terrain; the player may as well as be adding to the gigantic sprite that is the environment. However, these items do offer worthwhile strategic depth.
However, the game also includes some rather useless items, perhaps deliberately as an attempt at humor. There are items that allow the player to skip turns, or force a worm to surrender, effectively taking it out of the match without doing much of anything else.
Like the previous game, Worms 2 doesn't have any semblance of a story; the premise is just a bunch of anthropomorphic worms who are particularly trigger-happy and irreconcilably violent. There is a single-player mode, but these are little more than a cluster of scenarios with funny descriptions, and each of them ultimately involves having one's team of worms wipe out the other, despite the circumstances of the scenario
Of course, Worms 2 never was designed with the goal of a coherent backstory in mind and there never was such a goal officially , so the outrageousness would be somewhat acceptable to players who consider the upholding of product promises to be important. Players who put up with the single-player mode would be rewarded by silly CG videos of the worms discovering new weapons that may or may not be used in the next scenario.
If gameplay unfettered by things such as a story is what the player is looking for, then the game offers some game modes that can be used to quickly launch simple games. Then, there are the game modes that allow the player to use the aforementioned options to alter care packages and wind, among other things.
The worms in the previous game were quite cute and entertaining on their own, but their pudgier successors are even more hilarious. By default, the new worms will utter a variety of quips and jokes that are usually relevant to whatever action that the player has committed them to; these can include quips in various stereotypical accents, albeit rendered even goofier with the worms' high-pitched voices, and popular culture references of many kinds. Interestingly, the player is given the option to set up a team of worms and set the voice-overs for each of them. Ultimately, this team won't play any differently from the rest, but it would certainly stroke the ego of certain players who like to believe that they own their teams.
Team 17's attempts at humour does not end there. The game has many cheat codes that can be used in the game's in single-player mode for very humorous results, and they often have very silly names that may also be references to popular culture. Even after the game had been patched, there were more Easter eggs added to the game.
Like the previous game, the game makes use of "hotseat" options for multiplayer, i.e. having multiple persons making use of the same machine by taking turns at the controls for the game. This lets the game be a source of entertainment in parties, though being dependent on a computer, which were not exactly slim machines during the game's time, can lead to some awkward use of space that could have been spent to accommodate other aspects of a party.
Online multiplayer is not available in the game from launch, but rather it was rendered available later in a patch for the game that fixed problems with the feature.
If the player can get online multiplayer working, he/she will find that this feature, which was not available in the previous game, to be a bit less stifling than hotseat, if one is not comfortable with people taking turns to play the game in front of the same machine. However, like hotseat, online multiplayer is still a turn-based affair, fit for only those with the patience for turn-based games. The option to have timers limiting players' dilly-dallying is handy to speed things along of course. In any case, the presence of this option is still a technical upgrade over the first game, i.e. a solid plus.
In conclusion, Worms 2 may have introduced some severe gameplay imbalances with its attempt to build on the zaniness of its predecessor, but it compensates for this by providing a lot of options for players to customize matches with. Of course, if the player is not concerned with these options and is looking for an outrageously fun time, then Worms 2 certainly does deliver.