It’s A Worm-Eat-Worm World Out There!

User Rating: 9 | Worms: Open Warfare 2 DS
Hope you didn’t come for the story, because Worms games have never been big on that. However, there are some little text snippets, as well as high-quality FMVs, sprinkled throughout the single-player campaigns. But Worms is all about zany combat. Worms: Open Warfare 2 (OW2) is the second stab at the franchise on the DS, and it’s the one you’ve been waiting for. If you’re a fan of playing as squishies who can serve up the hurt, this turn-based-strategy game is guaranteed to satisfy.

Now, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if one or two of you aren’t yet familiar with the franchise – Worms has a sort of cult following – so let me lay it out for you. A typical Worms battle will be between teams of about four worms. Those little rascals are armed and dangerous. They wield bazookas, hand grenades, homing missiles – they can even radio in for an air strike! Worms also have unique ways of getting around the landscape: ninja ropes, jack hammer, girders, jet pack, parachute – there is truly a huge arsenal to select from, and that’s always been a big part of Worms’ appeal.

For the single player, OW2 offers a variety of options: Puzzle, Campaign, Laboratory and Training. Puzzle mode is a wonderful addition to OW2 that I don’t recall seeing in any other Worms games I’ve played. The gist is that you’re set on the landscape – usually with just one worm – and you have to figure out how to either make it to the exit, or defeat whatever foes are there, using only a select few items (or often none) and your wits. As the title suggests, each mission is a puzzle that you have to figure out. Campaign mode: This is where you’re likely to spend most of your time when it comes to single-player gameplay. Most of the missions are straight-forward, death-match-type fare, but each fifth mission is a sort of boss battle and it usually consists of something similar to what you’d find in Puzzle mode. It’s a lot of fun and it’s certainly a good challenge.

Next is the Laboratory, which is made up of three “Experiments” (or mini-game types): Blow, Blast and Draw. These are a lot more fun than I had anticipated. I normally dread any type of mini game that requires you to blow into the DS mic, but Blow is so finely tuned that it requires only minimal effort to waft your worm upward. See, your worm must travel from point A to point B with nothing but a parachute. You have to blow whenever the worm requires lift. It’s simple and surprisingly entertaining. Blast is pretty much more of the same. However, rather than using a parachute and your own hot air, you use explosives to propel your worm forward. By simply tapping on the touch screen, you create an explosion. You’ll need to tap at just the right spot to cause your worm to blast in the necessary direction to get over peaks and crevasses. The last Experiment offered is Draw: I’d have to say, it’s my least favorite, though I can see it having appeal for puzzle fans. This one presents you with a limited ink supply; with the ink, you must draw a line that will help guide your worm to the exit; when you think you’ve got a good build, click a thumb icon to unleash explosives on your worm. If you’ve set up your line just so, it should help in guiding the worm safely to the exit.

There is, of course, one last single-player option: Training. This is a greatly appreciated addition to the game. Even if you’re a Worms vet, things are done a little differently on the DS, so it’s handy to have a tutorial that walks you through all the particulars. The Training mode is easy to understand and guides you through the basics, allowing you to get down to business as quickly as possible.

That’s a lot of Worms so far, don’tcha think? Yet it’s only the primer. Worms games have always been about multiplayer, and we finally have a truly viable option on the DS. I never played the first Open Warfare for the DS, but it’s my understanding that it wasn’t much of a showing. The main bummer for me – and why I didn’t buy it – was that the game didn’t offer online gameplay. For DS-owning Worms fans, that was a major faux pa. OW2, however, has got the goods! To start with, you’ve got three (or four if you count hot-seat play, which requires only one DS) main multiplayer options: single-card, local multi-card, and Nintendo WiFi Connection. The single-card option, as you might expect, offers a more limited selection of options, but hey, it’s still a great addition. Multi-card, of course, gives you it all. However, finding other players nearby who also own the game isn’t easy for most DS owners. That’s where online play comes in. This is what it’s all about – pwning people online and struttin’ your stats via the online leader boards.

There are three gameplay types when playing multiplayer: Death Match, Forts and Race. Death Match is your standard Worms-for-all, where it’s all about the last worm slithering. You get a team of four worms, and you can compete with up to three other players. Forts is an interesting alternative in that it places teams in their own set locations, rather than having your worms randomly spread throughout the landscape. This causes you to either really master your long-distance weapons, or hatch a clever plan to infiltrate the enemy base. Lastly is Race. I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried it, but from the description…it’s a race. Last worm to the finish wins.

Now, whatever multiplayer option you decide on, you get to vote on the scheme, which consists of various weapons and utility options; a theme (background types, such as pirate, space, desert, etc.), each offering unique environmental conditions; and a landscape type – caverns, widespread islands, etc. The weapons options could have perhaps been a bit more varied, but it could also be argued that it would’ve just slowed down the process of getting a game going. However, there’s still a nice variety of options available to players in multiplayer gaming, and the matches are a joy. I’ve had zero lag online, and I mostly use the Worldwide setting (you can also choose Regional). There are, of course, disconnectors, but the developers have attempted to buffer the problem by adding a “disconnected” stat to the leader boards. Shame is always a good tactic for helping to prevent leavers. That said, the leader board seems to have some trouble determining who the actual leaver is in one-vs.-one matches, and both players apparently get docked a point, regardless of who actually left the game.

And as good as the gameplay is, it is not without its quirks. For one, though the game allows for you to move your worm for a few seconds after firing off a weapon, the camera often zips back over to the worm you last attacked, making movement of your worm a blind proposition.

Gripes in the multiplayer arena include the fact that you’re forced to play three full rounds, rather than affording you the option of simply doing a “quickie.” When each round can take up to 15-20 minutes, a full (three-round) match can become quite a long session for gaming on-the-go. You also can’t leave a match before it has started; once you’ve joined a match, you’re in for the long haul, lest you disconnect and tarnish your stats. That’s not great when you find yourself with someone you know to be a leaver, or just someone you plain don’t want to play with. You should be given the option to back out before the match begins. None of these things I’ve mentioned are technical issues and I really can’t say that I’ve encountered any, though there has been some talk about problems with the single-card multiplayer. I haven’t had an opportunity to test that option out firsthand, so I can’t comment on that. But these design issues are things I don’t necessarily care for, and I think they’re worth mentioning here.

Graphics, Sound & Overall Presentation

So how does a Worms game look on the DS? It looks great, considering the context of the game. It’s worms we’re talkin’ about here. Truly, though, the worms, themselves, look really cool – cute, silly and full of personality. The levels are made up of 2-D landscapes on top of 3-D backgrounds. The 3-D graphics look very nice – cel-shaded with smooth texturing. The landscapes are attractive, too, but in some cases they are merely repetitious patterns kind of melded together. The landscapes in Forts matches, however, are really beautiful, hand-drawn fortresses. The explosions and smoke clouds: awesome!

One thing I think many Worms fans overlook, however – and something this game does especially well – is the sound. What excellent music! What excellent sound effects! Something I’ve noticed about Worms games in general is that the developers have a clever way of masking the musical loops. They use a lot of dynamics (the apparent volume of sound) to keep the music right where it should be – covertly supporting the gameplay. At one moment you hear nothing but a light beat in the background, and the next moment the house starts a`rockin’. It just adds so much to the quirky yet almost cinematic nature of Worms. Of course, there’s nothing more satisfying than the sound of a bazooka blasting off toward a lone worm, exploding the enemy up into the air, and then hearing that final plop as it hits the drink. “No respect!” Huh? You say something? Oh yeah, these worms talk. Accents abound in OW2, as is traditional with the franchise. Irish, Brooklyn, some kind of robotic voice…tons of silly selections for you to choose from, and the things these worms choose to say – it’s hilarious!

The last thing I’d like to make mention of is the game’s overall presentation. When you add everything up that Worms: Open Warfare 2 has to offer, this game is giving you a lot for your buck. The menus are attractive and easy to navigate; at the beginning of any mission or multiplayer game, you get a little random tip; and though the game does include a manual, you’ll never need to use it, because the in-game tutorials and Training mode offer everything you need to get started. There’s a Quick Play option that will instantly create a random game against an AI team, or there’s a Custom Game option to allow you to set things up just the way you want them. Additionally, you can create your own maps, using a landscape editor. You can customize teams, selecting from available voices, skin colors and so on. You can edit schemes to create your own types of gameplay. And you can also create your own flag designs. Then there’s the Options section, which consists of yet more good stuff: a Medal Cabinet that holds all the medals you’ve earned from single-player (and in some cases, multiplayer), as well as an option to send a demo of the game to another nearby DS owner. There’s the Help section and Introduction Wizard – both useful aids in understanding the many gameplay options. Last is the shop. Throughout your single-player career, you’ll earn credits. Use those credits to purchase new skin colors for your worms, new accents, new victory dances (oh yeah!), gravestones, additional campaigns – tons of stuff!

And that’s Worms: Open Warfare 2 in a gigantic nutshell. Simply put, it’s awesome. Is it just for Worms fans? Heck no! It will take some time to master the use of all the various weapons and utilities – I’m no pro, myself, and I’ve been playing Worms for a while – but the pay-off is huge. OW2 is silly, it’s irreverent and it’s great fun. It’s also a lot of game for your dollar. I’d have to say that the game offers what is probably the most enjoyable and extensive online play I’ve experienced on the DS. JUMP Ultimate Stars (an import fighting game) comes close, but, unfortunately, most random battles in that game are with players from overseas, therefore the battles often lag something fierce. OW2 is well paced, well implemented and should offer players endless enjoyment. Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!

The Breakdown

Presentation / 8.5
Did they miss anything? I think not. You get in-game instructions, a shop, a landscape editor, tons of gameplay options, excellent cutscenes that are sprinkled throughout the single-player campaigns…the list goes on and on. But there are some things I had an issue with, as far as the multiplayer is concerned: no ability to back out of a match before it has started, as well as no option to play just a single round.

Graphics / 8.5
A perfect fit for this game, and the smoke clouds and explosions are especially nice-looking on the DS. Some of the landscape patterns are a bit repetitious, but overall the game looks great.

Sound / 10
In my opinion, the unsung hero of the Worms franchise. Great worm accents; awesome musical themes!

Gameplay / 8.5
The game offers excellent features and a huge selection of weapons. Love the Laboratory games. And something I failed to mention in the actual review: the game’s AI is ruthless and precise. Worms 3D had AI that was dumber than a doughnut. The opposite is true with OW2. It’s a great challenge and lots of fun, but there are a few quirks that may not agree with some folks. Weapons like the Concrete Donkey can make for some extreme cheapness.

Replay Value / 9.5
Only if this game could make you a sandwich could it possibly be any better in this department. There are tons of single-player options that are mostly all fun, and there are tons of multiplayer options that are all fun. The mini games are great – no fillers. And the customization features seal the deal, allowing you endless hours of creative noodling.

Overall / 9
A Worms masterpiece!