Incoming! The much-loved Worms franchise makes some key changes to catch up with the mobile gaming scene – but is that a good thing?
Price: $4.99 / £3.99
Size: 150 MB
Developer: Team 17 Software Ltd
— TapSmart (@TapSmart) September 30, 2015
Everybody knows Worms. Even if you’ve been living under a rock since it debuted in 1995, we’d still expect you to have encountered the odd worm or two. Even so, here’s a quick recap for the uninitiated: teams of bilaterally symmetrical invertebrates (read: worms) duke it out in cartoonish turn-based combat, employing an eccentric arsenal of weaponry that ranges from bazookas and grenades right through to exploding sheep, exploding bananas and exploding grannies. It’s strategic, it’s silly, it’s superb.
This is developer Team 17’s fourth crack at translating the classic Worms formula from a PC gaming staple to a bona fide iOS gem, and it’s clear the game has been seriously rethought for the mobile platform this time around. Shorter matches, unlockable customizations and in-game currency all feature. Many changes are for the better, others less so: let’s investigate.
Firstly, though features like ‘world events’ and Facebook integration feel largely inconsequential, in-game currency and unlockables actually seem like a good fit for the game. You’re never under any pressure to spend real money (though the option is there), and it’s perfectly possible to blitz through the whole game without giving a second thought to what your post-battle ‘loot chests’ contain. But for those who enjoy the customization options in Worms, it’s a great way to keep rewarding the player without impacting on the core gameplay.
Speaking of customization, building a team has always been a core element of a Worms game, and it’s been ramped up here. The main change is that you’re no longer editing the whole team but giving individual worms a unique identity. Each of the three worms on your team can look and sound completely different, and can specialize in different types of combat by equipping weapons. All these customization upgrades are unlocked by completing missions, and the game is pretty generous with its handouts.
The core single player campaign comprises 80 distinct levels, split into five themed worlds. With just three worms per team, each stage is short (around 5 minutes) and sweet (some levels are literally made of candy). Varied stage objectives and pre-determined weapon sets force players to get creative with limited options; you can’t just air strike and holy hand grenade your way out of everything. It’s challenging and fun, successfully diluting the Worms experience into bite-size chunks.
Meanwhile the graphical style has been switched up yet again, but it’s still very recognizably Worms. In truth this is the best the game has looked in years, with both characters and environments crisp, clear and characterful when zoomed right in. Equally all the classic sound effects and typically amusing voices are here, though the music isn’t especially memorable.
One of the biggest changes to Worms 4 is the switch to real-time online multiplayer, which sounds great in theory but in practice suffers from both connectivity problems and a distinct lack of other players to battle. Nine times out of ten you won’t be able to finish – or even start – a match, which is very frustrating for a game so heavily rooted in multiplayer action.
Worms 3 had the right idea with its asynchronous play system, allowing players to start multiple games and then take turns at their leisure. It’s how most other mobile game handle online play and, for our money, it suits Worms perfectly. Luckily local multiplayer is still an option here, with the ability to battle A.I. teams or your real-world buddies.
Worms 4 finally makes the series feel at home on mobile, with a very solid single player mode – but the changes to online play are a step backwards for the franchise. Despite a few concerns, it’s impossible not to have fun when you’re dropping dynamite on unsuspecting enemies from a moving jetpack, or unleashing the mighty concrete donkey. Overall, this is probably the best mobile game in the series and worth picking up for the missions alone.
- Quick solo missions
- Nice crisp graphics
- Fun team customization
- Unreliable online mode
- Some excess fat