Worms is one of those bizarre game ideas that could only have come from the 16-bit era: A 2D, turn-based detonate-em-up pitting two teams of armed-to-the-teeth annelids against each other.
A whopping 20 sequels later, pinball and golf-themed spinoffs not included, you’d think the formula had gone stale. Or you would if you’ve never unleashed a banana bomb (made of actual bananas) on some hapless worm opposition.
W.M.D is the latest entry to the franchise, but it feels like a return to form after previous reinvention attempts like 3D graphics and celebrity voiceovers didn’t make a huge impact. There are new additions, sure, but veterans will just be happy to get hold of a holy hand grenade again.
After arriving on consoles and PC last year, Worms has finally crawled its way onto the Nintendo Switch – and in a lot of ways feels right at home.
MIXING UP THE FORMULA
Your worms are scattered across large 2D levels, as always, but now there are indoor areas that stay hidden until you crawl your way inside to reveal what’s within – it’s a great way to ambush an unsuspecting enemy.
Adding vehicles could have easily unbalanced the game, but developer Team17 has pulled it off without making the existing arsenal redundant. Tanks, helicopters and even mech robots can be piloted around each battlefield, with a decent amount of firepower to level the land as you drive across or over it. Once your turn is over, though, the enemy can easily boot you out of the driver’s seat and use your equipment against you.
Fixed-emplacement turrets are the other new addition, which don’t give you any protection from enemy fire but do give you some handy bonuses, like the sniper’s nest that lets you take pinpoint-precise pot shots across the entire map.
UP YOUR ARSENAL
While it might be older now, the series certainly isn’t any wiser. Worms is bonkers, y’see – from the background puns hidden in each stage (like the Codfather fish n chip shop) to the quips each worm spouts out whenever you pull the trigger.
This is most obvious in the weapon choices, with classics like the concrete donkey, super sheep and banana bomb all making a return. W.M.D introduces the OMG laser, an orbital death beam that evaporates a significant chunk of the map, and there’s even a dodgy phone battery that electrifies an area, disabling any vehicles and shocking enemy worms. Yep, it’s a weaponised Galaxy Note 7.
New, though, is the option to craft new variants of your favourites on the fly.
Collect materials from supply crates that appear at the end of every turn and you can turn that humble bazooka into an explosive napalm delivery device, or make the uzi fire ricocheting laser beams instead of bullets.
Crafting takes up your turn, but the improved weapons can make all the difference – especially if you can’t reach your enemy with your regular gear.
ALL BY MYSELF
Worms is really all about the multiplayer madness, but W.M.D doesn’t force you straight into its versus mode right away. As usual, there’s a training mode which teaches you the basics, like how to use the wind to curve Bazooka shots around corners.
Missions give you a specific number of worms and items to use to clear a level, with several side-objectives that can boost your final score. Completing them unlocks customisation options like new victory poses, sound clips and gravestones for your fallen worms.
Finding wanted posters in these missions unlocks challenge stages, which need a bit more lateral thinking to solve, but the custom skins they unlock let you dress up your worms before heading into battle.
It would be fine if there was more than one solution to each one, but if you get one part wrong you’ll probably have to restart and try again.
SWITCH IT UP
Restarting levels only takes a few seconds, but the Switch edition of the game can be very slow to load up in the first place. For a 2D title with simple effects, it’s a surprise how long it takes to get into a game.
With no obvious loading icon, you’ll sometimes wonder if your Switch has crashed.
That’s really the only major fault in this otherwise excellent port, though. The controls work perfectly in handheld mode, and you can play pass-the-controller or use separate joy cons for same-screen multiplayer matches.
The fully zoomed-out view can make it a little tricky to spot individual worms on the Switch screen, especially when you’re playing a six player game, but it’s fine on a TV – and that mode is only really there for getting an overview of the battlefield, anyway.
WORMS W.M.D VERDICT
W.M.D ditches the more complex gimmicks of other recent Worms games, and is all the better for it. You get the same multiplayer madness, same cutesy characters and same absurd humour – where else can you drop a concrete donkey on your friends to cause maximum carnage?
Vehicles and turrets are novel inclusions, but they don’t get in the way of the classic gameplay, and the 2D art style is somehow refreshingly new but reassuringly familiar at the same time.
Loading times could be better on this Switch edition, but when you can bring it with you just about anywhere and throw down with your mates just about anywhere, waiting a few extra seconds isn’t a massive problem.
W.M.D gets the fun factor pretty much perfect – whether that’s landing a precise grenade throw, ninja-roping across the level to poke an enemy into the drink, or scoring a super sheep to the face.
Got a problem with that? Then we’ve got a holy hand grenade with your name on it.