Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Team 17
Release Date: March 22, 2006
If you haven't played Worms at least once, your credentials as a gamer should be questioned. There is nothing quite like this comedic twist on the genre of games defined by Scorched Earth and most recently replicated in softnyx's Gunbound. Since the definitive iteration of the series, Worms: World Party, the Worms franchise has delved into 3D, with varying levels of success , and also had a puzzle game, Worms Blast, built off the license. Worms: Open Warfare is the first 2D strategy game since the surprisingly good GBA port of World Party. Unfortunately, Open Warfare has some major stumbling blocks, but it still captures the Worms spirit and makes it work solidly on the DS.
Before anything else, let it be said that if you are not playing Worms multiplayer, you are not enjoying the complete experience. From the start of the series, the game has been all about round-robin insanity while blowing up your buddies. It's too bad that Team 17 and THQ didn't get things together to put this title on Nintendo Wi-Fi, which would have put it on par with World Party in terms of multiplayer awesomeness. With that said, allowing four players with one card is not too shabby, although round-robin multiplayer on one DS would have been a cool option. If you like old-school party multiplayer where everyone's together, Open Warfare is easily one of the best games for the Nintendo DS, you should consider this game a must-get.
Unfortunately, it's not just internet multiplayer that has been lost between World Party and this offering; you do not get nearly as many weapons in Open Warfare as you did in World Party. A mere 20 weapons define your arsenal, with only a few of the riotously funny and yet amazingly strategic weapons persisting; the concrete donkey isn't here, and only one sheep can be found among the most riotous iterations. The more modest stock of weapons remains and offers a fair amount of strategic variety, and all of the more serious hallmarks of the series still stand, requiring careful thought of how best to damage your foes.
Worst of all is the single-player experience, which consists of either Quick Games (four of your worms versus four enemy worms) or a series of progressively difficult challenges. The problem is that Worm's AI, once slow and careful, is now simply laughable. Worms should not act like Lemmings, but I have seen them jump into water, blow themselves up, and pull other incredibly stupid moves en masse. It is incredibly slow, and regularly ran the timer down to zero thinking of which move to perform. Given that Team 17 did a reasonable job on the AI for the GBA version of World Party, I have to wonder why they dropped the ball so badly in this version. Oh, yes. When the AI does get a shot in, that shot is basically guaranteed to hit you – unless the perfect arc it calculated puts something large between the missile and you.
Graphically and soundwise, Open Warfare is surprisingly beautiful, with incredibly fluid sprite animations, well-rendered stages, and perfectly fine, yet simple, explosion effects. The map on the touch screen gives you a reliable view of Worm positions, and you can scroll the top-screen view anywhere by just touching a point on the screen. Music is simple enough and stays well out of the way, and sound effects are among the best I have heard on the DS, with the worms' voices being endearing and easy to change up if you so choose. The game easily compares with the PC version of World Party, and achieves its task excellently. That task is, of course, staying out of the way of the gameplay and letting you enjoy the insanity of throwing exploding sheep at your enemies.
While issues with the gameplay have been discussed, it is rather unfair to simply insult the play and its excellent porting onto the DS touch screen. The touch screen is limited in purpose, used solely for scrolling the overall map, and selecting options or weapons; the rest of the game uses the face buttons, with the d-pad moving your worm. L and R offer zoom and camera move functions, but are obviated by the touch screen; Y and A jump (double-tapping lets you backflip), B fires, and X lets you adjust fuse lengths. This combination may not immediately seem intuitive to DS players who are used to using either only the face buttons or the touch screen, but it works very well and holds up to the level of strategy and careful movement that is the series' hallmark.
Overall, Worms: Open Warfare's score is not a proper indicator of how fun it is. If you have several friends with DSes, you should add at least a point to its score, since you won't be spending much time in its single-player mode, except perhaps to practice. It's an excellent party game, since you don't have to pause if someone needs to refill on their munchies, and up to three others can join in the fun with only one cartridge among the group. If your friends are PSP fans or don't have portable game systems, however, this title will not be nearly as enjoyable. It's a fun time for a while, but with only the AI as your foe, it will wear thin fairly quickly in spite of the game's excellent design almost everywhere else.
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