Developer: Team 17 Software
Release Date: March 17, 2008
There are very few video game franchises that can lay claim to over a decade of continued success. For every Mario, Samus and Solid Snake, there are dozens of Lara Crofts, Crash Bandicoots and Spyros. It's hard to keep a series fresh when it features the same characters and the same basic gameplay over several generations, and sadly, the stress of attempting to do so is beginning to show through in the Worms franchise.
Worms: A Space Oddity is the latest game in the long-running turn-based strategy franchise that's landed on pretty much every console and PC since it was introduced over 10 years ago. For the uninitiated, a typical level consists of you controlling a team of two to four worms on a team against one to three teams of opponents. Using items such as missiles, grenades and exploding sheep, you attempt to defeat the other teams by either reducing all their members' HP to zero or by knocking them off the map. It's simple, it's fun, and it's brought success for many, many years.
Unfortunately, this edition of Worms feels a little too familiar, and it's hard to fathom why anyone who already has another version of the game would even bother. There are no new weapons, merely new names for them, and there's not a lot to differentiate this title from anything else in the series.
First the new stuff, the few things that might actually make you want to purchase this game. There is a fairly enjoyable single-player mode in A Space Oddity, a plot revolving around the worms traveling to different planets in order to retrieve pieces from their damaged spaceship so they may return home. There are six worlds with six levels apiece, and while many of the stages involve the traditional team-based fighting inherent to the series, several of them incorporate puzzle aspects to keep things fresh. For example, you may have to knock a massive enemy off the map in only three turns, or you might need to use mines to launch yourself from one ledge to another in order to complete an objective. The game also features six fun and wacky minigames which, once unlocked, can be played by up to four players, as well as a fairly competent level editor. Finally, each level also features its own unique surface and gravity, so you have to alter your strategy significantly from one world to the next. The attack that worked on the sticky, windless planet, likely won't work on the icy, blustery one.
While that's all well and good, the one new feature that may make this title worth your money is the implementation of motion controls. Rather than pointing a clicking to fire weapons, each device now has specific motions that you'll need to use in order to succeed. For example, thrown weapons, such as bombs and grenades, require you to tilt the Wiimote until you set the power, and then use a throwing motion to unleash your attack. Each gadget has its own unique controls, and the flipping, pointing, and waggling really do manage to make the game more immersive than any Worms title that has come before. There's even a "practice throw" for some weapons, which will allow you to see the trajectory and landing point of your weapon without wasting your turn on an errant attack. While series vets will likely cry blasphemy because horrible misfires are just part of the learning experience, this addition goes a long way to helping ease you into the motion controls and leveling the field for newcomers.
So far, you're probably thinking the game sounds great, and are looking for your keys so you can get down to the store before it's sold out, but you may want to hang tight for just a sec. Beyond a revamped control scheme and a single-player campaign, there's not a lot here to warrant more than a rental. The graphics are bland and boring at best, and the voice acting, while funny, is so repetitive that you'll likely find yourself reaching for the mute button in no time flat. On top of it all, there is absolutely no online functionality for A Space Oddity. None.
The omission of any sort of online gaming is an especially hard slap in the face since Team 17 had gone on record on more than one occasion detailing their plan for the game's online world. Considering the fact that the Worms series has always been, first and foremost, a multiplayer affair, it is inexcusable that they have scrapped this option entirely. While local multiplayer is still intact, it's a huge blow to be told that you'll be able to challenge your friends to a fight all around the world, only to have the rug yanked out from under you at the last minute.
Perhaps the most damning criticism of Worms: A Space Oddity is that, aside from the motion controls, it's the exact same thing that you've already played a hundred times before. The title feels more like a port than a true new entry into the franchise, and if you own any other Worms game dating back to the beginning, then there's really no reason to shell out for this one. I would recommend this if it were a budget title, but at a full $50 price tag, there's just no reason to forego getting the exact same experience for a cheaper price on another console. You can get essentially the same game on Xbox Live Arcade for under $10, and a used copy of one of the many PC versions likely costs even less than that. While there are some hardcore fans out there who no doubt have to have this game, please wait until it hits the bargain bin first. Sadly, it's starting to look like these little fellas just don't have it in them anymore.
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