Worms: Battle Islands for the Nintendo Wii doesn't really reinvent the wheel when it comes to the Worms franchise. It features the same, familiar 2-D gameplay from previous Worms games, including the prior Wii release, Worms: A Space Oddity. I wasn't a huge fan of Space Oddity, in part because it lacked the previously expected inclusion of online play. Battle Islands, on the other hand, finally adds network play so you can play locally and online. The only problem is the lack of an online community.
At first, I thought that my issue with finding online players stemmed from selecting the wrong game types. It's a shame that the online world is so empty because Team 17 included a number of online modes for fans to check out, and when you're searching for a match-up, it doesn't give you a catch-all option. Instead, it breaks down everything by the different modes, so you have to search through each one in the hopes of finding someone, anyone, to play a round of Worms. I couldn't find a match to save my life over the past two weeks, and that even delayed the review a bit. While I'll comment on the multiplayer game modes, keep in mind that I wasn't able to play it, so I don't know if the net code is good or if the game has any issues with lag. It's a real shame because I was really looking forward to playing some online Worms on the Wii.
For the multiplayer side, gameplay is divided into Quick Play and Serious Worms, which is essentially ranked play. Serious Worms allows up to four players instead of the standard two in Quick Play. Both modes offer the same game types, which consist of classic Deathmatch, along with Forts, Racing, Tactics and Triathlon. You can view online leaderboards for each game mode; I hope this isn't indicative of how many people have bothered to take the game online because there were only 30 results. That would explain why I can't find a soul online, though.
The single-player portion of the game is a bit of a bore. I've never been a huge fan of Worms in the single-player environment because I felt that the series only thrives when squaring off against real opponents. In the spirit of due diligence, I slogged my way through the six available stages and killed my fair share of opposing computer-controlled Worms. I can't fault the game design; it looks just like every Worms game, and it doesn't try to change that formula or appearance just for the sake of changing something. This sounds like a backhanded compliment because it is; I wish someone would try to breathe some life into the series or the level design because Worms is really starting to get stale.
You have three available single-player modes: Campaign, Puzzle and Training. Campaign is the meat of the single-player experience and you'll be spending the majority of your time here. Puzzle consists of 30 different scenarios that require you to do things like collect crates, complete laps around a stage, or kill all enemy worms. Puzzle mode is pretty fun and challenging, and while Campaign is meant to be the main game mode, I had way more fun with the challenges in Puzzle. Training hardly counts as a mode and is self-explanatory, but it's good for people who have never played a Worms game.
Campaign mode consists of six stages that are divided up into four levels and a boss fight. The highlight of each stage, represented by an island, is the boss fight, which is typically a one-on-one encounter that requires some ingenuity and thought. The rest of the levels are typical team-vs.-team matches where you pit your team of worms against the AI and attempt to be the last worm standing. You'll get access to a number or weapons and additional items, like jetpacks, ninja ropes, etc.; they'll help you traverse the stage and get close enough to your opponent's worms to deliver a fatal blow. There are environmental hazards to contend with, so you can also work out solutions to effectively eliminate the opposing side. Most weapons will usually have an impact on the surrounding environment as well; they can eat away at the ground with each explosion or impact, potentially limiting the play area by eroding the ground around you. This isn't any different than previous Worms games, though, and most of the weapons have been available in previous efforts. The weapon variety is sound, and there's a lot to pick from, but I wish they'd scrap some of the old designs for all-new stuff.
A nice addition is the use of the blueprints, which can be randomly found on levels and allow you to create your own weapons. It requires you to slog through the single-player campaign a bit to unlock weapon parts, but it's a nice addition and definitely one of the better features in the game. Another feature in Battle Islandss is the War Room, which presents itself at the start of every level. In the War Room, you can effectively prep yourself for the upcoming level by performing tasks, like recon, to show you the battlefield ahead of time, or placing a sniper to take a pot shot at an opposing player at the beginning of the level. You can even add weapons to your cache, teleport Worms, parachute them in, build a fortified bunker, and a few other options. This neat addition changes up the game field a little, and it should definitely carry over into future titles.
Even though this is a 2-D game with little in the way of hardcore visual assets that need to be rendered, I was taken aback by how bland this game looks on the Wii. I've recently played some Worms on the PSP, and those visuals definitely looked better than in this release, which is a blurry mess at times. The worm sprites lack much in the way of detail, and the environments don't have much going for them on the design side. Even the effects from using different weapons lack any real style.
I would have had a better appreciation for Worms: Battle Islands if I had managed to find someone for online multiplayer matches, but based on my gameplay experience, I can't suggest picking it up. The single-player campaign isn't that fun, and the AI isn't exceptionally challenging. I'm also pretty disappointed in the visuals, as the Wii is capable of some pretty neat stuff, and Worms: Battle Islandss looks like something that stepped out of the previous console generation. I've heard that this game was originally intended to be a WiiWare-only release, and that would explain the subpar visuals, but for a retail boxed release, this was pretty disappointing. If you can get some friends together for local multiplayer, you'll probably have some fun with this title, but if you're picking it up and hope to get into the online side, I'd definitely suggest avoiding this one.
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