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NDS Review - 'Worms: Open Warfare 2'

by Tom Baker on Oct. 12, 2007 @ 2:58 a.m. PDT

In Worms: Open Warfare 2 players will be able to challenge others from all over the world via multiplayer battles using a wireless connection as they command their worms through clashes that take place in famous battles of the past, as well as fictional fights of the future.

Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Team 17
Release Date: September 4, 2007

Everyone's favorite homicidal invertebrates return in true style in their second bout of open warfare for the DS. Being one of the most iconic and addictive games of all time must place a lot of pressure on Team 17, and this must have gotten to them when developing Worms: Open Warfare for the DS, which let down many fans with poor graphics and a tricky stylus system. This time around, the team seems to have wiped the slate clean and remodeled Worms: Open Warfare 2 into an immensely playable experience.

Going over the premise of a Worms title seems redundant, but you play as a bunch of worms that are armed to the teeth with weapons, from ordinary shotguns and bazookas, to bizarre flying sheep and exploding grannies. You must wipe out the opposing side in a turn-based strategy format on destructible environments, in addition to completing amusing challenges, which have become part and parcel of the Worms package recently.

The gameplay basics have remained the same. You can customize your team of worms in every aspect, including comical accent, color and weapons preference, and you can even design your own flag. The customizable features of Open Warfare 2 also create an odd feeling of empathy for your little worms. Never have the last words of "Oy, nutter!" brought a tear to my eye, but as you see your last worm helplessly plunging into the water, you can't help but feel a pang of remorse.

The single-player Campaign mode takes you through various stereotypical wars, such as the battle-scarred landscapes of World War II and fleets of large Spanish galleons bobbing in the water behind you. The mission objectives usually involve some variant of destroying the other team, but the missions will challenge even the most seasoned players to think outside the box if they want to dispatch the ruthless enemies.

While the Campaign mode alone should be enough to keep a gamer entertained for days, Open Warfare 2 also introduces DS-specific challenges to fully take advantage of the handheld system. Puzzle mode will see you trying to find a way to single-handedly dispatch a team of enemy worms, whereas Laboratory mode lets you guide a worm from point A to point B by either blowing into the microphone to float a parachute, blasting it through a maze by pressing on the stylus for different amounts of time or drawing a path for the worm to be shot along. The only downside is that there are only three challenges and a finite number of levels, leaving a potentially rich and long-lasting mini-game section feeling shallow and slightly tacked-on.

Often, simple controls are ruined by a designer's need to fully integrate the stylus into all aspects of the game, but Open Warfare 2 is incredibly easy to pick up and play. During normal matches — as normal as worms fighting with exploding sheep can be, at any rate — you use the d-pad to move around and alter the angle of your shot, the A button to fire, B to jump and an upward motion of the stylus brings up the weapons menu. Even though the controls are simple, working out the trajectories and power behind certain weapons can be deviously challenging.

Graphically, the game is bright, colorful and has a much more refined veneer than the previous Open Warfare offering. Team 17 has managed to create a game which greatly resembles the PC version of Armageddon, while feeling like a native DS title. The rendering on the weapons and the worms themselves have made the transition to 3D look all too easy compared to the slapdash job of the previous title. The only downside to the graphics is that the DS' small screen size doesn't allow for more close-up views of the action, so some of the hilarious motions and animations may go unnoticed. The incorporation of both the top and bottom screens in depicting the action, however, gives a much better sense of scale during combat, since more of the gameplay can be observed.

From the opening remix of the classic jingle, you're instantly drawn into the world of Worms. Every explosion, every high-pitched humorous insult and every "hallelujah" of the holy hand grenade has been lovingly restored. When it comes to audio, the main criticism with Worms titles is the lack of music within a set match, which may alleviate some of the boredom of waiting for your turn. Aside from this, the sounds are legitimately funny and help the game live up to its tongue-in-cheek reputation, from the curses of fallen comrades to the famous squeaking as the worms move around the map.

The ability to take the game anywhere and compete against friends using only a single cartridge allows players to rekindle the frustration, heartache and soaring victory that every Worms offering inevitably brings. The simple joys of cruelly crushing a close friend with an arching rocket or a perfectly timed grenade make Open Warfare 2 a great party or multiplayer title.

The title also has an online multiplayer mode and offers multi-card play, making its longevity nearly infinite. It's extremely easy to customize maps with the stylus, and you can also take them online to challenge others across the world. In the shop, you can spend points earned in single-player mode to acquire more weapons and battle accessories, in addition to more aesthetic bonuses. You can also complete in-game tasks, such as buying everything in the shop or participating in a certain number of online matches, to unlock medals that can be viewed in your medal cabinet.

Worms: Open Warfare 2 is a terrific game. The gameplay is simple, fun and forever addictive, and it's coupled with chunky, colorful graphics and a multiplayer system which has served as the de facto model for many other titles. It incorporates the touch controls system and graphical capabilities of the DS so well that you'd never expect the series had been offered on any other platform. The only complaint that can truly be brought is that the concept has been done again and again. Even though the game plays like a dream and doesn't look or feel dated, veteran Worms gamers may find little here that they already haven't seen in previous titles, indicating that this may well be one of the last times Team 17 can use this formula successfully.

Score: 8.8/10

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