More wormy goodness for the PSP
Oh, my little annelid friends, how little you change. Year on year, Team 17 wheel you out with a tweaked arsenal and the odd new game mode, and parcel you up all shiny and new. Yet, your core selling point is always the same: take teams of aggressive, well tooled worms, let them loose on a variety of 2D-based levels, chuck in the odd challenge and take turns smacking pieces from one another.
For the uninitiated, all Worms games start the same – players are given a mixed, yet limited, arsenal of weapons and a squad of the titular invertebrates, let loose on a rugged 2 dimensional plane, and take turns in trying to destroy the opposing team. The winner is the first to wipe out every opposing worm on the map. The fun comes in the blend of style and strategy – killing an opposing worm with a bazooka is fun, but prodding him into a pit of lava with a fingertip ramps up the humiliation. And as we all know, enforced shame only sweetens the the taste of victory….
Battle Islands is a streamlined experience when compared to previous titles. Offering a standard Deathmatch (for many, the only way to play Worms) alongside a Challenge mode for singleplayer, with multiplayer bringing in Racing, Forts and Triathlon modes, the gaming options are limited after the wealth of choices of Open Warfare. In reality, though, it’s not too much of a problem, as Deathmatch is still yet to be bettered , and although each other mode has it’s charms, this is where most gamers will spend their time.
BI looks good, and the sound is still unmistakably entertaining as well. Despite the predictability of the spoken comments, they still fit wonderfully, and weapons each have their own distinct sounds. The cartoony graphics have also never looked better, although level design hasn’t really progressed in recent years. Adding new customisation options was a great idea too – players can customise weapons, voices, the squad and even how they die!
Gameplay? Well, it’s still Worms, and still as great as ever – multiplayer is really where it shines, but the single player provides a substantial tutorial. The singleplayer challenges are good, and often stretch your skills with a good blend of lateral thinking and careful aiming. The basic physics are still the same too, and the weapon selection still has all the old favourites (Concrete Donkey gets my vote every time..), alongside some new additions. The new multiplayer modes are good too – Forts probably being the most fun due to the new levels of thinking required to actually get at each other for battle.
The other big new feature is the Tactics option. Players can set up and control a variety of earned perks before a match, such as scanning the battleground for your opponent, or even taking a random sniper potshot in the hope of wiping out a member of the opposite team. The winning player can even take perks from the loser, and although a proficient use of tactics can give a player an edge, it doesn’t feel gamebreaking. Tactics does definitely add some new elements to the game, but I didn’t feel it was enough to really make the feature stand out.
The only real issue is what I like to call the “FIFA problem” – namely, each new release doesn’t really change much, and BI suffers the same dilemma for the Worms franchise. If you own any other edition of Worms, it’s highly unlikely there is enough here to warrant shelling out your hard-earneds once again. Newcomers will, however, be pleased with whats on offer, and now is as good a time as any to dip your toe into the “wurmy waters”.
Team 17 have yet again produced a slick, well presented title that sits nicely alongside its predecessors. The alternative game modes and new ideas are nothing to write home about, yet still manage to incorporate the essence of the franchise: namely, offing worms in a variety of funny ways. There still is the thrill of the game-winning “poke of death”, and the tense moments as a bazooka misses your worm by mere millimetres. The single player is better than it has been for some time too, with more variety in the way to play, and some good challenges to work through when on your own. Worms as a series have always been multiplayer, however, and as always, this is where it is at its best – it’s certainly cheap enough for you and your friends to all have a copy.
Overall, then, a fun title that doesn’t change too much, but certainly should be considered one of the better multiplayer titles on the PSP.
The Bad: It’s still the same game from the last 16 years; new modes still aren’t as good as classic deathmatch.