Worms: Open Warfare 2 Review (DS)
Developer: Team 17
Platforms: PSP, DS
Reviewed on DS
A cheeky group of worms with a penchant for combat and the advantage of disembodied hands are taking on every enemy worm, with an assortment of strange weapons. They're prepared to do whatever it takes to seize every battlefield, even if it means breaking out the holy hand grenade.
Last year, THQ brought Worms: Open Warfare to the DS and PSP, not only bringing the classic Worms franchise of annelid armed conflict to the latest generation of handhelds, but also returning Worms' turn-based combat to its traditional 2D. It was a relief to return to the age-old 2D perspective that got Worms started, and escape the recent attempts to make worm warfare 3D. At the same time, the first Worms: Open Warfare was an incomplete experience.
Worms: Open Warfare 2 has brought the handheld Worms experience to fruition. Most of all, both the DS and PSP versions of the game include online competitive play, allowing you to test your skills against real foes instead of only facing AI opponents. This handheld sequel also refines the controls, adds more weapons and introduces a variety of play modes, making this game comparable to the heyday of Worms battles on the PC.
The Worms formula is straightforward. For more than a decade, players have been able to grab a group of four cute (and psychotic) worms, arm them with an assortment of devastatingly absurd weapons, and send them into the fray against another force of four worms. The teams take turns, with worms getting a few seconds to move, aim and fire a weapon. Weapons and devices range from the ninja rope and jetpack that can be used to move around the map to air strikes, grenades, and exploding sheep that can be used to eliminate enemies.
Worms: Open Warfare 2 takes players through a campaign that spans every era of modern warfare, starting with piratical combat, working through World War I and the Cold War, and finally delving right into futuristic space battles. After a few maps in which you eliminate enemy squads, you'll face the commander of each time in a battle that's more puzzle than tactical combat. The levels remain interesting as the time available for each turn gets shorter. There's even more of that type of clever puzzle in the Puzzle mode, that presents a long series of challenges requiring you to use specific weapons and tools in combinations you need to unravel yourself, instead of freeform battles.
(If Only They Had Teeth)
Much of the appeal of playing Worms comes from the cutesy worms themselves, and Worms: Open Warfare 2 supports a lot of customization options. In the tradition of other Worms games, you can name your team and individual worms, choose their flag, color, tombstones and victory dance. There's a broad selection of voice cues ranging from cybernetic worms to angry Scots and Brooklyn worms. And even more can be unlocked through play.
The rest of the appeal of this turn-based tactical experience comes from the bizarre weaponry. Grenades and bazookas are the mainstays of the annelid arsenal, but shotguns and exploding sheep keep things interesting. Worms: Open Warfare 2 adds a few new weapons, like the boomerang (it comes back!), the vicious "Buffalo of Lies" and a lightning strike that can resurrect fallen worms. For the most part, Worms: Open Warfare 2 is still just a Worms game. The faithful will enjoy it, but it's not exactly a transformation. The one weapon that changed play for me is the electromagnet that can be placed on the map to attract or repel other weapons. This electromagnet can be used to construct a horrific trap or supreme defensive field.
The DS version of Worms: Open Warfare 2 just doesn't execute the game as well as the PSP version. The biggest problem is that the DS screens are arranged vertically. Given that most of the battlefields (with a few exceptions) are spread out horizontally, it often takes time to get the lay of the land and develop battle strategies. During the early maps, there's enough time to scan the map and take action, but by the time you get into the advanced levels, it'll take a turn or two to figure out where your enemies are.
The game does support the use of the DS touchscreen, but it isn't generally necessary. The one area in which the game truly takes advantage of the DS capabilities is in the game's Laboratory mode. The Laboratory mode is tangential to the real play of Worms: Open Warfare 2, but allows gamers to solve DS-specific puzzles by tapping or drawing on the touchscreen and by blowing into the microphone. The DS multiplayer actually works better than the multiplayer in most DS games, but if you have your choice of platform, the PSP delivers a more flexible online play experience.
Ultimately, Worms: Open Warfare 2 refines the handheld Worms formula, polishing it to the point that handheld gamers can enjoy the cutesy, tactical combat. You might have given the original Worms: Open Warfare a pass, but Worms: Open Warfare 2 is enough of an improvement that it's worth jumping into combat, though it's still a better experience on the PSP.