The early bird catches the grenade
In case you’re new to the world of Worms, let me get you up to speed. Worms is a turn-based strategy game by Team 17, where you command a squad of war-hardened worms, and fight for control of, uh, whatever it is that worms go to war for. Now that the worms have inched their way onto the barracks of Facebook, will their addictive firefights hold up in the fast-paced social scene?
Since this is Team 17’s first step onto the Facebook gaming platform, a new social component has been introduced to Worms in the form of a central home island: which acts as a hub where you can take part in tasks, play challenges, shop in the store, or visit your friends’ islands. It’s actually a welcomed addition to the game, as you can decorate your island with various items and landmarks, and it serves as a great interface for seamlessly connecting with your Facebook friends. You can also customize your team of worms by dressing them up in funny hats, changing the look of their gravestones, and in true Worms fashion, renaming them to whatever you want. Visiting another island lets you help out a friend by clicking on five supply crates that fall around their island, which rewards both of you with Experience Stars. Leveling up in Worms will award you with everything from Worm Coins to items for your island, and even a new worm hat or two.
The game’s funny cartoon graphics are as lively and vibrant as ever, and the island setting goes hand-in-hand with the widescreen treatment of your web browser (I’m particularly fond of the Hawaiin beach theme, myself). You can move your worms using either your keyboard or mouse, but both setups feel great, and the character animations are all incredibly fluid. It’s also really fun to drag your mouse over Coins or EXP Stars that appear in the world and scoop them up, and zooming in or out on the game map has never been easier.
Each turn, you’ll have 30 seconds to move a worm into position and fire a Bazooka or lob a Grenade at one of your opponent’s worms. The environments are highly destructible, which adds another layer of depth to the strategy in the game; so be careful where you shoot, as you can dig yourself into a hole in no time! I was surprised at first to learn that each battle in Worms favors a “blitz” approach, like the more successful action games on Facebook. Matches will end when the timer runs out, regardless of whether you’ve taken out every opposing worm or not. Winning is based on how many total damage points your team has left, and doesn’t go by the number of worms still in play. Because of this, most matches tend to end just when the battles start to get interesting, and that really limits the amount of long-term planning and strategy that could have been had here.
Worms features a wide array of new and classic weapons from the original series, and a really neat “try-before-you-buy” feature. An early favorite of mine is the Homing Missile, which automatically targets one of those beady-eyed Blue Team worms and sends him flying into the sea with the click of a button. Unfortunately, a few of the cooler Worms weapons like the Banana Bomb and the Sheep are ridiculously overpriced in the store, and I don’t think it’s even possible to earn 145 Worm Credits on your own without paying. This could also lead to some really unfair and one-sided advantages with your Facebook friends; if a fellow Worms commander decides to pay for the more powerful weapons, you won’t stand a fighting chance.
What’s really lacking in Worms, however, is a strong single-player component. Aside from battling the A.I. Professor over and over again, or challenging a random opponent online, literally all of the “story-mode” tasks require you to buy something in the store in order to complete. While this is partly to introduce you to how the store system works, you’ll be running low on Worm Coins and Worm Cash before long, and find yourself at a standstill in the early moments of the game. You will still need to visit the store at some point, though, as each match will set you back 4 Worm Recruits, which you’ll need to buy and restock with Worms Credits when they eventually run out. The Worm Credits seem to be reasonably priced as far as social games go, with some nice first-time discounts for new players.
At its core, Worms is still an excellent turn-based strategy game, and it translates perfectly here on the Facebook platform. While the game gets many things right, like the social city-building additions, and the great integration of your Facebook friends, there are still a few minor places where the worms miss their mark. But in the end, it’s still a Worms game, and with its extremely inviting presentation, is sure to hook and reel in tons of new players, and win over fans of the original series.