Ready the Old Woman attack!

You know the drill, sergeant: those ruthless worm soldiers have returned in Worms 3, and they’re taking to the battlefields at every Beach, Farm, and Sewer in what will undoubtedly become the definitive mobile version of Worms today. And while a few repetitive elements unavoidably manage to set in amidst all of the small-scale carnage, the sprawling arsenal, intriguing advent of trading cards, and healthy multitude of game modes still make this one mobile war you’ll be telling your little grandchildren worms about one day.

While the core turn-based gameplay in Worms 3 isn’t all that much different from other Worms games in the series, one exciting new inclusion is the advent of trading cards, which I raved about in my initial hands-on preview with the game last month. A completely optional feature that can be turned on or off in every different game mode, the trading cards of Worms 3 add special parameters to each game match for an additional challenge or advantage, such as boosting health crate bonuses or decreasing the gravity. It’s a more than welcome addition to the series, and just enough to keep the gameplay fresh for more seasoned Worms veterans without straying too far from the original formula that has worked so well in the past. The controls can take some getting used to, as you’ll be forced to fumble around with a virtual d-pad for both movement and aiming, but they still work well enough to never become that big of an issue.

Worms 3

In addition to the main campaign mode, Worms 3 offers a multitude of different ways to play, and all of them are executed to near perfection, and provide everything you could really ever want in a mobile Worms release. You have the expected online multiplayer component, and even a quick match option against the computer worm A.I. But to me, the two best additions are in the local Pass ‘N’ Play multiplayer mode, which lets up to four teams of worms battle it out on the very same device, and the addicting Body Count mode, which lets you see how long you can survive against wave after wave of increasingly difficult squads of worms. Mobile developers should take special note here: this is exactly how you should pack on the content and game modes to give some serious depth and long-lasting options to your mobile release.

It’s clear right from the beginning that the only thing that Worms 3 has more of than different game modes is an undeniable sense of heart. The worms themselves have their own quirky personalities, and you’ll be able to fully customize the different soldiers on your team, from adding funny hats and glasses, to determining what their victory dances and even gravestones will look like (you’ll notice my own team in these screenshots, the affectionately named Worm Squirm, sporting stylish red snow hats and curtly white colonel moustaches). In addition to playing dress up, you’ll even be able to choose between one of four different worm classes, which range in size and affect their speed and movement on the battlefield. The graphics are especially nice to look at as well, with a 2.5D approach that incorporates lively 3D backgrounds and textures on a flatter 2D playing field.

Worms 3

Worms 3 has been jam-packed with more wild and wacky weapons than possibly any Worms game before it, including the traditional Bazooka, Prod, and Dynamite, and the much more experimental and hilarious Homing Pigeon, Old Woman, and my personal favorite, Nora’s Virus, which quite literally has you unleashing a poisonous sneeze on your unsuspecting worm adversaries. In fact, there’s so many weapons this time around that I actually felt myself getting a little overwhelmed at times in trying to best utilize them all. I think it would have helped to have a better introduction to using some of the more eclectic ones, like how we get in the brief tutorial missions at the start of the campaign for weapons like the Bazooka and maneuverable items like the Ninja Rope. There were a number of times in a mission when I wanted to use a new weapon I had never tried before, only to horribly misjudge how the weapon would respond, wasting my entire turn.

There are a few other minor design issues that manage to knock Worms 3 down from being a flawless mobile experience. For one thing, even though the graphics are certainly a step up from any past Worms title before it, a lot of the environmental obstacles in Worms 3 become extremely repetitive after a few short matches in the game. Each of the different thematic settings, like the Beach and the Sewers, have their own specific foreground objects that you can climb on or destroy, but the overall variety is way too limited to be anything other than mundane. For instance, by the time I reached the end of the Beach portion of the campaign, I had literally lost count of how many times I was forced to crawl over particularly dull-looking cell phones and water bottles. One level in particular I remember featured nothing but identical cell phone obstacles with little to no strategy involved other than simply scrunching over one after the other.

Worms 3

Another thing that feels a bit strange is that each three-star rating on campaign levels is determined solely by how quickly you’re able to defeat the other team. Some of the three-star finishing times seem pretty demanding as well, unless my Worms commander skills just need some serious brushing up these days. But for a game where strategic planning and careful alignment are the keys to success, it did feel a bit jarring to me to have to rush through each mission for those higher scores, instead of taking my time and ensuring the least amount of casualties to my own adorable, snow-hatted squadron.

But in the grand scheme of things, none of these are really devastating complaints, and the only real reason they stood out to me so much is because everything else in the game is completely polished to near-perfection. With tons of ways to play, and even more options to load up your wacky worm arsenal, it’s highly likely that you’ll never experience the same wormy death twice. If this is the direction that the Worms series is going to be taking in the years down the road, then I think Worms 3 can easily be seen as the starting point for these little guys’ eventual world domination (well you know, if they’re able to really crawl that far).