Worms Battle Islands
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2- local multiplayer or online
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The Worms franchise dates back to 1995 and has appeared in just about every platform you can think of since. An addictive mix of strategy and turn-based comic combat has created a huge fanbase and every release is keenly awaited by faithful followers. Many gamers look at the simplistic 2-D graphics and wonder what all the fuss is about, but even the most cynical usually end up hooked after the first of what is usually termed “just one quick go.”

In case you’ve never played Worms before, Battle Islands plays just like every Worms game before it; each player (or a player and an AI opponent) controls a team of several worms which are placed on a basic 2-D landscape reminiscent of the classic Lemmings. During the course of the game, players take turns using various weapons and tools to deal damage to the enemy or move or protect their own worms. Weapons vary from ranged attacks with bazookas, guided missiles and hand grenades, to up-close weapons like mines, dynamite and dragon punches. When you’ve destroyed the last enemy worm you win the game—sounds simple doesn’t it?

In Battle Islands each player is given their own island base, where items representing their acquired tactical abilities are displayed. Your island can be extended by playing online ranked games. Specific abilities are available in the War Room when playing the Tactics game mode and you have just 60 seconds to try and make the best tactical use of your abilities. As in previous Worms games you can give your worms amusing or family names and customise their appearance, with different masks, hats, backpacks, and even customisable power-bars and tombstones.

You can move your worms around the terrain in a variety of ways, normally by “walking” and jumping but also via special tools like the Ninja Rope, the jet pack and even teleporting. This allows you to move worms to safer or more advantageous locations and previously inaccessible areas.

Each player’s turn is time-limited to ensure that players don’t hold everything up with excessive “thinking time,” and this stops the game from becoming too annoying when playing with “expert” players, particularly in online games against strangers.

The game plays by using the Wiimote on its side to resemble a traditional gamepad by default (which will please some diehards), but can be changed to utilize motion control so you can move the cursor by pointing the Wiimote at the screen, while still controlling most actions with a traditional gamepad layout (movement controlled with the D-pad to the left, selections made with various buttons.) I thought this was a bit weird as it means you’re constantly switching the direction of the Wiimote, but the game also includes full Wii motions control support to make use of the Nunchuck controller as well. I didn’t see the point in playing yet another Worms game with a traditional control setup so this was the method we settled for. The weapons and utilities menu is selected with the “minus“ button. Once chosen many of the 40 weapons and utilities (such as the Bazooka, grenades and magnets) that have selectable range are aimed with the Nunchuck stick and then the strength of shot or throw is selected by drawing the Wiimote back slowly (as if you’re about to throw an object), holding ‘B’ and then swinging the Wiimote forwards while releasing the ‘B’ button at the desired time. I’m sure Worms aficionados will disagree but I’ve always felt that regardless of the control system it just seems so hard to get the distance of the ranged weapons right and some sort of trajectory line would’ve helped just to give you a clue as to how far a projectile is going to go without needing hours, days and weeks of practice before you get a feel for it.

The weapons include the usual stock of “realistic” weapons and fantasy ones that deal insane amounts of damage. Some are precise and as you’ll discover, some are just as much a danger to your own worms as the enemy. Bazooka, Grenade, Cluster Bomb, Banana, Holy Hand Grenade, Petrol Bomb, Boomerang, Mines, Dynamite, Shotgun, Uzi, Airstrike, Napalm, Fire Punch, Dragon Ball, Prod, Baseball Bat, Kamikaze, Sheep, Super Sheep, Buffalo of Lies, Concrete Donkey and Armageddon all become available, and there’s even a custom weapon if you can be bothered to design one...

The main game is called “Missions”, and here you can select the training mode and firing range (useful for n00bs and veterans alike as the Wii controls will probably be new to all), the solo Campaign mode and a Puzzle mode too. Once we’d got to the point where the Campaign started to get so tough it annoyed us we began the Puzzle mode and found this to be much cleverer and more interesting to play. The 30 Puzzle levels still require you to kill one or more enemy worms, but to do so with limited resources. This adds a puzzle game element absent from the main career and makes it feel much more like the classic Lemmings games, I really enjoyed the Puzzle mode and would have liked more than the 30 levels supplied, which as with most good things, were over too quickly.

Multiplayer modes include Deathmatch, Tactics, Forts, Racing and Triathlon. You can specify the number of players, difficulty level, turn and round duration and the number of games required to win a match. When you get bored with the stock levels you can make your own with the level editor. This is easy and fun to do, although getting carried away and making levels too complicated is not a wise idea as it can sometimes make a battle drawn out and difficult to finish.

I have to complain about the difficulty curve in Battle Islands. Just like every single Worms game I can remember it falls foul of changing from what is a pleasant little game into a tooth-grindingly hard chore because the enemy suddenly ceases to have any fallibility whatsoever. At a certain point in the career game the enemy simply don’t miss anymore, their range is always dead-on first shot, and they even frequently seem to manage the Worms equivalent of a snooker trick shot as they blast your worms in the air to land on mines and create all sorts of damaging chain reactions, some of which are just too good (or bad, depending on your viewpoint) to be true. While I’m complaining about the difficulty, similar explosions also seem to do your worms more damage than the enemy, and why on earth do weapons like the shotgun and Uzi do your worms damage when you use them in close proximity to an enemy? Why doesn’t the damage dealt to enemy worms always appear on screen? All these things stir the paranoia glands in every gamer and encourage the feeling that the game is cheating you, no matter how good at it you get.

So there you go, another Worms game that’s great fun for a while, right up until the AI gets too good and appears to cheat. This will feel like “same old same old” for most Worms veterans, but at least it has the added appeal of the Wii control setup. Battle Islands will give you many hours of pleasure as long as you have a human opponent of similar ability to play with, but the difficulty spike and AI that eventually becomes ridiculously accurate will destroy the game for most solo players long before the end.

Best Bits

- Wii motion control gives the game new legs
- Classic addictive gameplay
- Puzzle mode
- Level editor
- Comic violence and humour
Worst Bits

- Typically basic graphics
- Some fiddly controls
- Difficulty spikes

by: Sloppy Sneak

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