Worms is a timeless genre of its own accord that has been released on more devices than Minecraft. From Game Boy to PlayStation, Dreamcast to Xbox and even phones, whether they came before or after Bluetooth. You name it, there’s been a version of it. I’ve even managed to play a rubbish attempt of the game on a Sky digital box using nothing but the remote. It’s a franchise that has spawned more sequels than The King of Fighters and now the latest iteration has finally wormed its way onto the Nintendo Switch. So, tie a ninja rope around a Joy-Con and get ready to beat your friends into submission.
Despite being released on everything besides a calculator, the Worms series has never quite lived up to the standards that Worms: Armageddon raised back in 1999. Sure, there have been decent sequels since then, but a fair few have been plagued with odd design choices or some sort of discrepancy that can hinder the experience – whether that be features shamelessly hidden behind paywalls or frame rate issues when the series first shifted to 2.5D. Even the re-release of Worms: Armageddon wasn’t packaged as the full version it was remembered to be. As for the 2014 sequel Worms: Battlegrounds, as decent as it was, I found it difficult to tell the difference between the terrain your worm can stand on and the damaged landscape in the background, which turned out to be a bit of a deal breaker for me. This was due to constantly diving off an edge confident I was going to find dirt to land on, only to see my little ally plummet to his doom instead.
Thankfully, the art style has shifted back to its glorious bright two-dimensional roots, and the game itself finally feels like a full package again. The new features that are in place in Worms W.M.D also happen to be very welcome additions to the series. This time around, you can now occupy vehicles to use against your enemy annelids. These vessels of war include a damage-dealing tank that can jump, a chopper that fires directly underneath itself, and a powerful mech suit that has the ability to glide and bash enemy worms like the Hulk. There’s even a Rocket League car that makes a bouncy appearance along with other small nods to games such as The Escapist, Yooka-Laylee and Payday 2, among others. The vehicles are usually located among the landscapes and are a fun addition to the franchise. They don’t feel too overpowered, but powerful enough to feel rewarding to use.
For the five people out there that have never played a Worms title before, it’s a turn-based party strategy game that puts a team of worms against each other on a randomly-generated landscape. Each player takes a turn to use what they have in their arsenal to basically kill one another until the last team is standing. Up to six players can participate in Worms W.M.D and the whole thing can be played with a single controller. Once you get to grips with its simple mechanics, the tried and tested formula becomes one of the best multiplayer experiences found in gaming.
The new system mechanic present in Worms W.M.D is the ability to craft new weapons using ingredients that you find. Some are variants of the same item. For example, you can craft a sheep launcher as an evolved version of the bazooka or drop mines instead of bombs when upgrading the airstrike. Ingredients are usually found in crates that litter the landscape, or you can dismantle current weapons that are already in your possession to contribute to others. The handy thing about the crafting system is that you are able to mess with the feature whilst another player takes their go, as long as you are playing locally on multiple Nintendo Switch consoles. As in TV Mode, this isn’t available as it would be an unwelcome distraction and your creations far less of a surprise. It gives an extra tactical layer of strategy to the action and can become especially helpful toward the end game.
As far as the single-player experience goes, there’s plenty to do to keep you occupied. There are the training stages, all of which have times to beat and becomes much more difficult as you progress. Then there’s the campaign mode, where you meet a set of acquired objectives given to you on each level. The campaign mode also has hidden wanted posters for you to collect that will unlock assassination challenges. These challenges set up a more puzzle-focused element to take out your target that will certainly have you scratching your head a few times. There’s even a gang of extra levels to take on, including a pixelated prison break scenario as a reference to The Escapist. Completing any of these modes will reward you with hats, voicebanks, celebration dances, and more, for you to give your team of worms some identity.
As much as I personally enjoy the single-player stuff, it’s the multiplayer element that always pulls me back to a Worms game. The great thing about Worms W.M.D is how much you can customise your gameplay preferences. Pretty much everything can be adjusted to suit your gameplay needs including eight worm teams, adding or disabling weapons, how many turns it takes to activate said weapons, health adjustments… the list just goes on and on. I personally like to create a gameplay mode to reflect that of the 1995 original. By disabling the recovery time so that worms can’t move once they have used a weapon as well as turning the mine fuse off, so they will blow up as soon as you touch them. Honestly, with a bit of adjustment and experimentation, you can pretty much set up your perfect take on unorthodox Chess.
Worms W.M.D is also by far the best looking game of the franchise. Its familiar 2D hand-drawn art style looks beautiful and the animations give the worms more character than ever. Even the auto-generated landscapes look detailed enough not to seem random in design. You can hide inside buildings now, which uncovers its inner interior when it’s your turn to move. This is a great design choice that genuinely enhances the gameplay, it’s also pretty cool when you stumble inside a building without realising you can even enter it.
The sound design has been paid attention to aswell, along with music that fits the game perfectly. I particularly liked how a worm would speak into a radio when sat inside a mech awaiting your commands. Playing with a single Joy-Con works well enough for multiplayer action and makes clever use of utilising the ZL, ZR and shoulder buttons that get so commonly ignored when used in this fashion. The HD Rumble has been implemented incredibly well also, especially when controlling vehicles. The rumble of the engine in your hands feels so good that you can actually believe that you are controlling a small tank.
Finally, a true sequel that stands on the same playing field as Worms: Armageddon. It’s the most customisable game in the series yet with added mechanics that actually improve the gameplay. The experience is great regardless of how you play it, but nothing quite beats a room full of mates in stitches after you completely miss-time a Holy Hand Grenade. If you don’t have any mates around, then you can always take your little army online to rank up or earn a new gravestone in the campaign. Either way, it’s safe to say that Worms W.M.D is the best sequel the genre has had in years. Let’s just hope Team17 doesn’t break the experience by bombarding it with paid downloadable content.