• Worms finally wiggles it’s way onto iPhones
  • Every aesthetic element of Worms remains intact
  • Frustrating controls prevent advanced tactics
  • Lack of online multiplayer limits the experience

A playable port, but the steep learning curve and sluggish controls make this one only suitable for diehard fans. First-timers may want to look to the DS, PSP, or XBLA releases instead.

Worms is the first foray into the mobile phone scene for the much beloved series by Team 17.

Ah… air raids.

Team 17’s Worms series has been around for nearly fifteen years, and it’s quirky, charming, endlessly replayable turn-based multiplayer gameplay has established a large following. This following, however, has been dwindling over the years with a lack of major releases and a foray into the 3D realm that didn’t go so well. Recent releases on XBLA, DS, and PSP have shown that Team 17 still knows how to treat their wiggly rascals, and an iPhone iteration was an absolute no-brainer for the portable market. As such, July 2009 saw the release of Worms for the iPhone, and with it came all of the cursing, drowning, and holy hand grenades that the series is famous for.

The game stays true to the form of classic Worms games. Teams of several worms are placed on a randomly generated map with themes ranging from lava pits to tropical islands. These teams take turns moving one worm at a time in order to destroy the opposing team using a wide variety of weapons and strategies. Weapons range from shotguns, dynamite, hadokens, missile launchers, air-raids, and terrain traversing equipment such as ropes, jetpacks, and teleporters. The selection of weapons is as large as the latest releases in the franchise, which was a nice surprise.

The arsenal of a worm.

Turns consist of three phases: position your worm, fire your weapon of choice, and retreat your worm, with each phase being timed. The primary weapons for use need to be aimed, and most weapons can be charged. The longer you charge a missile, the farther it will go, etc. When aiming and charging, wind also has to be taken into account, so something as simple as firing a single missile to a Worm on the cliff below you can prove to be quite difficult if you’re not good with angles. Think of it as playing a golf game, but instead of sinking a ball in a hole, you’re lining your shots to sink worms in the ocean, which, I might add, is incredibly satisfying.

The big question with the iPhone version of Worms, and any game for that matter, is how the controls work. This issue will present itself rather prominently when the realization hits that the controls really make the player feel like a worm themselves. Controls are slow and inaccurate, which is a real shame considering how precise attacks need to be to do well on the battlefield. Aiming reticules have to be dragged, but don’t move fast enough to accommodate for the ticking clocks that wind down for each turn. Camera movement is just as slow, and due to the size of the screen, lots of movement is requirement to get a good scope of what you’re doing. These two issues wouldn’t be a nuisance if the game simply froze the clock doing these processes, but unfortunately things aren’t that forgiving.

Worm movement is incredibly frustrating and unresponsive, as well. For example, in order to leap forward, a single tap on the worm is necessary. To do the high backflip, though, you must double-tap the worm. I often found myself leaping straight into a mine or plummeting to my doom due to the game not recognizing my double-taps. I don’t consider myself a Worms pro, but I know how to get the job done well enough, but doing so on the iPhone is a struggle that almost became too frustrating to bear.

This is not somewhere your worm wants to be.

Graphics

While seeing worms explode and drown on your iPhone screen is definitely exciting, the heavily pixelated worms, plain backgrounds, and constant attention to the view of the landscape make things hard on the eyes at times. Worms was never known for great visuals, as it doesn’t need them, but not even being able to stay on par with the DS iterations is inexcusable.

Sound

My personal favorite aspect of the series also managed to remain intact: the witty banter of the Worms. During warfare, Worms will make remarks, sass, yell with patriotic passion, and scream with more grief than a teenage girl in a horror movie. Not only that, but dozens of languages and accents can be chosen for your team (I’m quite partial to the Scottish setting). This dialogue is complimented by comical sound effects stemming from the large amounts of explosions, nudges, and drownings going on – all of which sound great. Music, however, is quite lacking, but the soft, albeit forgettable tunes don’t take away from the experience due to the fantastic sound effects and dialogue. It would’ve been nice to be able to decimate my enemies to my favorite song, though.

Additional Comments

While the core aspects of the franchise are intact, one major piece of the puzzle is mysteriously missing from the experience: multiplayer. Worms has always been popular because of it’s addicting online multiplayer. There’s still nothing quite like two to four teams of worms unleashing their weapons and keen strategies on one another to lead their team to victory. It’s obvious that the turn-based gameplay lends itself quite well to easily handled online battles – especially on portables, but Team 17 decided to release the iPhone game with only local multiplayer. Needless to say, passing the phone back and forth between players, and hovering around such a tiny screen to see what happens during a turn isn’t the way Worms multiplayer is supposed to be. This was a major downer for me, and will surely be the number one drawback for most Worms fans. If people can play Pictionary with real-time drawing displayed on the screen for over eight people, why can’t I battle worms online with others as well? One can only hope that a future update will yield this feature. As far as content goes, you’re only getting a bare-bones package here. Standard game types (with some customizable variables for competitive play), local multiplayer, and a short challenge mode are all you’ll be getting in the package.

Customizable teams let you show your individuality… to nobody.

Conclusion

Not much has changed for Worms over the years, but it continuously brings enjoyment and addictive gameplay with each new title. If you’re a die-hard fan, then the $4.99 price tag may be cheap enough to bring you Worms on your phone. That’s the way I felt when it was released, but the catastrophic controls and lack of online multiplayer will likely leave this game on the last page of my home screen for quite some time. It’s playable, but until Team 17 brings us a free online multiplayer update, or a game that doesn’t seem churned out in a month, I’ll stick to controlling my worms in other ways.

Score

MustTap Score: Rusty Tap
It works, but I still wouldn’t drink from it.

Bottom Line

A playable port, but the steep learning curve and sluggish controls make this one only suitable for diehard fans. First-timers may want to look to the DS, PSP, or XBLA releases instead.

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