No, not the substandard snakes that crawl in and out of a person's anal cavity for air every night, I instead refer to the Team 17 classic, "Worms" (the Xbox Live Arcade version to be exact, which just so happens to be called "Worms").
I am reminded of a certain Pogues song…
The title recently came down to 400 Microsoft Space Dollar Pounds - which given the current economic climate equates to two cows and a sheep. The reduction in the title's price could potentially reflect the quality of the game, but who am I to argue with a bargain?
It didn't start well.
I launched the game from the lovely new Xbox 360 dashboard followed by a hammering of the A button in anticipation for the thousands of potential logo screens that seem to plague games these days, only to find a simple title screen "Worms" by "Team 17".
Okay, that's somewhat refreshing.
As a side, I'm here to play the game with whatever hardware I have, I don't want to know if it's in meant to be presented in HD, 5.1, Dolby Digital, NICAM stereo, or with TELETEXT subtitles… especially if I'm one of the poor souls from the stone age who still has a 14 inch CRT telebox that requires a little tap to switch it on. Who wants that shit flaunted in their face?
Anyway... the title screen came and went, resting at a somewhat basic yet ugly menu. Simple, functional, but may as well be using Comic Sans. However, the main problem is not the visuals - it's the sound. What is that fucking sound? I'm scared, there's something menacing and foreboding.
The soundtrack from Nosferatu?
The sound of an air raid?
No, it's the main menu 'theme'.
What happened to the music from the days of old? Perhaps I've missed the boat on the last few incarnations, but surely this would be a good time to stroke the hairs of nostalgia and perhaps reel in the Amiga fans who likely pissed away hours - no, days of their lives naming all of their little worm teams and members when they should have been out talking to girls (or at chess club).
I present to you, the faultless Worms theme song.
So I've not mentioned the game yet. Well it's your standard Worms format... just severely more limited than previous incarnations.
Weapon customisation is gone - that's no tweaking of which weapons players start with, when they can be used, which weapons will become available, how many they can have, etc. We're talking bare bones; 22 weapons in all and nothing to unlock, most of which being alternative variants of other weapons - see the cluster bomb/banana bomb comparisons.
This is something I noticed right off the bat after starting a quick single player game (once I'd created the 'Noonan Empire' team, of course). First the fun music is replaced by a characterless military dirge, then the staple of the franchise (it's wacky weapons) have been castrated.
That said, the weapons that are there seem pretty balanced against each other and the majority of fan favourites are in place, but the the absent weapons from the franchise (hello holy grenade) leave a gaping hole that isn't filled up by advancements in gameplay (because such advancements do not exist). The series hasn't advanced beyond Worms 2, and it didn't have to - but this doesn't excuse the lack of content in the XBLA version. This feels lazy and soulless.
Offline there's enough to keep you interested whilst your porn downloads. There's a 'training' mode, that’s little more than text prompts overlaying simple “Simon says” gameplay instructions (which don't really help new players in any way, shape or form) and there are single player 'challenges', which are matches against AI where the odds are stacked against you as multiple teams are allied and share you as a common enemy (which gets difficult as quick as it gets boring).
Online is clearly where this game excels and unfortunately I've been slaughtered on every occasion. The limited weapon selection does make for some tense moments during 4 player matches, but the fun and often hilarious experience of it's forefathers has been lost in SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS tournament style play. No thanks.
It's not all bad though, I'm probably going to have 200/200 gamerscore out of it by the end of the week and it was a good time waster.
I'm going to go to bed to dream of the good old days, back when Worms had awesome music and I could unleash grannies upon my enemies.