Team17 celebrate the silver anniversary of Worms by reinventing it as a 2D shooter that plays like Smash Bros. with guns.
It’s the 25th anniversary of Worms this year, a birthday that seems to have passed with surprisingly little mention given that original developer Team17 is still thriving. A new game has been released but Worms Rumble risks being lost in the Christmas rush and the immediate aftermath of the next gen console launches. It also risks earning the ire of existing fans, given that the action plays out in real-time rather than featuring the traditional turn-based gameplay – but thankfully that works a lot better than you’d think.
Not only is Worms Rumble only £11 but it’s currently free on PlayStation Plus, with Team17 no doubt hoping to emulate the success of fellow multiplayer game Fall Guys. That may be a touch optimistic (and we’re not sure why the game ended up being a PlayStation console exclusive in the first place) but as both a celebration of the franchise and a fairly radical reinvention of its core gameplay this works surprisingly well.
For those that have somehow not managed to play a version of Worms in the last 25 years, the original game was a turn-based strategy inspired by artillery games such as Scorched Earth and Death Tank. But while the structure was turn-based the action involved being given roughly five seconds to either move your worm or aim and fire a weapon. Worms Rumble expands on this by removing the turns and transforming Worms into a straight action again.
That will no doubt seem like blasphemy to some Worms fans – and it does seem odd that Team17 has chosen to do this at the one point in the franchise’s history were repeating the same old formula would have been perfectly acceptable – but, as they say, better late than never. Instead of the usual gameplay you get what is basically a deathmatch game (or team and solo versions of last man standing) with up to 32 other players competing on one of three very large maps.
Your worm still handles very similarly to the classic games, and you’ve also got access to gadgets like the grappling hook and jetpack to help you get around the maps faster, although now you always have a baseball bat on hand for melee fighting and knocking down small obstacles. The game’s arsenal of ranged weapons is smaller than it has been but the classics, including the explosive sheep and holy hand grenade, are still there and, while you can only carry two at once, the maps are littered with additional collectibles.
However, the artillery game influence has completely disappeared and you no longer have to manually calculate the trajectory of your ammunition, even with weapons like the bazooka. That makes sense given this is now a very fast action game, but it is a disappointment that there’s not more environmental destruction. There are things to blow up but they’re all background objects and you can no longer chip away at the map itself until parts of it become unnavigable.
There’s enough Worms DNA left to make it still feel familiar though and, most importantly, the hybrid game that has resulted is a lot of fun. There’s not a lot of nuance to the action but the maps are large and complicated enough that learning where to run and hide – and ambush – adds a certain amount of tactics. Playing as a part of an experienced team doesn’t feel random at all but almost like a version of Super Smash Bros. with guns.
Since price isn’t an issue with Worms Rumble – assuming you pay for it at all – the primary problem instead becomes longevity. The action might be fun but it’s undeniably simplistic and with only three maps, no matter how big they are, you’re going to feel you’ve had enough fairly quickly.
There are a lot of Fall Guys style unlockables to try and obtain, where you can customise and dress up your worm, but other than that there’s not really anything to work towards. All the weapons are unlocked from the start, although Team17 are promising future free DLC that will presumably add new items and maps drawn from the series’ long history.
There are already paid-for cosmetics, but not yet a battle pass – although that may be inevitable at this point. Worms Rumble does seem a slightly odd way to celebrate such an important anniversary but we’ll be honest and say that we were never huge fans of the originals and always found the mix of turn-based and real-time elements rather awkward.
When creating a spin-off that’s only one or the other we would’ve gone with turn-based but heading in the opposite direction has still resulted in some brisk, unique multiplayer fun. We doubt anyone’s going to be playing Worms Rumble in 25 years’ time but if Team17 can keep up a steady supply of new content it may worm its way into your affections nonetheless.
Worms Rumble review summary
In Short: A surprisingly successful reinvention of the Worms formula that turns the more slow-paced originals into an engagingly silly multiplayer free-for-all.
Pros: The map design is very good and most of the weapons are fun to use, even if they are completely unbalanced. Cute graphics and agreeably low price.
Cons: The action is simplistic and lacks tactical nuance. Only three maps at launch and nothing much to aim for except cosmetic unlocks.
Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, and PC
Release Date: 1st December 2020
Age Rating: 7
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