It only took them 16 years after the release of Worms 2, but Team17 finally remembered which number follows on from 2. Yes, Worms 3 – without a D – has finally arrived, but perhaps not in the way you’d imagined; it’s an iOS exclusive, though Android is certainly on the cards, and it’s number 3 only because it’s the third crack of the whip on said mobile devices.
At its heart, it’s still Worms, and there’s no losing that solid core of gameplay mechanics, with the ever-present turn-based gameplay, that core weaponry mixture, and a few new additions to your arsenal, such as Nora’s Virus, which poisons anyone caught in the cloud of gases your worm emits – a perfect example of the ever-inventive weaponry on offer.
It’s undeniably Worms, which is as charming as ever, and should be instantly familiar to anyone that’s played the game before. That rings much truer about this mobile rendition, as they’ve added a more traditional control scheme: a digital D-pad/thumbstick which now sits on screen for navigation and aiming. While it works really well, and provides a better sense of easy precision than the previous touch controls – which are still an option – it’s a compromise, to keep the gameplay close to its roots.
Naturally, this game is most as home on an iPad, allowing you to survey the battlefield better, but it’s perfectly playable on an iPhone or iPod Touch screen. The new control scheme certainly helps to get your fingers and thumbs out of the way, so you can see what’s going on.
Beyond the controls, this game brings a whole host of changes to the table. From recent console and PC releases, there’s the class system, with the Soldier, Scout, Scientist and Heavy each having slightly different attributes on the battlefield. The Scout, for example, moves quicker and can jump further, but has less powerful attacks, whilst the Heavy is the polar opposite.
You’ve also got all the customisation options that you would expect elsewhere. You could, for example, recreate my team of moustachioed alpine goat herders, adding in a sprinkling of German voices, and give them all appropriate names, like Heidi and Francine. This extends to gameplay, where you can tweak everything from turn time and number of rounds, to whether land is destructible and what weapons are turned on and off, or instead just play some of the campaign battles.
There’s a nice 3D engine backing all of this up, used to render animated backgrounds behind the 2D battlefield. It’s another halfway house between new and old, and a sensible move to keep the battery usage on mobiles in check. It still looks lovely, borrowing the level themes from Worms: Revolution, being particularly resplendent on a Retina display. This trade off means that the game loses a few of the innovations from Revolution, however: the updated physics engine and dynamic water mechanics in particular are missing.
In their place, we have changes to the age-old formula which belong solely to this mobile game; Worms 3 introduces a cards system, which can quickly swing the balance of power if used correctly.
Before a battle, pick a handful of cards from a deck, which you can play on either side of your turn. Up to three can be used in one go, and can affect anything from giving your jetpack more fuel, to making all surfaces less sticky or not allowing enemies to collect boxes. Thankfully it’s all demonstrated via a perfectly pitched tutorial, which really puts them into the best possible light.
To earn more cards, you buy them from an in-game store, but don’t worry, this isn’t the insertion of micro-transactions – that’s reserved purely for skipping campaign missions, if you’re stuck – as all of the coins have to be earned through playing campaign missions, ranked matches, and so forth. However, I’ll admit that in general play I’ve been saving my cards and going with more standard warfare.
You can turn cards on and off, if you like, but they do tie in quite nicely with the more asynchronous nature of the franchise’s mobile branch. Unless you’re passing the device from person to person, it’s all done by sending your turn to another player, for them to pick up and respond to when they get a chance.
Because there’s no need to keep people engaged over the course of a local 5-10 minute match, it moves the game to a much more strategic and considered experience. There’s less panic when the timer runs down, because you’re probably in the final stages of trying to execute your plan.
I say ‘trying’, because I’m still pretty terrible at Worms. Getting my head around the physics of a particular shot is always something I find tricky, so more often than not it’s a full powered rocket from just outside the blast radius. Then again, as I’ve been working through the 24 carefully managed Campaign battles – plus three tutorials – I have surprised myself on plenty of occasions with some perfectly executed worm murder.
That’s just Worms for you. One minute you’re awful, and the next, your banana grenade arcs gracefully through the air before exploding and sending half your opponents’ worms into the drink. The most important thing with this release is that Team17 have done what’s right for mobiles and tablets; making a game with the right design choices in the right places for the best mobile release so far, rather than missing the target like a poorly controlled Super Sheep.
Worms 3 is available on iTunes, as a universal iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad app, for the princely sum of £2.99. Stay tuned to TSA for more Worms later this week!