In many ways, Worms is the perfect kind of game for mobile platforms and devices, and the PS Vita the perfect platform to deliver a Worms game for you to play on the bus. Combined they should do the turn-based combat, the simple controls and the graphical oomph needed to do the latest 3D engine justice.
Coming as a port of last year’s Worms: Revolution, Extreme brings everything that this game brought to home consoles, and throws in all three of the expansion packs for good measure. This makes it easily the best value method of getting the game out there, all for £11.99, just a pound more than the PS3’s regular £10.99.
The main move which Team17 made with Revolution was to switch from a 2D engine to setting the traditional 2D gameplay on a new 3D engine. This then opened up the door to further additions with a whole new physics engine, more dynamic destruction and a delightful implementation of water.
The game has made the jump across to the Vita quite well, although there’s a few differences in the way that it will play, with a much greater need to zoom in and out thanks to the smaller screen, but also some nice improvements to the control system to help counter this. The rear touch panel can be used for aiming, and does a really lovely job of it, with the front usable for swiping around the map, zooming in and out, or for things as simple as navigating the menus and quickly picking weapons.
However, bringing the game directly across from consoles has also left it with some of the problems and criticisms which were levelled at the game in the first place. There’s a new class system, with a Scout, Scientist and Heavy joining the standard Soldier in battle, and with each having differences in terms of speed, damage, jump distance and so on. The Scientist, for example, adds 5 points of health at the start of his turn, whilst the nimble Scout doesn’t trigger mines.
Classes add a nice layer of tactical thinking to battles, but they are quite bizarrely hidden away from the start, requiring you to complete battles in the campaign or online to earn coins, before heading to the customisation area and buying them in nested and hidden away menus. I knew they were there, I just didn’t know how to get to them until I deliberately searched online.
It’s something which I didn’t encounter with Worms: Clan Wars – the PC exclusive follow up – and that game also felt like it was able to take and improve upon the campaign offered in Revolution. Matt Berry might deliver similarly silly and amusing lines, as Don Keystone (get it?), but the scenarios are more mixed up and interesting in Clan Wars during the main campaign. Thankfully, the various DLC packs and the puzzle levels add variety and different ideas – a hazardous maze through which you must bat a fellow worm, for example – the overall package has a lot of content stuffed in there.
However, to crush the game down to the Vita, a few compromises have had to be made with the 3D engine. It’s not running at native resolution, for example, and feels like detail and some vibrancy has been lost because of this. It’s also quite aggressive in scaling down the level of detail in the scenery, as you zoom out to view the map. The environments are made out of blocks or molecules, allowing for quite some flexibility with destruction and deformation, in a manner I find reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet’s creation tools. However, when zoomed out, these molecules are larger, and with the water in particular, I’ve often thought that a Worm is fully submerged, only to zoom in and find it’s barely half-wet!
But it works in keeping everything smooth and playable, and the only times where there are frame drops that I’ve really noticed are when playing against AI, and the game is doing the various movee calculations it needs to. It takes a lot of power to be able to unerringly shoot you from the other side of the map, it seems.
Thankfully these are really quite minor issues, and don’t get in the way of gameplay when you’re in control. Scrolling around on your turn or when playing against another human is nice and steady, and zooming in and out is similarly snappy, so you should have no problems fouling up whatever ridiculously convoluted plan of attack you had in mind.
Getting to play another human isn’t particularly tricky, even if you only know people who really hate Worms – but then wouldn’t they enjoy killing them? – and you have both local and online options at your disposal. Unfortunately, this is only Vita to Vita play online, or local pass and play, but it works really nicely and I saw no lag and had no issues when testing the online functionality.
At least there is Cross-Save, so that you can keep your progress from PS3 on Vita and back, but as a standalone release without Cross-Buy, only the diehard fans are likely to make much use of this feature. Something similar could be said of the Treasure mode, where completing 10 in-game tasks like killing 50 enemy Worms and matching the resulting unlock keys to a friend’s PS3 version and their treasure chests can earn you a handful of new customisation parts.
Worms: Revolution Extreme has made the jump to Vita nicely, but it’s a shame that the opportunity wasn’t taken to polish and improve on what Revolution delivered the first time around. It is, however, a quite comprehensive package of one of the biggest shake-ups to the Worms formula in years.