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Worms: Open Warfare

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Team 17
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Worms: Open Warfare is a turn-based strategy game that anyone can easily pick up and play. Many of the complexities that keep the genre inaccessible to most players are gone. Instead, itís just four worms, a destructible battlefield and an arsenal that would make the U.S. Army jealous.

After an unsuccessful outing in 3D, Open Warfare returns the series back to its 2D roots. From the start, it is clear that visuals arenít making the most of the DSís hardware. Everything is blurry and not all much to look at, which is a shame since it hampers the series' quirky humor. Worms perform a variety of animations, though theyíre so small and blurry that you really canít tell whatís going on half the time.

Levels have a playful randomness to them that make for some interesting strategic battles, especially once it begins crumbling apart. The random levels do lead to some tight situations, like your worms becoming stuck in certain areas, forcing you to harm yourself to get out.

Audio is about as random as the levels. One minute your worms are spouting out phrases in their best British accents, and the next their calling out phrases from Street Fighter.


Gameplay:

At the most basic level, Worms: Open Warfare is the same tanks on a hill game many of us played on the Commodore 64. You know, the one where you decided the angle of shots and how much power to put into a shot. If you get everything right, youíll score a hit. If not, youíll hopefully get close enough to cause a little damage or leave a nice big hole in the ground. Sometimes you could even cause the ground to collapse from under your opponent.

Open Warfare works in the same way, only youíre given a considerably bigger pool of weapons. Weapons come in two basic varieties, short range and long range. Short range weapons include melee attacks like fireballs and Street Fighter-inspired uppercuts, as well as shotguns and machine guns. These are for those times when you can see the whites of your opponentís big, cute eyes. Then there are the long-range weapons, which consist mainly of things that go boom, like rockets.

As impressive as the arsenal is, long-time players will feel short-changed. For whatever reason, a number of weapons have been removed or toned down. For example, the once-feared homing missile doesnít have quite the range as in previous versions, making it less useful.

Open Warfare offers a small number of play modes, only two of which youíre likely to play often. On the single-player side of things, you can jump right into a Quick Play match or create your own custom match. A Challenge mode is also around, and will provide you with some entertaining obstacles to overcome, though I tended to go back to Quick Play matches more often.

Thereís also basic multiplayer support, which is where most of the gameís fun factor comes into play. Up to four players can participate in games with only one cartridge, which should make it easier to find opponents. As much fun as multi-player games can get, itís a shame that WiFi support isnít included.


Difficulty:

Difficulty see-saws between "Blueís Clues" and "Deep Blue". Sometimes the A.I. will pull off lame maneuvers that make no sense at all, only to turn around and nail you with a direct hit from across the screen without so much as a practice shot. Sadly, the latter tends to happen more often than the former, so things can get rough really fast.

The A.I. also takes a painfully long time to make decisions, which adds a frustrating tension to games. Expect to find yourself screaming ,"Just get on with it!" by the time the A.I. is positioning its third worm.


Game Mechanics:

Worms: Open Warfare makes good use of the DSís touch functions, though the entire game feels really awkward. Nearly all of the gameís functions are included on the touch screen, from weapons selection to a way to scroll across the map. However, the two primary mechanics of aiming and shooting are still mapped to the D-pad and X button. The constant switching never feels right, helping to kill off any fun youíre having after you get over the A.I.ís expert sniper skills.

What makes Worms: Open Warfare so hard to recommend is that thereís clearly potential here, but it is never fully realized. Open Warfare could easily work, especially on the DS; however, it is hard to shake the feeling that the DS version of the game didnít receive quite the attention it deserves and feels like an afterthought. If youíre dying for another portable strategy game, Worms: Open Warfare isnít it.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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