Worms: Battle Islands Review
The Worms franchise has been around for years now, but with each iterative release, the core gameplay has seen very little change. More specifically, it has seen very little improvement, and although Battle Islands, the latest offering for the Wii, offers up a handful of new features, it’s more or less the same exact Worms experience that’s been available since the series’ inception.
A quick breakdown for those unfamiliar with Worms: You control a squad of military worms on a 2D plane. The objective is to eliminate the enemy squad, as you both take turns shooting each other will all manner of weaponry. It’s a strategic game, requiring you to precisely plan your every move and shot, as one careless mistake could flip the tide of battle in your enemy’s favor.
The titular Battle Islands will help make your life a little easier, and brings with it the game’s key evolution (though I doubt we’ll see it carried over in future releases). By taking over enemy islands, you gain the ability to aid your squads before each battle. This can range from sniping an enemy to weaken them, increasing ammo for all your worms, or even parachuting in to specific locations, giving you the tactical advantage.
And you’ll need it, as the series’ notorious difficulty is alive and kicking in Battle Islands. Even if you survive the first few rounds, the game’s challenge level jumps up considerably shortly thereafter. It has always baffled me how a game with such a casual, child-friendly appeal would be aimed at only the most determined of gamers. Do fans of the series even play it, or do they just see screenshots and go, “Oh, that looks like fun!”? The tutorials and Firing Range mode will only do so much for players struggling to rival the AI’s near-perfect trick shots and tactics.
Indeed the game does have a unique personality; the worms can all be named whatever you wish and their squeaky voices and one-liners were cute several games ago, but with every subsequent release it becomes a little more stale. Despite the island addition, handful of multiplayer variations, and poorly-implemented puzzle mode, I felt like I had seen everything this “new” Worms game had to offer within minutes. Even the usually colorful graphics are muddled on the Wii, drastically diminishing the aesthetic charm.
Truth be told, if you are a diehard Worms fan, there is a lot of content here: character and weapon customization, local and online multiplayer, 30 campaign and puzzle stages, and core Worms gameplay essentially untouched, just how you like it. But I’ve never found the franchise to be more than a gimmick repeated ad nauseum, and the lack of innovation and unwillingness to take meaningful chances with the all-too-familiar formula makes this a mediocre experience before it even starts.