Fire in the wormhole!
There are many great puzzles in life. Why is the sky blue? Why can't I find those missing socks? Why does every successful game series inevitably wind up redone as a silly kart or puzzle game?
Think about it. Bomberman, already a party game, has Bomberman Fantasy Race and Bomberman Puzzle. Sonic does the Sonic Shuffle with the Mean Bean Machine while jetting off with Sonic R. Do I even need to list the Mario games? What's next - Splinter Cell Jumble Mania?
In the latest example of brand extension, Worms Blast combines the aim and shoot of Bust-A-Move with the arc trajectory and power of the Worms series. The product is uniquely Worms with a different sense of pacing than your average puzzler. There's a plethora of different challenges here, and outside of a sluggish control setup, it's a charming and smartly milked reinvention of Worms.
If you are looking for a story, you're looking in the wrong place. For some reason or another, worms, pigeons, skunks, and something that I still don't know what in the hell it is have armed themselves with a vast payload of weaponry. Inexplicably, a barrage of colored orbs keeps raining down from the sky, and our heroes have taken to the waters in little tiny boats in an attempt to fight the falling skies.
As in Bust-A-Move, the slowly descending orbs can be destroyed with a like-colored shot. Luckily, the animals have a bazooka that fires blasts of changing colors. If they fire the wrong color at one of the orbs, the orb and all of the orbs it touches will change into the color of the blast.
From this simple premise, Worms Blast derives three principle game modes: Puzzle, Human Versus Computer and Human Versus Human. But all three modes are hampered by a sluggish control scheme.
The controls are limited to strafing and aiming. While you can make slight adjustment in the direction, once you are aiming your shot, you cannot turn around. Annoyingly, there are extra factors to account for, such as drift and the slight but notable motions of the waves.
Perhaps this general sluggishness was meant to encourage better aiming and discourage your character from moving around, but there are puzzle stages in Worms Blast where you implicitly have to move around. A strong sense of timing is crucial to survival, but the lack of responsive controls makes the game harder than it should be.
If you fire a blast off screen, the sky will get even angrier and drop a safe or an anvil on your head. The moment you realize that the shot is veering off, you have to start skootching away in order to avoid the return fire. It's hard to do this thanks to the slow control. At best, it's incentive to not fire off screen. At worst, it further illustrates the bad movement.
The main mode, Puzzle, takes whatever animal you've selected across a map of different points. While traveling from point to point, your journey is interrupted with a set of puzzles. Each set is comprised of one of a long list of different challenges. Sometimes it's the ubiquitous 'clear the screen', while other times you must only clear one color without touching another. There are also target practice rounds where you must hit groups of orbs in the shape of fruit or little tiny target boards. At times, the game is almost like the 'Missions' mode from the original Worms, as you try to arc and power a shot to land perfectly on target.
The puzzle challenges can be frustrating in a positive way that pushes you to try again. And again. And again. Unfortunately, the disappointing exclusion of the trademark Worms animations means the only real incentive to conquer the map is to unlock game modes.
Versus the Computer/Human modes pit you directly against a computer or human opponent. These two game modes take the most advantage of the alternate weapons, from shotgun blasts to the more outrageous weather changes and squid attacks. In some of the multiplayer game modes, such as Deathmatch, a slot will occasionally open up between the two players. This offers a chance for some familiar Worms offensive, letting you lob shots directly at the other player. It's a cool way of bringing in some classic Worms gameplay.
The graphics capture the look and feel of Worms with soft, pastoral backgrounds. The characters are rendered with flat shading, but they're so small it hardly makes a difference. The music is lively, but generic, and I wish there were more trademark Worms sound bites.
Worms Blast has the core of great puzzle game, from the range of game modes to the interesting characters. Unfortunately, the sluggish if workable controls put a damper on the overall feel. Still, there's enough merit in these Worms to dig 'em out for a try.