Waiting for the Worms.
You will end up reading quite different reviews for the Dreamcast and PC versions
of this game. I’m sorry, it’s the way this world is. Of course, there have long
been PC/console schism-casualties. Urban
Chaos comes to mind, as does Battlezone,
and – a real heartbreaker, this one – Carmageddon.
The bad news: the DC version of Worms World Party lacks modes, the editor,
key weapons, player-team sizes *and* the multiplayer stability of the PC version.
The good news: it’s still the best damn multiplayer game the DC has ever seen,
and, given the current perspective, probably ever will see.
Enjoy it while you can, though, ’cause it rocks.
One of the conceptually strangest video games in recent memory, Worms World
Party puts players in charge of teams of cute, cartoonish, big-eyed, squeaky
and heavily-armed worms. Players move their annelid antagonists one by one in
rotation – a turn-based scheme with real-time elements – across bright, surreal
cartoon landscapes (A Ren-and-Stimpyfied Alcatraz Island comes to mind, as does
the hunched back of a brightly-colored, drooling elderly woman, just to name
two!). Once the worms in question are in position (or think they are), the weapons
come out, and all animated Hell breaks loose.
Picture yourself on a Saturday-Morning-Cartoon hillside, bright confetti filling
the breezy air (conveniently conveying at a glance the direction and speed of
the wind), adorable, blinking worms all around. Suddenly, Worm A begins to locomote,
*squeaka-squeaka-squeaka,* toward his segmented opponent, whom we’ll refer to
by the loving designation Worm B. From out of nowhere, not a stitch of pants
or bandolier on him, Worm A whips out an Uzi and, without ceremony, opens up
at point-blank range on Worm B. Pummeled by lead, gravity and kinetic force,
Worm B staggers under the hail of gunfire, twitching and protesting all the
way down the slope of the hill (“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”) until he finally stumbles
over a hitherto-dormant land-mine. The mine’s proximity fuse engages, *beep
beep beep beep* and detonates, gouging out a crater in the local terrain (every
last inch of habitable terrain in Worms World Party is destructible,
a fine metaphor for warfare as a whole if I’ve ever seen one). This sends the
carcass of poor Worm B tumbling into the air…whereupon, what do you know,
it falls *right back onto* Worm A. Now poor (and very surprised) Worm A is suddenly
knocked off a cliff by the flying carcass, and both living and dead worm-in-arms
land in the valley below…
…right next to a barrel of explosive material…
…which detonates when the body of Worm A explodes (of COURSE worm corpses
explode upon expiration; don’t be an idiot)…
…flinging poor Worm A off a cliff and into the waters of the ever-encroaching
ocean below. Fortunately, Worm A had plenty of hit points and this kinetic tragicomedy
was not able to completely reduce his health; UNfortunately, worms can’t swim,
and Worm A promptly goes down like a Chico State co-ed, and the Circle of Life
– Death, actually – continues.
Turn by turn and worm by worm the same kind of I-Love-Lucy physics lesson continues
with each new player’s action greeted by an equal and apostate reaction: poorly-aimed
grenades can bounce and roll right back to explode in their thrower’s faces;
bazooka shells can be arced into the wind for phenomenal over-the-shoulder shots;
all manner of four-legged livestock (cows, sheep) strapped to high explosives
can be sent mooing and bleating into the field of honor; and the war-ready worms
can even call down death from the skies in the form of air strikes, mine strikes,
and even Sheep Strikes (these are, in fact, squadrons of flaming sheep that
rain down from above; animals as a rule don’t fare so well in the Worms
cosmology. There really should be a Cat weapon in the next installment).
a good ten-minute battle or so, the local terrain will be pocked, cratered and
pulverized, as every single shot fired slowly but surely reduces the available
land to ruin. At some point, your best offensive tactic may be to slink right
up to an enemy worm and poke him in the eye as though he were one of several
segmented Three Stooges, sending him staggering off a cliff to his watery death.
It’s a humiliating way to die, and Worms World Party is all about humiliating,
stylish deaths. Why blow a worm to bits with the obvious stick of dynamite when
a single execution-style pistol shot between the eyes will send him toppling
into a mass of active land-mines, each explosion hoisting his carcass into the
air like a crowd-surfer at a Pantera show? Worms excellence, with time,
eventually becomes a matter of style and audacity, and you will never find a
more rat-bastard, mo-fo show-off than an accomplished Worms player online.
The problem with the DC version of this excellent game is, however, that you
may have a hard time getting to see this excellence online. The DC Wormnet
service has more bugs than the discount Halloween candy rack at Walgreens, more
lockups than the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department during a brownout, and
more suddenly-dropped connections than Burning Man during a DEA raid. Note that
I’m able to tell you this, which means the oft-occuring server screwup
hasn’t stopped me from logging on again and again and again (ever dreading the
day the DC is simply no longer supported), but it can be a real downer, especially
for the bright-eyed first-time gamer who just wants to log on and play a game
Also, the DC version of WWP omits many nifties from the PC version,
including full game editors, the excellent jellied-flammable weapons (napalm
strikes and oil barrels) and the Long Bow, whose arrows can, in the PC version,
stick in nearby hillsides like impromptu stepping-stones (a highly-flaunted
skill amongst Those That Know).
Despite these omissions, however, Worms World Party is still an unparalleled
multi-player experience for the Dreamcast, full of style, humor and balls-out,
dead-on physics, and is simply one of the all-time must-have Dreamcast titles
in terms of replayability, laughs, subtlety and sheer nastiness. Cry havoc and
let slip the worms of war!