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PSP Review – Worms: Battle Islands

If you have never heard of the popular Worms series of games before, then you must have been living in complete isolation since 1995 – the series has seen an impressive 17 releases. The third entry in the PlayStation Portable line of Worms games Worms: Battle Islands is out now, but does the title liven up the series’ well-tested formula, or does it all feel a bit too familiar? Find out in our review.

For the few of you remaining who may not have heard of this video game series, it is a turn-based tactical strategy game at its core. Each player takes turns moving a member of their team, selecting a weapon, and firing at their enemies in an attempt to be the last team standing. What makes the series unique is the selection of zany weapons at your disposal. Unleashing a holy hand or banana grenade and watching the epic chaos that ensues never gets old, nor does launching and then controlling a super sheep underwater to get at those hard-to-reach enemies.

If you really have never played a Worms game before, then, like those before, this entry in the series has tutorials aplenty. These may also come in handy if you are a bit rusty at the game, though not much more than simply jumping into a quick match against some friends, yourself or simply the CPU. Really, Worms is like riding a bike – you never truly forget the process.

Having said that, Battle Islands does throw in a brand-new game mode, dubbed “Tactics.” The tutorial for this game is fairly lengthy, however this new mode boils down to a couple of new additions to the series. Your goal is to capture a base by winning multiple battles in separate portions of an overall area, such as a nuclear test site or other themed locale. But before each battle commences, you are given 60 seconds to use different items in your arsenal. This can vary from scanning the battlefield to scope out where your enemies are on the map, to positioning your team’s worms more strategically via parachute drops, and a snipe item which is basically a free shot at a single point on the map, among others. Once you’ve used up all the items you want, or if the 60 seconds are up, the battle begins. While these new items do seem helpful, at the beginning of the campaign it really makes the game very easy.

As is the case with any Worms game, the difficulty of the campaign mode lies mostly in the increased accuracy of the CPU-controlled worms. Be forewarned that the later levels will play host to some unbelievably accurate shots by your enemies, including an across-the-map grenade toss that just narrowly makes it into a small tunnel you’ve dug with the blowtorch. It can be frustrating at times, but again this should be nothing new to veterans of the series. The items in “Tactical” mode do help here, as you figure out what barrels or other objects on the battlefield have the most devastating effect on your enemies and should be fired upon first.

Fancy a mask?

The usual visual appeal of the Worms series is here, with cartoonish artwork and animations, as well as animated backdrops and wind. It is all presented at a steady framerate, with few, if any, hiccups. The trademark high-pitched taunting and wailing of the worms is alive and well here also, with a few new voice sets to boot. It all makes for a very familiar setting. New to the series are customizable masks, backpacks and even health bars that can be earned for simply playing through the campaign and earning medals depending on how quickly you wipe out the other team(s). There are a plethora of customization options available, from your team’s voice to their celebration style, gravestones left behind after dying, masks and more.

A level designer is of course included, as is a new weapon designer. Using blueprints you find throughout the campaign, you can craft new weapons with varying levels of damage, accuracy, and other traits such as whether it produces fire after the shot, if it is affected by wind, how much it bounces, etc. The less destructive the weapon, the more of them you get in an actual battle, and vice versa. This is something to keep in mind as you try to create a weapon that will do decent damage while also having more than one in your arsenal per battle. It’s a welcome addition that adds a bit more customization to the game.

That's a busy battlefield.

Multiplayer is also included, with pass-the-handheld, AdHoc and Infrastructure modes available. Going online grants access to casual, as well as ranked, games, leaderboards and free downloadable maps and flags. But there is hardly ever anyone online – in our testing we never saw any game whenever we did go online. It’s a good thing there are plenty of offline multiplayer modes to keep you busy in the meantime.

There’s a lot of worm-on-worm action to like here, and any Worms fan will feel right at home here. The new “Tactics” mode is a nice addition, and adds a new form of strategy to the game. There are more customizations than you can shake a squishy tail at, the puzzle mode is challenging, and there are a lot of multiplayer options available. The new “Tactics” mode does add a bit of new strategy to the game, but it mostly feels like a handicap for the player when going against the insanely accurate AI at later levels in the campaign. Overall, Team17 took what is great about the Worms games and further refined it, something that is becoming increasingly harder to do with each iteration.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Fun, familiar Worms gameplay.

+ New “Tactics” mode adds a bit more strategy and help for later levels.

– Said “Tactics” items can feel like cheating, not enough new here for non-fans.

8 out of 10