Deadly missiles are flying in every direction, the ground all around you is crumbling away under the pressure of multiple explosions, and an absurdly giant statue of a donkey is descending from the sky. Yes, this sentence could only be made possible by Worms - Team17’s mega-hit franchise which sees players hurtling various projectiles at one another in deadly battles between overly British worm characters. Worms W.M.D. has flung itself over from other consoles to the Switch meaning that even more mayhem is about to begin.
The basic concept of the game is simple; anywhere from two to six teams must take part in an epic, turn-based battle across a large war-zone with the last team standing being victorious. The series has returned to its 2D roots, having players zoom in and out and scroll the camera across vast maps, and many fan-favourite items have returned, such as the aforementioned Concrete Donkey. There are, however, plenty of new additions to change things up and, for the most part, these are very welcome indeed.
Worms W.M.D. introduces vehicles which can be used both as weapons, and for defence. There are three main vehicle types available: tanks, which can allow you to travel over rough ground and can fire six explosive bullets; helicopters, which must be flown over the top of the battlefield, heavily firing down on opponents with a machine gun from above; and Mechs, which can help you to move around much quicker and can send enemy worms flying across the stage with a hefty punch. The vehicles aren’t overpowered, though, as each one feels like it is a risk-reward type of system. Vehicles are susceptible to damage and will eventually blow up – if you’re sitting inside a vehicle for protection but an opposing team does enough damage to it you’ll find yourself being caught up in a mighty explosion.
Also added to the game are buildings, which allow worms to take cover from enemy attacks (unless an opponent wiggles their way inside) and crafting, which changes the basic Worms formula quite drastically. Crafting allows players to build weapons either during your turn, or an opponent’s (which is a great way to fill the time). To build weapons you’ll need to either dismantle the weapons you start the match with for parts, or find parts on the battlefield inside crates. When you have enough parts to build something you can start the crafting process – weapons take one complete turn before they are ready to use.
Often, being able to craft the perfect weapons is the key to success – you’ll really need to know every weapon inside and out to be truly successful, making sure that you have the most useful selection ready to you depending on enemy locations. The game’s training mode will teach you how to use some of the more basic armaments but, if you want to see everything that the game can offer you, you’ll have to commit a lot of time to some trial-and-error exploration of each weapon in non-important matches.
There is a huge amount of customisation available to you, too, including some new content exclusive to the Switch version. Of course, each match is customisable to your preferred play-style as you can work towards crafting the weapons that you want to use, but you can also change your appearance, voice, and more. Content from the All-Stars pack which is available on other consoles returns here so, if you’d like, you can dress up your worm in outfits based on other Team17 games such as Yooka-Laylee or The Escapists and you can also fully customise the game’s settings when playing in multiplayer mode, allowing you to create very specific rules if you wish. We’ll come back to this a little later on, though.
The stages you can play in (including the new space theme, Wormhole, which is a timed-exclusive for the Switch version) are made up of beautiful, hand-drawn art which, almost upsettingly, can be completely destroyed. With every explosion, huge chunks of the battlefield will be taken away leaving potentially deadly holes to the water below.
Unfortunately, this can highlight one of Worms’ biggest issues – moving around. Travelling around the warzone can be a real nuisance at times with jagged edges in the scenery preventing your worm from being able to jump around as you’d like it to. With a timer restricting your actions in each round that you have, things can get rather frustrating when you’re wasting precious time getting stuck in a hole.
Between the main 30 campaign levels, challenge missions which need to be unlocked, and added ‘Extra’ and ‘Bonus’ missions, you’ll have a pleasingly large chunk of single player action to get your teeth stuck into. These start off being relatively easy, but some of the extra missions and those towards the end of the campaign can be fiendishly difficult. Starting off in the single player modes is definitely a good idea, though, as we often found ourselves learning from our mistakes with each play-through of the trickier missions.
You can also take your warfare online if you wish which is arguably where Worms can shine the brightest and heading to the multiplayer section of the game presents you with various options. Firstly, you can play 1 on 1 ranked matches which allow you to work on increasing your in-game rank and receive rewards for doing so. You can also jump into a local multiplayer game either on a single Switch, where you can either use individual controllers or pass around a single Joy-Con if you prefer, or by connecting multiple consoles over a hosted local wireless session.
As we touched upon briefly earlier, the customisation options for online matches are astounding. You can change things up almost exactly to your very specific tastes, altering the timers for each round, your health, the scenery, how you take damage, which weapons are available, crafting options, and more. Unfortunately, the Switch version of the game does not allow you to create private lobbies to invite friends, meaning that you’ll be unable to set up the matches of your dreams with your best buddies. With so many games struggling to adopt a friend invitation option to online play on Switch, it seems like the console is rather unforgiving towards developers which is naturally a huge shame, especially since playing Worms online with friends can be incredibly fun.
Worms W.M.D. is a good example of a game that can use its original, winning design format, spice things up with a whole bunch of new features, and still come out as an impressive title. The introduction of crafting weapons between rounds adds to the complexity of the strategy in a good way – the game can’t be picked up as instantly as games such as Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, but with time and dedication, you’ll find a seriously rewarding tactical battle game.
Some niggling factors such as the awkwardness of moving your character around, the fact that your movement and weapon’s aim are frustratingly locked to the same control stick, and the unfortunate lack of ability to play online with friends prevent the game from being the amazing experience it could have been, though. If you love the Worms franchise or games of the genre you’ll likely have a lot of fun by grabbing a copy of this game, just bear these little things in mind as you make your decision.