Thursday, December 13, 2007

Of Worms...

Killing cannot be a sport but "bumping" someone off can be addictive. The fun of blasting the enemy off with a holy hand-grenade or the extremely pleasing prospect of insulting the enemy by merely pushing him off a ledge in the water, allowing him to swim like a brick can give an enslaving high.

Gaming was never an obsession for me until I encountered the worms series. As always, I saw it late enough to say that I wish I had seen it from its very first versions. I first played a demo version of 'Worms: Armageddon' It was unlike anything I had seen so far - starting at its turn-based nature. It was a new concept, a new genre to me. The playable characters - the worms were like typical worms in their movement and jumping (even swimming) abilities, but they were different in other ways - their eyes, clothes and arsenal of weapons were not so worm-like or even humanoid-like. It was that crazy idea from someone in Team 17 that just worked. and how!The first DOS based Worms game brought in that new concept - turn based strategy warfare in a full destructible island map, with an arsenal of weapons - ranging from the usual shotguns, grenades and bazookas to homing missiles, kamikaze worms and even insane exploding sheep. The deal was to bump off all of your enemy's worms and at the same time save yours in your turn time. It was an instant hit and within a year, an expansion pack - worms reinforcements was out, followed by a Director's Cut edition that brought in more bigger/crazier guns and more maps and editors.
The second generation of worms focussed on its inherent comic nature, with a more cartoon look to the entire game, pink cute worms and comment boxes, more crazy weapons, watery graves and explosive (or lung-bursting) results. The graphics were really cool and the voice effects added to the charm. The worms ranged from shy mumblers to full fledged alien motormouths that kept insisting that their kills were personal. Armageddon and World party came out later with more enhancements, sheep and multiplayer support. Added weapons now included prion-infected mad cows, super sheeps (that could fly and even snorkel underwater!) and some most unfortunate old women. As in most games, multiplayer gaming was the real element of worms. The addictive fun of delivering a fire punch to your pals and knocking them into the next world or ushering their early ascension with a bouncy banana bomb pitched it out for Worms.
Worms 3D - the next edition was a blast! It had added new dimensions and not just in graphical display. The gameplay had changed to suit its 3D nature but there were also new weapons. Newer strategies were needed to get the enemy and the weapons had a different catch. A first person shooting ability made it a lot more appealing. But it still felt like a prototype. Some controls were buggy. Land pixels were cubes that showed that the graphics were good but not smooth enough. Worms 4: Mayhem made up for all of that. It had all of 3D's excellence and made additions in the controls and the graphics department. Maps were also a lot bigger than before and drowning the worms wasn't as easy as it was in 3D (there were complaints that the worms seemed to be drowning all the. New, more deranged weapons included the inflatable scouser that did exactly what the name says - it releases a scouser who walks upto your enemy (can be controlled) and inflates into a sort of balloon with the enemy inside and moves with the wind for about 10 seconds. A good wind could see the enemy far out at sea just to drop in for a swim to heaven (though the worms now preferred to just float on the surface and burst their way out of the world instead of glugging their way to the bottom and complaining about how they're supposed to be the superior bunch here).The spinoffs - worms blast and pinball were a fine addition to the games and so was the forts edition which included building forts, factories and science labs in the 3D edition adding to the strategy involved in the games.

Worms has created the genre of comedy in computer games and has still succeeded in making sure that the gamer takes it seriously enough to spend sleepless nights on. The idea of a bunch of soft and cute worms that were serious about killing each other with the same weapons from the typical first person shooter and more, enthralls. Not loving it would be a court-marshal offense soldier!