Developer: Feral Interactive
Price: $45 (from Feral Interactive)
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2, 600 MHz G3, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB VRAM, 1.3 GB disk space, QuickTime 6. Universal.
Recommended: Mac OS X 10.3, 867 MHz G4, 512 MB RAM, 1.5 GB disk space.
Usually, worms seem the most innocuous of creatures. They wriggle around, chewing through dirt and surfacing after rainstorms. Somewhere in school, a biology teacher told you a bisected worm would grow into two worms. Functional and interesting, if a little icky. Game developers Team 17, however, ask a slightly different question: “What if worms toted weapons and carried out military assaults? What then?”
Successor to a group of high-selling PC games released over the last score of years, Worms 3D combines turn-based strategic play with cute worms trying to knock the bejesus out of one another. The control takes a decent amount of practice, but the game is light enough and fun enough for most ages to spend quality time with.
Installation and Starting Play
Worms 3D comes on a DVD and installs into the Applications folder. If you’re connected to the Internet, Worms 3D can check for updates automatically. My DVD had the current version, so it didn’t need an update.
The basic game pits two teams of worms against each other, each armed with weapons (such as bazookas and grenades) and tools (such as ropes and jetpacks). Each round scatters the players around a three-dimensional island board with a constantly rising water level. (We assume it’s not overtly commenting on global warming.) Some islands are military installations, while others are graveyards or jungles.
Bird’s-eye view of a game board, with teams noted by color.
In most boards, the goal is to eliminate each of the other players by taking away all of their life points or knocking them into the water. Each weapon you have (there are about twenty) does a certain amount of damage and often knocks the target around, pushing it to a different area of the board (or into the water). Between turns, sometimes new weapon boxes drop from the sky. Pick up a box to add that weapon to your arsenal.
The tutorial mode runs you through each game type and gives you practice with the weapons. Some rounds challenge you to find a specific item; others pit you against a couple of enemy worms. This gives you needed practice with controlling the worms and learning how far some weapons travel when shot at different angles and power levels. The last tutorial mission, The Driving Range, gives you a group of targets and the full gamut of weapons—practicing there is highly recommended.
Graphics and Sound
Worms 3D originally came out a couple of years ago, so the graphics won’t blow away any fans of current PC games or gaming consoles. However, they’re clear, colorful, and appropriate to the cartoon-like action of the game. You’re free to rotate and spin the perspective of each worm or look at the island from an overhead viewpoint (which helps for launching wide-area attacks such as the Air Strike).
An entertaining part of the game is the behavior of the worms themselves. They taunt one another with a variety of in-game comments, telling the enemy worms how bad their aim is or saying something pitiful just before they expire. Note: a dying worm explodes, taking out some nearby land with him.
Jeggett’s last moments.
The game includes a large number of audio “themes,” which determine what your worms say. Check out selections such as “Super Hero” and “US Wrestling” from the edit-team screen.
The music bleeps a little, but also works well within the game. As a whole, the game reminds you of a Mario Brothers title, with cute characters and a clean appearance.
Nice graphics, good music, but how’s the play control? Unfortunately, that’s the game’s main difficulty. You really have to run through the tutorial missions because the keyboard-and-mouse controls aren’t easy to use. Any given movement for the worm itself always depends on the current camera angle, rather than the direction the worm faces (departing from most keyboard and mouse games).
Moving around the board, grenade at the ready.
Several rounds of hopping around the board and occasionally falling into the water will adapt you to the controls, but the time pressure of each turn still makes the controls frustrating. If the camera seems to “spin” too much, try lowering the mouse sensitivity for finer control. If the island moves around choppily, lower the resolution or color depth to reduce the load on your CPU. Most new systems should run Worms 3D well, but older systems will definitely need the 32 MB (or more) video card.
Each turn alternates between the teams and from worm to worm within the team itself. During a turn, the game gives you a few seconds to look around the board, and then counts down a movement timer in the lower-left corner. During that time, you can move and jump, use utilities like a parachute or rope, and select a weapon. Once you use the weapon (or an item), your turn is over and control switches to the other team.
Taking aim with the shotgun.
Make sure to position your worms strategically! In some levels, the water level rises quickly and will submerge any worms left on the lower levels. Use the Teleport item to reach higher ground.
Some bonus elements to the game lie hidden inside the game boards themselves. If you see an odd-looking spot in the ground, drop a grenade on it—you might find an Easter egg, such as a new sound theme. See the unlocked-items screen from the main menu to track your Easter-egg progress.
Stuff waiting to be unlocked.
Playing Against Others
The computer opponents offer challenge enough, but Worms 3D includes a multi-player option both for players on the same Mac (players alternate turns at the keyboard) and over the Internet using GameRanger. Game play doesn’t change much—you just have human teams of worms rampaging across an island instead of the computer.
Bugs and Annoyances
Play control could really be better. The default mouse settings tend to “spin” the camera around the player’s worm, which disorients you unnecessarily as the turn clock counts down. In my opinion, play control should never be a primary game challenge, unless you’re in an arcade-style fighting game. For a game like Worms 3D that appeals to a wide audience, better control of the camera should be mandatory.
Sometimes, using an item such as the Teleport caused the worms’ voices to speed up for the rest of the game round. It’s obvious, but fortunately not crucial to the game.
The fun aspects of Worms 3D pretty much make up for the iffy play control. Dropping yourself into the water because of a poor camera angle still burns, but lobbing explosive sheep and homing pigeons at one another is the kind of fun most games can’t offer. I’d love to see a Worms game include a way to lock the camera directly behind your worm and better evaluate weapon targeting. But until then, Worms 3D is good enough.