I’ve been playing Worms for a long time—at least since the original, with most of my playtime being with Worms 2 and Worms Armageddon. I loved the turn-based strategic gameplay, the sense of humor, and the ridiculous weapons—with building fortifications and terrain deformation/destruction a huge part of the experience. Now, with Worms Rumble, developer Team 17 has decided to take the normally turn-based gameplay into a more real-time direction—with mixed results.
Worms Rumble is a multiplayer 2D reflex shooter. In it, you drop into an arena with several other worms, and depending on the game mode, try to murder each other until the timer runs out, one team is eliminated, or you’re the last worm standing. It uses the same art style and wacky sensibility that the long-running Worms series is known for. It also has some of the crazy weapons that the series is known for—like the Holy Hand Grenade and cluster banana grenades. It’s often hectic and chaotic fun as you roll and wall jump around finding your next prey or avoiding enemy attacks.
It’s all about shooting and moving in Worms Rumble. If you stand still too long, you’ll be gunned down mercilessly by the other adorable earthworms. Cover is mighty effective against the barrage of bullets and rockets you’ll be facing. Unlike most games in the Worms series, terrain is not destructible. This means that you can find a spot to funnel enemies into, and gun them down with a rocket launcher or shotgun. But it also means there is no building fortifications for yourself, and there’s no blasting through walls to get through your enemy’s fortifications—something that has been a staple in Worms for the entirety of the series. Unfortunately, non-destructible terrain means the gameplay gets stale pretty quickly.
It’s too bad that the gameplay loses its fun so quickly—it has so much potential. Rolling to quickly get away from enemies or donning a jetpack is great fun. But even after just a handful of matches I found myself thinking about other games I could be playing. Even the progression in Worms Rumble didn’t make me want to stick around for long. As fun as the gameplay can be, Worms Rumble doesn’t do much to incentivize you to keep playing.
In Worms Rumble¸ your worm and the weapons it uses has experience it can accumulate. There aren’t any skill trees however: all of the levels are gated unlocks for cosmetic items. There are also several challenges that pop up daily that allow you to unlock new cosmetics. Having an experience and level system that is used solely for cosmetics seems like a missed opportunity. I can understand the reasoning, though: you don’t start Worms Rumble matches with a specific load-out. Instead, you use items that are spawned throughout the level, just like in old school deathmatches.
There are three main ways to play: Deathmatch, Last Team Standing, and Last Worm Standing. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, with last team standing feeling like the most pure form of Worms. There is also a game mode called “The Lab” which is a weekly challenge match. There has only been one as of the writing of this review, but The Lab presents the most interesting ways to play, and the most potential for replayability for me.
To get people to keep playing a multiplayer game, you need community and incentive. Well, the incentives in Worms Rumble are lacking, but the community isn’t. Crossplay is enabled, and while I find myself in matches against few other Steam users, the console community seems to be thriving. Playing with a mouse and keyboard doesn’t really give too much of an advantage like it would in other shooters, since the action is mostly 2D aiming isn’t as important.
Having played on each of Worms Rumble’s arenas I can say that the level design is okay. There are lots of places you can sneak through and ambush other players. There are usually a mixture of cramped and open areas, with environmental hazards to avoid or even unleash against your fellow worms. I find that a lot of battles happen in transitions between cramped and larger areas, which make it both a great place to look for fights, and an even better place to get replacement weaponry.
As a longtime Worms fan, Worms Rumble is so close to being what I wanted with a real-time game in this series. Unfortunately, the lack of destructible terrain is a real shame—and the lack of meaningful progression is similarly unfortunate. Worms Rumble is definitely fun to jump into for a couple of quick matches—but it’s not something I see myself playing for much longer than that. Still, if you’re a fan of Worms or just want a cute, casual multiplayer shooter, you can’t really go wrong here.
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