If you’ve been a fan of gaming over the last couple of decades, it's likely you will have played one of the various incarnations of Worms that have appeared on just about every single platform since it was first released back in 1995.
Worms: Battle Islands is the third game in the series to be released on the PSP, and while it remains faithful to the series’ roots, its lack of progress also makes it feel like little has changed.
For those of you who may be new to the series, the concept is remarkably simple. You control a team of worms whose sole aim is to eliminate the opposing team of worms. Each player takes turns to control one of their squad, attempting to kill the other team, and the first to eliminate all the worms on the other team wins.
This is achieved by using a trademark arsenal of weaponry which ranges from the conventional bazooka to slightly more creative designs such as the super sheep.
Initially randomly placed, players position their worms by using the D-pad to move and pushing square to jump over obstacles. The shoulder buttons zoom the camera in and out while the analogue stick allows you to control the camera to view where opposing worms are located.
Variations to this basic formula have been added over the years and as the title suggests, islands are the prevailing theme in this edition. When you first start up the game, you are prompted to select a 'home island' from a choice of arctic, jungle, desert, nuclear, chemical and underwater environments, which will serve as your base throughout the game. Players can use whatever facilities they have unlocked on their island to assist them in the main campaign mode. Campaign mode consists of a series of missions that sees the player attempt to conquer all six sets of islands. Players must take individual islands before tackling the boss island of each environment.
Missions often have stipulations attached to them, which can restrict the types of weapons you can use or reduce the number of worms at your disposal, adding a degree of variation.
Medals, items and experience are awarded upon completion, depending on your prowess.
Power up your worms In addition to the campaign, training, puzzle and time attack missions are offered and all earn you experience to increase your rank from lowly newbie to impressive veteran. Indeed, Worms: Battle Islands places great emphasis on customisation as just about every aspect of your worms can be changed using items won in other modes. Clothing and gravestones can be selected, while voices can be changed to anything from Napoleon to a female KGB agent, if that sort of thing floats your boat. And the weapons factory means that trigger happy players can build the weapon of their dreams by finding the blueprints scattered around the islands in campaign mode.
Multiplayer fans are well served as the game includes support for ad-hoc multiplayer is included, while infrastructure mode allows for online play. At the time of writing, the online lobbies weren't exactly a hive of activity, but there are still some players willing to help you improve your rank and unlock extra islands for your base.
If you only have one PSP on hand, the turn-based nature of the game means that up to four people can play each other handing around one device. The Versus mode allows you to play either against a friend or against the computer in tactics, deathmatch, fort and racing modes while virtually every settling can be customised.
The end result is a polished product that is as definitive a Worms game as you’re likely to play. Just about every single development that has been made in the series over the course of its history has been included, while the single player and multiplayer options ensure considerable lifespan.
The game plays as well as it's ever done and while the 2D graphics don’t push the capabilities of the PSP, animated backgrounds and colourful environments add to the overall destruction. Some problems do raise their little pink heads though, most notably the suicidal nature of the artificial intelligence, which will occasionally reach the summit of stupidity by launching a bazooka directly into the air, only for it to come straight back down and kill the launchee.
However the game's greatest problem is its familiarity. While it is testament to the strength of gameplay that it has stood the test of time, the new features and gimmicks aren't enough to convince veteran players this version is different to the games they've played in the past. It's a strength wrapped up in a weakness.