Cut a worm in half and the two sections will wriggle back together to form a whole again. In the earth kingdom this must represent a Terminator-level of hardiness. You can almost imagine the slugs warning one another, 'It can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with, it doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear! And it absolutely WILL NOT STOP, EVER! Until you are DEAD!".
But while a worm's regenerative powers are much exaggerated (in fact, only the head section is able to survive and regenerate a new tail) it's much the feeling we got when yet another iteration of Worms came in for review. This 2D franchise simply won't go away, despite the creative evolution we've experienced in the last decade due to technological advances.
Since it was first released on Amiga in 1994 there have been countless Worms games in the intervening years, and while there was a misconceived move to 3D with the imaginatively titled Worms 3D in 2003, the series has largely stayed the same.
But with good reason. Worms as it was originally conceived was a brilliant formula – a turn-based strategy game with as much humour as deep, rewarding gameplay. And you can't say that about Command & Conquer.
So we like the fact this latest Worms title sticks to the recipe that's been enthralling strategy fans for the last 13 years. While the gameplay ingredients are much the same as the frankly emaciated Worms: Open Warfare released on PSP last year, this sequel has the customisation, online modes, options and expansive levels that make it a real treat for newcomers and old hands alike.
For those not in the know, Worms essentially asks you to move a number of the anthropomorphised creatures around a 2D map and fire weapons at a rival clan. The last worm 'standing' wins. Each worm is moved in turn, though you only get a short time period to decide your action and unleash one of several devastating weapons.
It's simple in principle but there's something delightful about the incongruity of seeing pink (although in this iteration you can changes their body colour) worms annihilating one other with bazookas and hand grenades.
The colourful list of weapons has increased again, so along with old favourites such as the Cluster Bomb, the Exploding Sheep and the Dynamite, there's a Bunker Buster (which tunnels down through the earth before exploding) and the highly energetic Boomerang (which dishes out damage before, predictably, returning to you).
One of the perennial joys of Worms is derived from the expert judgement required to utilise each weapon effectively. While some simply ask you to drop and 'run' (such as the trusty dynamite) others, like grenades and the bazooka, ask you to fix a trajectory arc and a strength meter for their flight. Some even require you to set a fuse timer. It's this judgement under pressure that often results in the hilarious mishaps the game has become famous for.
Bazooka rockets, for instance, are affected by wind strength and at high speeds their trajectory can become unstable, sometimes arcing back from whence they came. It's not unusual to find yourself, or the enemy, inadvertently losing a battle due to a grenade that excruciatingly comes rolling back to land at the 'feet' of the worm who unleashed it. The resulting panic animation is almost worth the price of the game alone.
Hopefully you're already sold on why Worms is such a good game but this iteration is notable for its generous single- and multiplayer features. In single-player there's both a Campaign and Puzzle mode that can easily keep you enraptured for months. The first is compelling largely due to the time periods the game is set in: think both World Wars, the Cold War and some fun piratey levels. Each period has its own quirks, like water slowly rising on the pirate maps, and end-of-level boss battles really test your tactical skills.
Puzzle mode is superb and almost Lemmings-like in the way it asks you to use a limited supply of tools to overcome seemingly insurmountable environment obstacles. You may be required to tunnel, jet-pack or ninja rope (a kind of bungie rope) your way to the exit goal. These levels are huge fun but can also teach you useful skills for use in deathmatch games.
The online modes are equally impressive and while it may not always be easy to hook up with people over infrastructure, we found games to be stable and reasonably well moderated. Indeed, we had an epic tussle with a Frenchman resulting in a three-all draw largely because of his inaccuracy with a shotgun. It's also possible to challenge people online to a Rope Race, which consists of swinging around a level as fast as possible with the ninja rope – sniggeringly good fun.
To round off the package, Open Warfare 2 also has it where it counts into terms of player options and customisation. Complete any single-player game or puzzle and you're rewarded with tokens that can be traded in for accessories, clothing, worm colours and unlockables. There's even a half decent level editor so you can design your own levels.
Worms may not have evolved much since it originally came to light back in the mid-'90s but that's mainly because it really doesn't need to. And brilliantly, this latest offering from Team17 unearths the best range of features, games, modes and options in the game's history.