War would be a lot less chaotic if everyone agreed to take it in turns to make their moves. You can just imagine a general rolling his tank division into range of his opposing number, before courteously holding fire to allow for a response.
Being the pacifist that I am, I wouldn’t call it civilised, but at least everyone would know where they stood.
Of course, anyone who’s played a Worms game before will tell you that taking it in turns can be as chaotic as London during rush hour. All you need to do is add in some uber-powerful explosive ordnance, randomly generated destructible terrain and a bunch of smack-talking invertebrates and you have a gleeful free-for-all on your hands.
That’s pretty much the formula for every Worms game that’s ever been released, and the iPhone version is no different.
In Challenge mode, you take a team of four worms out onto a series of 2D battlefields to combat several computer-controlled teams. You act in turns, selecting a weapon and attacking your opponents. The winner is the one with the last unit(s) standing.
Nothing new there. What has changed, however, is the control system. Team17 has had to work hard to refine the system for iPhone and thankfully its efforts have paid off.
Tapping either side of the screen moves a worm, while jumping and back-flipping is handled via a tap and double-tap of your slithery soldier. Aiming is handled either by touching and dragging the reticle or by touching where you want to aim for certain weapons.
Occasionally, these adapted systems seem to lack precision: getting a pixel-perfect lock-on with the likes of the homing missile can be a troublesome experience, particularly when you’re trying to beat the pesky turn-timer.
It’s especially awkward when your target is located on the opposite side of the battlefield, as you have to negotiate the slightly clunky camera controls. You can scan across the level with a two-fingered swipe and even pinch zoom as you would a web page, but the implementation here is noticeably less smooth than when browsing the web, for example.
Fortunately, some of the more potentially awkward control methods have been handled beautifully. The jetpack in particular is a tactile joy to manoeuvre. You tap either side of the screen to move up and away in that direction, or both sides of the screen simultaneously to shoot straight up. It takes a little practice, but you’ll soon be zipping around with relative ease.
In fact, this re-learning process does Worms a considerable favour in one vital way. The gameplay is well-established and familiar to many, so this new approach to control has adds a welcome freshness to proceedings. Even veterans need to learn, perhaps not a whole new language, but certainly a new dialect of wormy warfare.
One major omission that must be highlighted, in spite of the guarantees we’ve received, is that of online multiplayer. It’s true that Team17 has promised such a feature in a future update, but given that multiplayer is so inherent to Worms’s appeal, we feel we have to hold the game to account.
Of course there’s a decent pass-the-handset option, but when genre rivals such as Star Hogs can offer online thrills right now, it’s a notable weakness in the Worms package as it stands.
Once the online side of things has been rectified, and the controls have been ever-so-slightly refined, we have no doubt that Worms will be viewed as one of the iPhone’s absolute best. That it already stands so close to must-have status is a testament to Team17’s hard work in bringing a much loved franchise to the new frontier of mobile gaming.