Did you play Worms in 1995? Again in '97? And in '99 and 2001? Well how would you like to play that same game again in 2010?! That'd be pretty awesome, huh.
Worms was a fantastic strategy game in the turn-based artillery mould, and so were Worms 2, Worms Armageddon, Worms World Party, and the various console ports. The series has produced solid games for so long because the formula hasn't changed in 15 years. Each release has had a bit of graphical polishing and a handful of new weapons but that's pretty much it. Worms Reloaded is no different. You could take WR back to 1995 and the average Y2K-fearing, grunge-listening Worms player would know exactly how the game worked. He'd probably tell you the game is "mega" and call you "dude" but that's just something you have to put up with when travelling through time to make a point about the lack of progression in a long-running game franchise.
The three most remarkable things about Worms Reloaded are the hats, the physics, and the UI. Not only can you tinker with your worms' voices, gravestones, and skin colour; now you can give them novelty hats. You can also spend virtual worm bucks in the in-game store to buy new accessories. Gorgeous, darling.
Team 17 deserve credit for daring to tinker with the physics in this edition of the series. The changes are very minor and won't affect the way that most of us play the game but it was pretty ballsy of the developers to meddle with the formula at all. Some players have observed that grenades have a very slight tendency to stick to worms or surfaces rather than roll or bounce off them but the main alteration has hit the ninja rope hard.
A loyal, fanatical band of people have kept Worms Armageddon's multiplayer lobby active since 1999 and if you've ever watched any match replays from the last few years you'll probably have noticed how important the rope is in "pro" Worms play. A typical turn can involve someone essentially flying from one side of the map to the other using the rope, dropping dynamite or a mine, and then scooting off back to their original position with turn time to spare. Extremely impressive, but a bit of a downer for their victims who might like to see the other 40-odd weapons used now and again.
The main difference with the way the rope can be used in Reloaded is that it's very hard, perhaps impossible, to get the verticality you could achieve in earlier games. You can't just launch it at the ground and propel yourself directly upwards any more, nor will you find it easy to swing up into the air and over tall obstacles. It's a clear nerf and one that does make the experience better for the majority of players but it's unfortunate that it's the most hardcore Worms fans who get their most useful tool taken away.
The UI has been absolutely battered since release. I haven't read a single positive reaction to it. It's overly simple and enormous - not unlike my ex. Berating a UI for being simple might seem silly but I could have put these menus together in MSPaint, and we've already established in previous reviews that I can't draw for toffee. It's a shame that they didn't take a little bit more time to make them look unique to the series because as it stands they don't incorporate or demonstrate any of the Worms charm. Even so, that's a minor quibble compared with my concerns about size.
You might remember the weapon menus of old Worms games as a bar across the bottom of the screen or a small grid that kept itself out of the way in a corner. In Worms Reloaded the weapon menu takes up the entire screen. As long as you're picking your next tool of destruction you can see nothing of the landscape. That isn't helpful if you're on a 30 second turn timer (as in the single player campaign) and every second in the menu is a second you could otherwise have used to assess the battlefield and plan your attack. Imagine playing chess and having someone cover the board with a diagram of your available pieces once every turn.
It's been suggested by some players that the look and feel of the game is very "consoley." Though I played with a mouse and keyboard it did cross my mind that I might have been better off with a gamepad. Since the game's release a few players with burgeoning social calendars have been blowtorching their way into the depths of the config files and found references to the Xbox 360, PSP, and DS. Whether they're the remains of the previous games Worms Reloaded was adapted from or evidence of work having already begun on porting WR elsewhere remains to be seen. It is worth noting that Worms Reloaded bears a striking resemblance with Worms 2: Armageddon on the 360; even moreso than the typical similarity between Worms releases.
That's it for talking points really. Besides the hats, physics, and UI it's the same Worms you know and have impure thoughts about. It's very reasonably priced on Steam at £17.99 but just don't go into it expecting anything new. If you fondly remember the series' first steps then you'll probably enjoy a few rounds in slightly prettier surroundings but if you're a Worms virgin this is a very affordable and fully-featured way to see what the fuss is about. The developers have been very active in response to criticism levelled at the game and appear to be willing to make changes, so if you're really not sure about splashing out 18 quid yet it might be worth waiting for the fixes and inevitable Steam sale.