First thoughts on Worms - 05/24/98

At long last, another game has been added to the Jaguar archives. Worms is a comedy/action game that has some elements of similar great games like Scorch and Lemmings. Each player (up to four) controls a squad of four worms and takes turns blasting his opponents to bits. A variety of weapons and tools help the little critters along in their mission. Worms was a certified hit in the early to mid 1990's, and has been ported to almost every platform in existence as of this writing. Here's what I have to say about Worms:

The Good:

  • The graphics and animation are high quality and very enjoyable. Over six billion landscapes are available.
  • Seven layers of parallax scrolling! Some of the layers are fairly simple, but it's still a nice touch.
  • There are some cute sound effects and even some squeaky voice clips when the worms are assailed.
  • You get access to a lot of weapons and tools. Everything from homing missiles to blowtorches to killer sheep (no, really!).
  • Up to four different teams (that's 16 worms total) can play at once. Play is turn-based, not simultaneous.
  • The AI can be surprisingly smart and deadly. One remaining enemy worm can often knock out two or three of my worms and steal my victory away.
The Bad:
  • There is some incidental music, but nothing much to speak of.
  • The status bar graphics at the top and bottom of the screen are simply too close to their respective edges, causing some text and bar graphics to be difficult or impossible to be seen.
  • The level randomization algorithm must have a flaw, because I've generated the same level with the same placement of worms three times in just one weekend of playing. Subsequent levels have been different every time, however.
  • Availability of almost all the weapons at the start of a match makes every game more or less the same. I would have rather seen a purchasing system or a limit on the number of starting weapons and access to more weapons as the game progresses.
The Ugly:
  • The frame rate easily drops in half while the Jaguar AI is processing its next move. This can take up to 30 seconds, which is extremely long.
  • You can't save names, team entries, team stats, etc. This is inexcusable for a Jaguar game (WTR had the same problem). Fortunately, typing in team member names is a fairly speedy process, but not something I will do for day-to-day playing.
  • CAUTION: Worms does not generate random levels very well. Repeated tests with different combinations of skips, soft resets, power-on resets, etc. indicate that to ensure the randomness, do one soft reset (i.e., use the keypad) at the title screen. Any generated levels should now be random.


I like Worms. It's a cool strategy game that takes a simple premise and delivers a lot of fun and challenge. It also helps broaden the Jaguar's base of software, which often seems to be mostly centered around "retrieve the pods" games like Cybermorph and I-War.

However, it's not perfect. I'm a big fan of Scorch (anybody played this cool shareware tank-fest?) and Lemmings, two games I consider to be at least somewhat similar (Scorch moreso than Lemmings), and Worms falls short of Scorch by not providing a purchasing system which would really help diversify each match and the strategies developed, and of course Worms has no puzzle solving element like Lemmings. This tends to diminish the replayability of the game for the solo player -- what new challenge will he face once he's already beaten the tough AI? Why choose to use some of the stranger weapons like UZI when you have unlimited bazookas, grenades, and fire punches that are already very effective? What rankings can you improve against when the game doesn't save your team stats?

Having said all this, don't misunderstand me -- I still like Worms. But I think Worms will truly shine when you invite a group of friends over and slug it out in a tournament. It will be a lot of fun seeing how different individuals choose weapons, devise strategies, and form grudges as the game goes on. This, in my mind, makes up for some of the weaker solo points of the game, and will make for many fun evenings of play!

Jaguar comedy/strategy games ranking:

1 Worms
2 Attack of the Mutant Penguins
3 Cannon Fodder

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Contact Carl Forhan by email at: forhan@millcomm.com

Copyright © 1997 by Carl Forhan. All rights reserved.