Worms: Revolution is the kind of game that can make you scream in anger, laugh hysterically, want to throw your controller, and loudly proclaim your victory all within the span of a few minutes. Revolution takes the classic turn-based strategy gameplay that’s been a token of the series in its 17 years of existence and adds a few new tricks into the mix. Not all of the additions are successful, and the series still struggles to deliver a single-player experience that’s nearly as fun as multiplayer, but it’s easy to forget all of your frustrations when you’re blasting apart level after level trying to destroy your friends.

Most of the previous Worms games utilized the same worm-on-worm turn-based strategy on a side-scrolling 2D plane. Revolution keeps the 2D gameplay but pairs it with a 3D background. The 2.5D environments look really sharp, with more details and textures than the previous games in the series, as well as the notable addition of dynamic water. That might sound like a cosmetic change, but water actually plays an important role in each match. Utilized correctly, it can wash enemy worms away or simply drown them, and each level’s holes and valleys can quickly become waterlogged traps. This element does a great job of adding another layer of strategy to each match, not to mention the hilarity of watching your enemy worms get swept away by a tidal wave.

Worms: Revolution‘s other major contribution to the series is the implementation of worm classes. Rather than four worms with the same HP and skill sets, you can now mix and match from the “all-arounder” Soldier, the weak Scientist with healing abilities, the slow but hard to kill Brute, and the Scout, described as “weapon fodder but fast.” There are some advantages to having a variety of classes on your four-worm Deathmatch squad, particularly when items on the map can only be reached by using the Scout’s small stature or more nimble jumping ability. For the most part, however, there’s no real reason to do so, making the different classes a nice but underutilized touch.

The single-player campaign mode helps you get acquainted with the various weapons and utilities that can be used in battle. Campaign stages are basic deathmatches, usually four vs. four, in which your team must use the tools at hand to destroy the worms on the opposing team. A quarter of the 32 campaign levels are snooze-worthy training sessions that probably could have been combined into just two or three quick tutorial levels. A voiceover narration guides you through each level, sometimes a little too much, and while the dialogue is supposed to be humorous, it often misses the mark.

After the hand-holding training missions, in which the opposing team does literally nothing but wait to be killed, it’s jarring to move on to levels that actually use enemy AI. While you struggle to get that bazooka shot just right or separate your worms so they don’t make easy group targets, your foes will nail pretty much every attack. It’s one thing to get hit by a cluster bomb thrown at short range, but computer opponents destroy your team members too often with shotgun blasts from across the board or grenades that fall perfectly into the crevice where you’re hiding.

Because of the frustrating enemy AI, combat in campaign stages is usually sloppy and hectic, not at all strategic. Even though Revolution has dozens of quirky items that can be used in battle, it’s usually easier to use the same few weapons over and over again just to get the job done quickly. Instead of using the environment to your advantage, you can blast through it to find the quickest, most destructive path to your foes. All of the strategic training from the tutorial levels goes out the window as soon as the single-player mode became an actual kill-or-be-killed affair, and while the victories are satisfying, it often feels like luck plays a bigger role than skill.

Though the campaign can be uneven, multiplayer is where Worms: Revolution really shines. Up to four people can play against each other locally or online, and once your too-perfect AI opponents are replaced with real people capable of human error, the fun begins. You’ll utilize every weapon at your disposal, teleport across the board to grab health or power-ups, use water strikes to wash enemy worms off cliffs, and watch your friends attempt to destroy each other (and you), often with hilarious results. It’s infinitely more fun to play against opponents who are prone to imperfect aiming and silly goof-ups. No matter which of the many modes available that you prefer, the turn-based strategy is really at its best when playing locally with friends.

The single-player Puzzles mode is typically a less frustrating experience than the campaign, and a good option if you don’t have any friends handy. Instead of controlling a team of four worms, you’ll usually only have one or two, and your task of eliminating the opposing team is hindered by a lack of weapons, environmental hazards, and other level-specific challenges. Resources are extremely limited, meaning there’s no room for mistakes. This gameplay mode gives you a chance to use some of the tools you may not want to bother with in the campaign, like the blowtorch, ninja rope, and UFO, which really shows off the variety in Revolution‘s inventory. However, because you only get exactly the number of utilities you need, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in completing each stage, which can get repetitive. More puzzles with multiple solutions would have been interesting, but even without them, it’s an intriguing mode that will have you trying over and over again to figure out each solution.

Worms: Revolution isn’t always successful in its quest to deliver an engaging, wacky strategy experience, but when it works, it’s great. It’s a game best experienced with friends, and the graphical upgrade, dynamic water, and familiar gameplay should please longtime fans of the series. Some changes to the single-player modes, especially a better difficulty balance in the campaign, would have gone a long way towards making it a better game. If you’ve got a few friends and a few hours, though, it’s an entertaining way to kill an afternoon.

Bottom line: It’s the same zany Worms strategy gameplay with a few new twists, though not all of the additions improve the experience.

Recommendation: If you’ve got friends to play with, Worms: Revolution can be a blast. The single-player campaign is less enjoyable, but the new Puzzles mode is pretty engaging, despite its trial-and-error nature.

[rating=3]

This review was based on the XBLA version of the game.

Game: Worms: Revolution
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Team17 Software
Publisher: Team17 Software
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US)

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