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Worms

Genre: Strategy Developer: Team 17 Publisher: Ocean Players: 1-4 Released: 1995

What leaves you more disappointed than a game that only uses a minor share of your console’s technical capabilities? Think about it and share a thought for all the people who were fooled to pay a full price for a half-assed port like Worms for the Mega Drive. For great justice we have a full review that tells the story of the game that should have given East Point Software a permanent ban on porting Amiga classics.

Released in 1994 on the Amiga, Worms became an instant classic by “combining the best elements from the best games.” To make more money, they decided to port the game to all then current systems. The ports Team 17 made themselves on the most powerful hardware were the best. The ports by East Point Software on the 8 and 16-bit consoles were far inferior. The European Mega Drive saw one of those. Although weighing at the average 16 MEGA POWER, only fragments of the original was left. Still, it has its moments.

Worms is a turn-based strategy game with up to four teams of four worms each. You can play this game with three of your friends, but you must switch between one controller, or “machine” as the manual calls it. It may sound reasonable when you read it here, but when you actually play it you realize how dumb and lazy the porters really were not to include multi-controller support, something a logo on the box seems to promise. Your four worms has one hundred health points each at default. The only way to increase the difficulty is to raise the HP of the CPU teams in the “Team Entry” option. The enemy A.I. is so dumb they select the same command three times before actually using it, teleport to places they could have walked to, blowtorch the same path over and over again, place a dynamite and try to escape through a wall and don’t realize bazookas explode in their face if there is terrain in their shooting way. That is irritating. But even though the worm IQ is around zero, their aiming skill and use of wind is almost flawless. You might already realize the porters expected the players to use this as a multi-player game, but that is no excuse to make the single player so full of flaws it spoils the overall experience.

The arsenal makes half the game. Which says a lot, since there are several weapons missing. What we have left is the bazooka and grenade which may damage 50 HP. Then there are the less powerful, close combat-oriented uzi and shotgun, which at least I think never follow your aim. Cluster bomb is another grenade that turns into five more grenades at detonation. Air strike is the same, but comes in a straight line from the air. Fire punch and Dragon Ball lets you push worms off the cliffs and is also a easy and safe way to inflict thirty points of damage. Dynamite is a very powerful detonating item that you must escape from after leaving it. Then there are some things for moving to different places, like a teleport, drill and blowtorch. The super-powerful r@re stuff are the sheep (running and jumping dynamite you detonate), banana bomb (more powerful cluster bomb) and mini gun (exactly the same as uzi). What we are missing are the homing missile, the rope, the mine and the girder. There is no excuse not to include them and it makes me angry.

Worms is also lacking in the audiovisual department. The characters are so tiny, that E.T. on the Atari 2600 looks like Godzilla after playing Worms. You can barely see what they are doing and the sighting arrangement leaves you with a “What!?” after you’ve somehow shot yourself with the shotgun. There might be a tiny, tiny pixel in your way left after some explosion. When using the Street Fighter II moves shoryuken and hadouken, the worm is supposed to wear a ninja headband – but it looks like a fireman’s helmet and it disappears momentarily when the worm jumps. There are only four types of landscapes and only a few levels of each of them – other versions had 4 billion different levels. The 32-bit and computer versions are pretty colourful and have FMV. However, this version doesn’t make use of the sixty-one possible colours or the shadow/highlight mode – it looks 8-bit. I see no reason not to include FMV when Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars had it.

There is only one song which plays during the configuration menus. During gameplay, there is only sound effects. That is probably for the best – hearing that single track all the time would have been more tiring than the soundtrack of Dark Castle. For the sound effects department, they have cut down on most of all cool samplings that were in the original. What is left is very anonymous. It feels like they have decided to only include the minimum of what is required to make the job as easy and fast as possible.

When you have found out about all the shortcomings of this version and actually start to play it for what it is, you realize this is quite a funny game after all. Picking it up with a friend or against three computer teams for up to around three quarters or so is a great way to kill off some short time left. You will laugh at your extreme luck and/or skill and all stupid fatal mistakes you will do. Mastering each weapon for all situations is essential and joyful and helps the game being more strategy rather than action genre-wise. The big problem is that you can do this in a much better experience on other formats. Everything here is toned down, cut out and poorly translated into something that could have been so very much better if the porters really wanted so. I find it impossible for such a little game to be 16 Mbit – the first Sonic is 1/4 of that and has much more content. What makes it even worse is that there isn’t even battery back-up for your teams and records and the game is region-locked despite being only released in one region!

I could go on and on and rant about how much is missing in this port compared to the computer and 32-bit versions. But it is to no point. I will just end this by saying this is a big pile of wasted potential and a rush-job only done to squeeze money from a winning concept without caring for the customers. Skip this one and track down a computer version – there were several expansion packs released making this port even more of a worthless option. Worms might be a fun game on the Mega Drive too, but the sweetness you are temporarily enjoying leaves a bitter aftertaste and a hunger for a better version.

SCORE: 4 out of 10

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