It's Team17 on PSP time again, and once more those fun-loving guys from Ossett have produced a blast from the past for Sony's up-to-date handheld. This time they have developed a game based on their own award-winning franchise. The Worms series began in 1994 with an Amiga demo disk clutched in the hand of one Andy Davidson who was walking towards the Team17 booth at ECTS.
Once introduced to the game, then called Total Wormage, Team17 realised they had a winner on their hands and more or less employed Andy on the spot. A small piece of dramatic irony ensued when it was discovered that the game had earlier been submitted to, and ignored by the judges of, an Amiga Format competition run by none other than SPOnG's own Marcus Dyson, who at the time had only just made the move from Future Publishing to Team17 and would now take on the role of producer for the game.
By November 1995 Worms was ready to be released on an unsuspecting world, the Amiga version having been polished while waiting for the other eight versions to be ported. In a post-Doom, 3D-infested world, moving back to 2D graphics and game play seemed like a bit of a risk, indeed Steve McGill of Amiga Format noted that "...you'd be forgiven for thinking that Worms ... is a backwards, verging on mad, retrograde step." as he reviewed the game in the Christmas 1995 issue.
The thing was that Worms was just fun, pure addictive fun on a 3.5" floppy disk, and the world lapped it up. Sony even relented it's draconian 3D-only stance and allowed Team17 to release Worms on the Playstation, although it was with a fancy zoom feature not seen on other versions. The rest, as they say, is history. The franchise has continued to move with the times, with updated graphics and new platforms, emerging into 3D for the first time in 2003 and now arriving on the PSP, back in good old 2D where it all started.
The gameplay in Worms: Open Warfare hasn't changed that much,
you still have two to four teams, each made up of four worms, taking part in turn-based battles over random, deformable terrain with an assortment of weird and wonderful weapons. The graphics are more in line with those of Worms 2 than the hyper-pixelated characters of the original game, but the weapon selection is almost exactly the same as in Worms. The main enhancement in W:OW over the original is that you can make use of the PSP's ad-hoc wireless mode in order to pit your wits against a human opponent, instead of having to crowd around a single computer and pass the mouse around. Network play was available as a patch for the original worms games, and Worms: World Party introduced Internet play to the series in 2000 - so this is not the step forward... but it is vital to multi-player on a handheld device. Although ad-hoc network play is there, Internet play is not... It's a shame, but this just doesn't seem to be a priority for Sony with the PSP at present.
Another thing that hasn't changed very much in W:OW is the addictive quality of the game. If this review seems slightly disjointed its because the reviewer can't stop picking the PSP up and having another go, just to check how the game plays, of course... Back again!
The game plays just fine! The controls are precise and simple to learn. Once again, Team17 has used the analogue nub on the PSP to enable scrolling around the level, as they did in their PSP Lemmings. This leaves the D-pad to control your worms. This feels exactly right since the cursor keys served that purpose on the computer-based versions of the earlier games. The only downside to the whole control method is entering landscape codes, you have to press the up and down buttons repeatedly to scroll through the characters, you can't just hold a button down to auto-scroll.