Team 17 originally released Worms for the Amiga in 1995, and it didn’t take long before the world took note and the game was ported to the PC, PlayStation and even the GameBoy. Now, nearly two decades later, Team 17 are still releasing invertebrate-themed turn-based war games with the latest being iOS-exclusive Worms 3 ($4.99).
The first Worms game designed entirely with the iPhone and iPod Touch in mind, it is by far the most complete mobile version yet and compromises on very little to bring strategists and masochists alike a pure Worms experience. Whether you remember masterpieces like Worms: Armageddon or are simply looking for a first class multiplayer experience, Worms 3 is sure to delight.
If you’ve never played Worms or one of its many clones before, you’ve probably been living under a rock (poor choice of words?) for the past 20 years. Worms is a cartoon-styled turn-based strategy game that thrives on its multiplayer capabilities. With a team of invertebrates at your behest, you must wipe out the opposition and have the last team (or worm) standing at the end of the game. The game outfits you with an arsenal of deadly weaponry, drops you on a minefield of destructible terrain and tells you to settle the score.
Worms 3 expands on the concept with some gameplay twists, single and multiplayer action and an iOS-centric experience that’s been a long time coming (but worth the wait).
Worms 3 is not the first time Team 17 have taken to the App Store with their most successful franchise, though it’s the first time they’ve “done it properly” so to speak. Unlike the iOS release of Worms 2: Armageddon, which was a lowly port of the successful PC outing, Worms 3 is an iOS exclusive. There was quite a lot of disparity between the PC and mobile versions of the last game, and that’s simply not true this time round as Worms 3 is its own completely separate $4.99 experience.
Designing for iOS has its advantages. First, the game is universal and so a one-time purchase gets you access on both your iPhone or iPod Touch and iPad too. This sort of functionality vastly increases the number of people who are able to play, though all of them will need to register for a (free) account in order to do so. The second major advantage is a pleasant control scheme that’s designed with these touch devices in mind, something past Worms games on iOS have lacked.
That control scheme allows you to choose between the (recommended) on-screen directional pad or the older “stab and hope” approach. I tried both, and couldn’t switch back to the d-pad quick enough. If you’re a strategist who perfectly lines up their shots or you want to get your Ninja Rope on, there’s simply no contest.
I’ve been playing the game on my iPhone 5, and while it’s perfectly adapted to the platform, I can’t help but feel the iPad version provides a more pleasant experience. The additional screen real estate and 4:3 aspect ratio suits the game better, as your rather small worms can feel minuscule on the iPhone’s screen when you’re sufficiently zoomed out. That said, the game is just as addictive and playable on smaller devices.
Worm Classes & Playing Cards
Arguably the biggest change to Team 17’s latest outing is the inclusion of classes. Your worms fall under the categories of Soldiers, Scouts, Scientists and Heavies. Soldiers are what you would traditionally take into a Worms battlefield, with good all-round skills while the Scout is an underpowered, weak yet highly mobile (and small) target who can jump quite the distance. Scientists automatically regenerate health for the entire team, with less mobility and grunt than soliders while Heavies pack a punch and can take a beating but are slow and useless at jumping.
You’re free to design your team of four worms however you please, so you can match your warriors to your play style. There are other trade-offs to be aware of – heavies do considerably more damage, while for scouts the opposite is true – so it’s a good idea to experiment with each class. As with many Worms games, a combination of skill and luck often determines the winner in equal parts.
As is to be expected from the franchise, there are props for customising your team’s appearance, voices and gravestones, though more options would be nice.
Also new to this version are cards, which can be played at the start of a turn (two cards) or the end of a turn (one card). These generally affect gameplay by changing aspects like gravity, the amount of points awarded by health pickups and other perks like the ability to peak inside crates without having to capture them. You can turn cards off for local matches and the single player campaign, but online matches use whatever you have in your deck.
You can purchase new decks using coins, which (thankfully!) aren’t reliant on in-app purchases but instead are earned by completing both single and multiplayer matches. Once you’ve bought a deck you can keep it forever (there are plenty of decks to purchase, providing good use for all those coins) but you can only take 10 cards into each battle. These cards have the potential to really change the game when used correctly, and their inclusion can really keep you on your toes.
A Proper Worms Game
In case you hadn’t realised by now, this is a proper Worms game. The fact that it lives on your phone should be no deterrent, because proper Worms games come with proper multiplayer; and this one’s no exception. Worms 3 lets you take on play-by-mail asynchronous turn-based multiplayer with friends, contacts or randoms in both friendly and ranked modes. It works just as well as one could hope, and I’m rather surprised we’ve had to wait this long to play it.
Also present is the ever popular local multiplayer, under the Pass ‘n’ Play guise. It allows you to play with a friend using just one device and arguably works best on an iPad, because you’ll both want to see the screen. One way around screen limitations is to use the fabulous AirPlay mirroring feature, something I tried using AirServer and my MacBook Pro which works surprisingly well for games with more than two human teams, allowing a room of people to pass one device while watching an abridged version of the action on a larger screen.
As a long-time Worms fan (you don’t get to type that sentence very often), Worms 3 delighted me with a huge number of weapons including personal favourites like the Super Sheep (a controllable, flying, bleating explosive), the Banana Bomb and Holy Hand Grenade as well as six brand new weapons for this version alone. These weapons are just as erratic as they always were, which leads to plenty of “oops” moments, but it’s all in the spirit of the game.
Finally as a real testament to how much thought Team 17 put into this, you can still create your own game modes under Game Style Editor in the options, with customisable parameters like turn time, arsenal and health all up to you. You can’t take these online, but they work in local games.
Itching To Play
If I’ve failed to whet your appetite then it might be worth considering that Worms just isn’t for you. This is the most complete mobile version of Worms on a mobile device, and for my money it’s where Team 17’s future is (not so precariously) resting right about now. The AI is still crazy – sometimes they’ll repeatedly kill themselves turn after turn, and at other times they strike with deadly accuracy – but that’s always been a “problem”.
Similarly, I’d love to see a map editor at some point (some more weapons and customisation options wouldn’t go amiss either) but I’m quite content to recommend it to fans of the franchise, strategists and play-by-mail addicts alike.
Download: Worms 3 for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad ($4.99, universal)
Have you played Worms 3? What did you think? Any other favourites in the series? Let us know in the comments, below.