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Worms: Open Warfare
PlayStation Portable Review

The D-Pad on the PSP is rubbish. It is. Really. Yes, I realise this is supposed to be a review for Worms: Open Warfare, but I felt it was important that you know that the D-Pad for the PSP was utterly, utterly pants, because a lot of the criticisms you're about to read stem from the D-Pad for the console itself, not from the game. Are we all clear? Yes? Good show.

Since the release of Worms World Party (which, really, was essentially a standalone expansion pack for Worms Armageddon) fans have been screaming for a new 2D title in the Worms series. Instead, we got the tolerable GameBoy Advance port of WWP, as well as an admittedly quite playable NGage version. We've also had three (count 'em) 3D titles in the series which were, as games go, not bad, but not specifically good. So when Team17 announced last year that they were developing a new 2D title for the PSP and DS, they made a lot of people very happy. There weren't any parades or parties held or anything but the general consensus was that a new 2D title in the series would be a Good Thing. And it is, provided you buy the PSP version.

Contrary to my speculative comments on this website in previous months, Team17 have, for the second time, rebuilt the Worms engine from the ground up. And aside from a few noticeable differences, you wouldn't be blamed if, like me, you made the mistake of thinking they'd just dusted off the old Worms Armageddon PSone game engine. More than a few cues for this game stem from the 3D versions of the games - the HUD, the font, the controls, and the design of the worms themselves, for one - but the only 3D you'll find in this game is in the meticulously crafted background scenery.

The gameplay is essentially the same as it ever has been - teams of up to four worms taking turns to blow the smeg out of each other using a variety of weapons. But this isn't full-scale, full-on war, and it certainly isn't as complicated as Worms has slowly become over the past eleven years. Several elements have been simplified. The weapons list has been scaled back to to the original line-up of 24 weapons (with the Bungee Jump having been replaced with the Jetpack), so to people who haven't been playing Worms from the very beginning, this is going to seem very much like a step back. For me, however, who has been playing the game since January 1996, it's a refreshing change that, while limiting, brings a large part of the strategic play back into the game. Also gone are the five different types of jump, replaced by a simple forward jump or a standard backflip. Grenades no longer have a hi/lo bounce setting. In effect, Worms has come full circle, returning almost to the very point is began with.

There are a few welcome returns, however. Fans of the PC and PSone versions of the original Worms will be pleased to know that the Zoom function has been restored and improved upon - you can now zoom in and out at your preferred level, a superb feature particularly when you're using the Jetpack or Ninja Rope, or if you're planning a wide shot (or if you simply prefer to have more on your screen at once). In addition to which, more than a few of the original speechbanks from Worms 2 and Worms Armageddon (along with a couple from the 3D titles) have been brought back to life including this writer's personal favourite, Team17 Test. There is, unfortunately, no way to import your own speechbanks, but that's a minor niggle.

The game is not without it's failings, though. Worm movement is mapped to the D-Pad rather than the analog nub, and, incase you've forgotten, the D-Pad on the PSP is not fantastic. The Ninja Rope does behave exactly as it did in Worms Armageddon - the development team actually picked apart the rope code for the PC version to incorporate it here - but the PSP's D-Pad hampers almost any attempt to pull the sort of tricks you used to be able to pull Back In The Day. And with no way of changing the controls - switching the D-Pad and the Analog nub's functions around, say - it can begin to grate. Lemmings has the same problem, and it's probably the most complained about problem the PSP has next to the whole "dodgey square button" thing. Hopefully they'll get it right when they knock out their next model, eh?

The Single Player mode is, well, quite bare bones. There are three Tutorial Levels that you have to complete before you can take on the Challenges, which is essentially the same as the deathmatch modes from WA/WWP in that you face an increasing number of computer-controlled worms with increasing amounts of AI. As for multiplayer, the standard hotseat mode is included along with wireless multiplayer (although everyone has to have a copy of the game to play it), although the lack of an InfraStructure Wifi mode is likely to irk some people, and put off particularly stupid people from buying the game entirely. Still, it's likely to be one of the things Team17 will include in a second handheld title, should one be developed. Assuming sales of this version are good, a sequel is likely.

8 out of 10
A welcome return to a simpler time of worming, and a good if slightly shakey start to the next generation of 2D Worms titles.

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