Way back in 1995, I was introduced to a new kind of carnage when Team 17 released their squiggly war-game, Worms. Now, this was a time when Mortal Kombat 3 was the baddest thing in the arcade, Alanis Morissette had her hand in her “ironic” pocket (obviously not realizing the difference between a coincidence and true irony), and the whole world was obsessed with the trial of O.J. Simpson (I never cared; Nintendo was more entertaining). We were hearing that violence, no matter the source, would corrupt us. That freezing a person who disagrees with you, and then shattering them into a thousand pieces, is just not an appropriate coping mechanism… Blah, blah, blah.
I was still a hard core SNES/Gameboy player, and had barely begun using my computer as a source for games. A few lunch table friends of mine were always showing me fantastic games: Bolo, Dark Castle, Lemmings, Hexen; I was fascinated by them all! PC games were an entirely different experience from console gaming, and Worms was to be no exception!
Recently Team 17 started relaunching the Worms franchise with some fantastic new titles, Worms 2: Armageddon, and Worms Reloaded. I saw these games being hyped before launch, Steam sent me several notifications and even a sale, but I just wasn’t interested. Don’t get me wrong, I love Worms (yeah, that didn’t sound gross at all), but I have so many other games I would rather be playing (Borderlands, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age), so sitting at my computer playing a casual game isn’t really my style. That’s when Battle Islands for the PSP caught my eye! I spend a fair amount of time riding, or waiting for a bus, so portable systems are often my chosen distraction. Worms, on the go? Now we’re talking!
I had forgotten how fun this series could be, a great blend of strategy and arcade elements. I was instantly brought back to the better days of gaming, when simplicity brought on addiction. I can remember playing the original on my friend John’s mom’s (that is fun to say out loud, several times in a row) computer. We would get his little brothers to play, mostly because we knew we would win, and wouldn’t quit until his mom put her foot down and said “Turn it off!”. It was a perfect, simple pleasure, and it was great to go back!
In Battle Islands you have several different ways to play; Campaign, Puzzle and Time Attack modes all offer their own unique challenges, and gameplay. Campaign mode offers a map based battle selection, where each location has it’s own advantages and certain deaths. After destroying the enemy locations, you will be able to select a Boss Mission. I didn’t find the Campaign mode very challenging, but in the settings menu there are all kinds of tweaks to the gameplay, so I could adjust it to my preference.
In Puzzle mode, players are offered a limited number of pre-seleceted weaponry with which to destroy all the enemies. Some of these were really tricky, having to figure out exactly how to best use each tool, and even then, just a little off on the aim and you wouldn’t get it! This was my favorite mode in the game because it really made me plan things out, and think. There weren’t as many missions as I would have liked, and this mode was over sooner than I wanted it to be.
Time Attack mode, is not exactly what I expected. I thought at first that this mode was going to be more Worms killing Worms, but it is actually more like some kind of a “Lunar Lander Worm Racing… thing”. It is pretty simple; how fast can you do the laps, flying your worm around the course? It does add a bit of variety to the multiplayer portion of the game, but I didn’t care for it, and didn’t play it much.
The multiplayer feature was something I really wanted to get into, but every time I search for other players online, the boards are empty. This is one of those games that would be better played in a group, since the CPU is always retarded. I don’t know if it is just that the PSP scene isn’t all that big on online play or what, but this is a crime against nerdiness. There should be someone else playing this game!!! On the bright side, the game does allow for online connections, so if you have a friend somewhere else in the world, you can still frag their Ugly Little Dirt Eaters!!
The graphics are very crisp, and I liked the cartoony presentation. The game looks great on the PSP with high resolution backgrounds and the cute little worm costumes! ^_^ This is a far cry from the original’s old school VGA graphics. I would say more about the visuals and all that, but really, to me, graphics are graphics, I don’t use them as a reason to buy a game or not.
I want to like this game, I really do, but there are several things that leak their way into my otherwise pleasurable experience. I am not going to say that they completely ruin the game, but they are Cons, and I have to mention them.
The first thing I noticed was that the volume is really low, and I mean LOW. I had my PSP all the way up, and I could barely hear it, even after the kids went to bed. I realize there isn’t much to hear anyway, but audio is meant to be heard (I love the little worm voices). And since we are on the topic of audio, I found the music to be bland and it got old really quick. Normally I don’t listen to a game’s music when I play my PSP, because I am often using IRShell to play my own music in-game, but I didn’t buy a UMD copy of this game, so that was not an option this time. I suppose if I had used headphones I would have easily heard my game, but it shouldn’t be necessary, and when the music in a game bores me, no matter how fun the game is, I am likely to get tired of it sooner.
The biggest conflict I had with this game, was the load times. Now, I understand long loads on my PC, when the games have high-end 3D structures, real-time physics, huge open worlds… but this is Worms. Layered image backgrounds with 2D sprites, and I’m waiting longer than 30 seconds for it to load? Something isn’t right here. It is only an 80Mb game, and the game isn’t even running from a UMD, so what gives?
When I am playing my PSP, the number one thing on my mind is “portability”. If I am trying to catch a quick game of Worms on my lunch break, or in a waiting room, speed would be a consideration of mine. I played enough to get frustrated with the delays, and I can’t see any reason for it. I don’t know if maybe it is because I use an original (1001) model PSP, or if it is just the game, but I found it annoying enough that I had mention it. When I play a game, I like as few things to bitch about as possible, and I shouldn’t have time to hold a conversation about my frustration, and still have to wait for it to finish loading.
All complaints aside, I found this game extremely satisfying, and I will keep playing it! The complaints I have are minor, and can be ignored since once you start playing, you won’t remember how long it took you to get there. I will say that I find the price of $25 US a bit steep, considering how short the game is, and I am positive that this pricing will negatively impact sales of this title. I would have liked to have seen a more reasonable price, like $15, but if you like Worms, you will get more than your $25 worth. The game is well polished, offers plenty of unlockables, and provides exactly what I wanted: Worms on the go!
<*wiggle wiggle* not like that, pervert!>