Itís interesting how these things turn out. Even when the more official Worms entries were beginning to show signs of aging and wizening, everyone mustíve had reservations about the new direction Team 17 was taking with Worms Blast. The turn-based strategy game was stripped of the turn-based and strategy elements and was infused with puzzle gameplay. (Have primary PC players ever welcomed the puzzle genre with open arms?) But then again, this is Team 17 weíre talking, the group of people that was able to take some foul-mouthed, soft-bodied invertebrate animal strings and build a playable franchise out of it. So what were we worrying about again?
Though there are many gameplay modes and variations, the basic goal is to outlast your opposition, whether it be the timer, a CPU opponent, or a human opponent. In most of the modes, starting at the bottom of a well, you can pick from several characters (most of which were created specifically for this game, expanding the Worms universe just a bit more) that each have their own specific advantages. Some have high defense, some fast acceleration, quick turning, accurate aiming, and others pride themselves on being well-rounded. Using your bazooka, shoot the agglomerate of blocks at the top of the screen. Similar to Taitoís Bust-A-Move series, you must coordinate your bazooka colored-shots with the same colored blocks at the top. Like in the normal Worms games, you must accurately aim your bazooka shots and choose how much power youíd like to shoot with. The constant moving back and forth and calibrating shots slows down Blast significantly, especially in death-match styled games, but they usually donít last much longer than a game of Tetris Attack between two even-keeled, skilled combatants.
If you correctly match your bazooka shot color with the targeted block at the top (there are five colors), the blocks burst and can be eaten for an eventual bonus. Donít worry if the colors donít match, though, as itís nowhere near as life-threatening as in other puzzle games. What simply happens is that the blocks turn into blocks of the same color they were shot with. This can lend to some interesting situations as you try to change block colors and link them together for a big combo. There is also a bar that splits the two wells that occasionally opens at random points and at random times and itís there that you can unleash a barrage of rounds and weapons into your opponentís well, either directly damaging the character, messing up the order and color of their blocks, or blowing up their items.
As the match rolls on, the mass of blocks will drop every few seconds, and though youíre in danger of being crushed, each new layer can bring stars or crates. Stars, which are dropped when the blocks supporting it disappear or burst, lower your water level. Naturally, you often want your water level, which is normally raised by shooting bazooka rounds into the drink, to be as low as possible since itíll keep a safe distance from the blocks overhead. Crates should be no stranger to a Worms fan: They contain precious items that range from the defensive (shield or first-aid kit) to the offensive (shotgun, grenades, laser gun, torpedoes, etc.) and the dangerous to all (random weather effects). By pressing the B button, you can switch from the bazooka to your cache of weapons, but they can and must only be used in descending order.
Being forced to use the last weapon your garnered may seem like an annoyance, but it does keep the flow of the game going reasonably well (something that is quite critical since the game is already relatively slow) and requires some strategy, giving thought as to whether you should use the weapon now or wait and risk getting another weapon that may be worse or ineffective in the current situation. And that is a component of Worms Blast strongest asset: the game holds a variety of strategies and methods that one can be used to achieve victory, but unlike most puzzle games, all methods must be used effectively; adhering to only one will not result in victory.
In Puzzle Mode, the player is taken to a map that leads to around two dozen accessible points. Between each trip, youíre presented with two challenges before you can reach your destination. Most of them are fairly basic tasks such as clearing the screen of targets in a certain amount of time or avoiding falling rocks, but remember that the Worms series relishes in the easier-said-than-done saying. From the get-go, Puzzle Mode is fairly difficult, but it quickly escalates into a maddening, near-intractable game of the physics of iridescent blocks.
There arenít quite as many sound effects (naturally, since there are far fewer weapons) as normal, and many will be disappointed to see that practically all of the voice acting options have been cleared out (you only get the basic voice dubbing, no funny spoofing accents). The background art and foreground art is also nice to look at but, this being a puzzle game and all, they do get tiresome after a while.
A highly clever puzzle, itís a West-meets-East game where the best of Bust-A-Move and Worms is snowballed into a challenging and addictive game. I have to admit that in all the time Iíve spent playing Worms offline and on, itís never occurred to me that a puzzle game can be created out of this, but Team 17 has shown the light, and all the potential that I can see in it has been fully met. Now we sit back and wait for the Worms action/RPG.
· · · Sqoon