For as long as I can remember, I’ve always thought of the Worms franchise as a tactical, albeit extremely wacky, series of puzzles. Gameplay was slow, metered, and even deliberate, while you determined the best way to disembowel enemies with no remorse. Oddly enough, the newly released Worms Rumble is absolutely none of those things and it’s infinitely better because of it.
If you needed an elevator pitch for Worms Rumble, it would sound something like, “What if we took Worms and made it an online-only, multiplayer shooter, with battle royale elements?” I’d be the first person to admit that it’s a dramatic over-simplification of the game’s structure. However, it does paint a fairly accurate picture of what the game might look like, and helps set expectations for the action as a whole. Oh, and did I mention that all of the combat happens in real-time? Yeah, this ain’t your dad’s Worms spinoff.
Taking a dirt nap
Considering that my first exposure to Worms was during a dorm room LAN party many moons ago, I’ve always considered the series to mainly revolve around multiplayer shenanigans. If you’re going in looking for single-player action, you’re going to be gravely disappointed. Players will be treated to a standard deathmatch mode, accompanied by more battle royale inspired Last Worm Standing and Last Team Standing, just for good measure.
Easily the most approachable of Worms Rumble’s admittedly meager trio of modes is deathmatch. It’s essentially exactly what you would expect from a standard deathmatch mode, only your combatants are seriously lacking any sort of skeletal structure. The gameplay itself is shockingly fast and frenetic, utilizing a Metroid-style “turn yourself into a ball” maneuver, which allows for swift navigation around the map. Also, the normal inching speed of each character has been sped up dramatically, in the name of keeping the action frenetic
At the risk of flushing my PC cred down the can, I am fully willing to admit that I chose to forgo the standard keyboard controls, as they just felt awkward under my fingers. Using the space button to jump and them chain jumps together by bounding from wall-to-wall was just too confusing for my brain and fingers to balance simultaneously. Once I plugged in a gamepad, however, suddenly everything clicked and combat became far more straightforward. It was instantly apparent that the game was designed with a gamepad in mind, so just do yourself a favor and bypass the keyboard altogether. You can feel free to thank me later.
Standing out from the crowd
As you begin to complete rounds, there are a series of different experience points that are acquired at both the character and weapon level. Accrued points go towards either unlocking weapon skins or numerous avatar personalization options. Soon enough, my worm was the weirdest looking critter on the map, featuring a hot pink arsenal to boot! These customizable options can end up being very crucial in the heat of battle because when things get chaotic, it’s important that your character doesn’t get lost in the fog of war.
I’m fully willing to admit that I went into Worms Rumble with very limited expectations. When you factor in that this was a dramatic shift from the legacy of the core Worms franchise, I was legitimately concerned that it would be half-baked in the best-case scenario. You can only imagine how stunned I was when I found myself instantly hooked. Virtually every aspect of the combat is approachable but also has enough depth to keep you coming back, round after round. Plus, each match is short enough that it’s impossible to skip the ever-present siren’s call of “well, maybe just ONE more round…”
Since I’m already hooked by the gameplay in its most limited form, I simply can’t wait to see what Worms Rumble will look like in six months or more. This is just the tip of the spear when it comes to all the content that Team17 has in store, and it will undoubtedly be well supported for the foreseeable future. If you have $14.99 burning a hole in your pocket, this is a skirmish you won’t want to miss.