Online/offline multiplayer support; added layer of strategy with eponymous Battle Islands
Simplistic, sometimes distracting graphics
If you’ve never played a Worms game before, or any of its rip-offs or long-lost cousins (Gunbound, I’m looking at you), Worms: Battle Islands could make you fall in love with it. If you have already experienced a Worms game, on the other hand, or if you own a Worms game other than the atrocious Space Oddity or Xbox Live Arcade versions, then Worms: Battle Islands is actually still a good game, especially given its discount $29.99 price mark.
Essentially, Worms: Battle Islands is just another Worms game. A bunch of anthropomorphic worms led by the guy from Full Metal Jacket (except, of course, in worm form) band together under the banner of friendship and freedom (or at least a very strong liking for explosives), and fight against the screaming bio-, eco-, and chemical-based terrorists of whatever rebel worm nations are out there. They do these barbaric acts through ironically polite, turn-based action on a two-dimensional landscape, much like in the old classic Lemmings, throwing their implements of mass destruction (dynamite, homing missiles, exploding sheep, etc.) at the opposition till only one team of worms remains standing. They will have to use all the brainpower their tiny worm craniums give them, too, as wind and velocity both have noticeable effects on the gameplay. And of course, it’s all great fun, especially considering the inherent hilarity of having a bunch of worms sit around and kill each other indiscriminately with weapons that seem more powerful than anything in, say, The Conduit.
Like other Worms games, Worms: Battle Islands offers a great deal of customization. These include the simple things, such as choosing what kind of gravestones mark your worms’ heroic (or stupid) deaths, what voices and phrases your worms say when you command them to do something, what colors your worms are and of course what names they’re saddled with. Even more creative strategists can choose to create custom weaponry, adjusting settings from explosion radius to weapon range, though to be honest I was more interested in making my own levels (which you can also do) than fiddling around with the huge amount of settings you can in terms of weaponry.
Your turn-based gameplay, delivered– and packaged with worms.
It’s an impatient player who can breeze through all the customization Battle Islands offers, though, and this especially shows when considering one big part of Battle Islands’ appeal: support for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Thankfully, this support isn’t anything useless like, say, Final Fantasy III’s MogLink– no, Team17 has seen fit to allow your artfully twisted nurtured worms to battle teams from all across the world, a feature sorely underutilized on Wii. Rules for each multiplayer game, too, can be customized, as to spruce up even the sparsest of death matches; and though players likely dream of having their customized worms be infamous the world over, Battle Islands also supports local multiplayer for those who’d prefer their worms to stay close to home.
But most, if not all, of the aforementioned features are pretty much old hat by now. Even some of the voice sets are reused, and at this point Team17 has seen fit to let players create their own weapons as opposed to making original ones for them. However, Battle Islands does add an additional element of strategy in the form of the eponymous Battle Islands. At the beginning of the game, Colonel Full Metal Jacket Worm asks the player to choose a landscape for their Battle Island, from a selection of six different islands (nuclear wasteland, underground bunker, disturbingly Vietnam-esque jungle, etc.) that will serve as their home base for the rest of the campaign, as well as multiplayer. Before every match, players will be briefed in a Fire Emblem-esque war room, where they can do such things as scan battlefield topography (and enemy positions), steal enemy weapons, drop additional ordinance, and snipe down enemy worms before the game has even started. To counter this, however, players can also parachute worms to a different location than seen with enemy reconnaissance, causing certain Battle Island mechanisms to be more useful than others. Nevertheless, however, these pregame mechanics definitely add a new layer, however thin, to a series that is fraught with strategic thinking, despite its nonchalant, happy-go-explodey exterior.
It’s not the prettiest game around, but hey, it’s a war game that’s not Call of Duty.
Unfortunately, sometimes players may be distracted, at least visually, from their strategy, as the graphics in Worms: Battle Islands are at best simplistic and at worst dangerously blurry. In certain locales, worms can be difficult to see even when painted the most contrasting color possible, and precious seconds are wasted trying to look for them; furthermore, everything seems to have a somewhat fuzzy look to it, as if anti-aliasing was required on every graphic in the game, which can be very distracting on the first few plays of the game. However, these are minor quibbles, and players who play more than half an hour will get used to these graphical complaints, if not sigh a little and resign themselves to them.
Overall, though, Worms: Battle Islands is a great place to start for anyone new to the franchise, yet offers just enough to lure in even the most seasoned of veterans. Compared to the also-recently released Worms: Reloaded for the PC, Battle Islands’ wide range of customization as well as added layers of strategy more than validates it. (Plus, as a fan of both games, I find Battle Islands’ weapons to actually dish out more damage, if not just simple explosive knockback, making games in the Wii version both faster and more exciting.) Sure, with its simplistic graphics, it’s definitely a budget game, but it’s one that actually deserves a place outside the bargain bin. Those worms want to be on top, after all.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.