Review: Worm Jazz (Switch)

A soothing puzzler that teases the mind and soothes the soul.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/04/2020 20:45 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Earthy tones and great lighting make the game shine on big and small screens, alike; figuring out the right path to eat all of the food and earn a three star ranking is satisfyingly tricky and (mostly) fair; jazz soundtrack is relaxing and well incorporated
Poison Mushroom for...
Some puzzles require overly obtuse solutions; there isn't much to engage with beyond the core 50 puzzles to solve; more variety to the soundtrack would have been welcome

Puzzle games are always an interesting nut to crack when it comes to game design. Finding the right combination of challenge and ease of play isn’t the simplest mix to determine. Considering most puzzle games tend to skew away from a dedicated story line, it makes the gameplay carry a huge amount of the load in engaging players. Thankfully, developer Inconspicuous Creations has landed upon a strong concept and delivered a solid execution of it in the puzzler Worm Jazz.

Inconspicuous compares Worm Jazz to Snake and Bomberman, and by my estimation that’s not far from the mark. A “wriggly” puzzle game, Worm Jazz is all about guiding the top hat-wearing earthworm Mr. Mark through 50 different mazes. Mr. Mark can only move forward; while there is a dedicated “undo” button, it isn’t possible to actually reverse the worm’s course as he makes his way through a given puzzle. This means careful planning ahead by the player to navigate mazes.

Player performance is ranked using a three star system. Gather all of the food and lay claim to three stars, while anything less will net two stars and lower. The game is fair about progression in that players aren’t forced to shoot for three stars in order to proceed. Simply complete the level and it’s on to the next. Not that there won’t be heaping amounts of temptation to keep shooting for the best score; such is the nature of Worm Jazz that aiming for the top becomes compulsory from the first maze onward.

Being confined to forward movement may sound limiting, but it works well within the design of Worm Jazz. Not only is moving backwards impossible, but Mr. Mark can also be constrained by his own body. As the worm eats, the length of his form extends. It is very easy to accidentally consume too much and find Mr. Mark twisted into an immobile spiral. Luckily, along with being able to advance back a single space at a time using the aforementioned “undo” button, players can also instantaneously restart a level. Sometimes it’s easier to go right back to the beginning as opposed to holding down “undo,” and it was quite welcome to have this option while playing.

There’s food lining the corridors of Worm Jazz’s mazes, but there are also wormholes, explosives, and other things to keep track of. A certain level of intentionality is required when Mr. Mark begins eating. Parts of Mr. Mark’s body will explode if he touches a mine, which impacts his overall length. This is crucial to solving puzzles as sometimes he can blow up but remain too long to proceed. Admittedly, determining how/where to segment his body left me bewildered at times when attempting to get through mazes. Worm Jazz doesn’t offer hints, so figuring out the proper order of eating and exploding is down to trial and error. I enjoyed the lack of hand-holding, but some players might not be mollified by the lack of assistance.

Worm Jazz is far prettier than one might expect a puzzle game to be. The world is essentially nothing but halls hewn from brick and rock, but the earthen browns and grays of the game environment are punctuated with pleasant bursts of neon. This is the sort of game that manages to infuse a lot of life into otherwise spartan surroundings that could easily have felt bland and repetitive. It wouldn’t be much of a jazz game without, well, jazz, and the smooth tunes are a constant in the background. The music is seamlessly integrated between the overworld and mazes themselves, which is a nice touch. It would have been better, though, if Inconspicuous added more variety to the soundtrack.

Saying Worm Jazz isn’t ambitious would be misleading. A lot of love and care has gone into the construction of this game, from the delightful visuals and soundtrack to the measured, pleasing gameplay. At the same time, however, it must be noted that Worm Jazz doesn’t offer much beyond completing its 50 challenges. If you’re coming into this one looking for a bevy of features and modes, you might be disappointed to discover that with the exception of choosing new hats for Mr. Mark, this is a laser-focused experience. In a world of “games as services” and 100 gigabyte updates, I find Inconspicuous’s willingness to just make a game refreshing.

If you’re looking for a puzzle game that is equal parts relaxing and challenging, Worm Jazz is a great choice. It doesn’t bend over backwards to reinvent the wheel, instead opting to be a straightforward, fun puzzler with no fluff. What it lacks in extra modes, Worm Jazz more than compensates for with well-designed, brain-teasing levels. Some solutions might be unintentionally too obscure in their solutions, but it’s a rare distraction. For the vast majority of the time it is a joy going from maze to maze and aiming for the top score. It’s an oddball name and concept, but Worm Jazz is the sort of idea that only works in the world of video games and makes the industry all the better for being here.

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.

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