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Team17 have once again announced that they’re making their game once again and- hey, wait, this latest version of Worms will actually do a few things different.
With over twenty Worms games in the bag and few changes to the turn-based annelid artillery annihilation formula in yonks, Team17 are shaking things up a bit with next year’s Worms WMD. It’ll introduce concealing buildings, for starters, only granting internal vision to players with a worm inside. Its new art style is pretty cute too. Oh, and it has tanks. Driveable, hopping tanks.
Which Worms game is your favourite? Over the last twenty years, creators Team17 have released more than twenty Worms games and spin-offs, but most folks I’ve known seem to favour either 1999’s Worms Armageddon or 2001’s Worms World Party (boy, the series peaked a while ago, huh?). If you’re in the latter camp, good news: your favourite Worms game is being revamped!
Team17 have announced Worms World Party Remastered [Steam page], which is WWWP prettied-up with support for modern Steam bits. It’s due to launch on July 8th.
In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, we get into the swing, as Phil explains his love of grappling hooks.
If you go back through the Why I Love articles I've written to date—stealth on ships, TF2's Scout or playing Chinese-style opera in Audiosurf—all have, to a greater or lesser extent, been about systems or experiences that change how you traverse through a level. The Scout can double-jump. Ship-based stealth levels are tighter and more claustrophobic than their inevitable "big warehouse" counterpart. Monkey Bee has one of the most distinct middle-sections I've yet to see emerge from Audiosurf's level generator.
A satisfying traversal system isn't the only thing I look for in a game, but it is one of a few broad areas that define my taste. If I can move around a game in interesting ways, then I will probably like it. I like Prototype—a game in which you can run up, and leap off, and glide over buildings—even though a part of me suspects that it's really a bit rubbish. I'm a somewhat overweight guy in his thirties. Sometimes it's nice to tell gravity to go and do one.
There's another traversal tool that I consistently love in games: the grappling hook. My appreciation for good grappling hooks—and good here doesn't mean realistic—started with the original version of Worms. Friends and I would play multiplayer matches with a very specific set of rules: no turn timer, unlimited girders, and unrestricted access to the grappling hook (or "ninja rope," as it's called in-game). You can use the ninja rope multiple times per turn, and we gave ourselves unlimited time to make our way across the map. With these rules, a worm can travel from one side to the other—their turn ending only if they take fall damage.
That's where the girders came in. We'd place them above the level, both to protect our own guys from air strikes and to have more surfaces to grapple on to. Worms' rope mechanics are, in essence, bizarre. They're also consistent in their implementation, which led us to a great understanding of their potential. With some effort, it's possible to swing 180 degrees and beyond—eventually landing on top of the platform the worm is swinging from. The trick is to extend the rope fully, smack into a solid surface, and then retract. That maximises the speed boost from bouncing off the wall, and, with luck, propels the worm up and around.
To anyone but those directly involved in the match, this was an unspeakably tedious spectacle. To us, it was thrilling.
Subsequent Worms games enforced turn times, essentially ruining my enjoyment of them. But a few other 2D games feature that same spirit of exploitable traversal. Trine is, intentionally or not, all about this. One of its three characters is a Thief, and her grappling hook allows for a similarly awkward battle against physics. Here, you can even grapple onto one surface, break off and re-attach to another, all while still in mid-swing. You can, on select levels, chain these swings—at times resulting in long, unbroken stretches of undulation.
Used properly, it can be a graceful tool. But both Trine games also contain a secret hidden mini-game for grappling hook aficionados. This game is called "can I use the Thief to complete this section, even though it was obviously designed for the Wizard?" Often, the answer is yes.
At this point, I should probably point to another 2D grappling hook game—one designed entirely around swinging as the main method of level traversal. It's called Floating Point, it's free, and it was made by PC Gamer's former section editor Tom Francis. It's a more sedate grapple-space to move through, and rare in that its freedom of movement is the idea rather than an exploitable quirk in the engine. If you're here because you like grappling hooks, then it's relevant to your interests.
In three-dimensions, the grappling hook is a less sure-fire hit. Too often, it's restricted—kept to specific grapple-points in order to stop the player breaking the level in ridiculous ways. Most recently, you can see this in Far Cry 4. You have a grappling hook! You can jump from the rope and re-attach it to another point before hitting the ground! You can only do this at specifically marked points around the map. I'd like you to imagine a sort of anti-exclamation mark, and place it on the end of that last sentence.
Some games are better at it this than others, and they tend to be the ones that are more open about their freedom of movement. Arkham City's Grapnel Gun combos satisfyingly with the glide. You can't swing, but you can shoot it to build speed across the map—using it to all but fly. And then there's Just Cause 2, or Let's Do Fun Shit With A Grappling Hook: The Game. You can attach onto a plane, or to cars, or to an explosive barrel that is shooting vertically into the air. You can use it in conjunction with a parachute to create a free-form system of movement more distinct and enjoyable than any of the game's vehicles.
Maybe that's another reason why grappling hooks, specifically, are one of my favourite methods of traversal. They're inherently ridiculous. There is no way to put an unrestricted grappling hook in a game and still have it be a serious tool, because it's either inherently exploitable or inherently unrealistic. It is a jointly a tool for motion and a tool for fun.
Case in point: the 3D version of Bionic Commando. It had a grappling hook as its central gimmick, and yet its story still felt the need for a Serious Emotional Payload. How was that done? With the late-game reveal that your bionic grapple-arm was also your wife. Your wife, who was used to create a strong emotional bond with the robo-limb.
That is dumb. But that is what happens when you try to inject emotional pathos into a game with a grappling hook—it throws off your sense of what's appropriate. At some point, a developer must have questioned whether wife-in-a-robo-arm was good storytelling. I suspect they saw their hero swinging care-free through a city and lost all sense of perspective. "Yes," this hypothetical employee thought, "it makes total sense that this bionic commando's arm is his wife."
It didn't, though. It was stupid. That's why grappling hooks can never be serious. Not true, freeform, use-'em-wherever-you-like grappling hooks. They're silly and fun—a tool for engaging with, perfecting, and enjoying the feeling of motion. They are, in practice and philosophy, the opposite of a wife in an arm.
More grappling hooks; less wives in robot arms. That feels like a strange place to end things, but also like good words to live by.
Last week, I visited Team 17 and was the first outsider to have hands-on experience with their latest game. It’s a Worms game because, on the whole, that’s what they do. Unlike the previous release, Clan Wars has been designed specifically for PC and while it’s the multiplayer league system that worms its way into the title, the additions and tweaks to the physics system may be the necessary game changer.>
The beta is over and battle lines have been drawn. They're sort of squiggly. Team17's classic team-based trajectory shooter is now open to everyone on Facebook. Release the sheep!
The spineless competition is fierce in the Facebook version of Worms. Along with the four-on-four battles that have been endearing these slimy little bastards to gamers for ages, players can participate in weekly tournaments, customize their squad and island, and conquer single-player challenges to prove their superiority over 2D sprites of all shapes and sizes.
It's really the perfect sort of game for Facebook. You can play it right here.
Spicy Horse's web-based Worms-meets-Mother Goose trajectory shooter Crazy Fairies flies from Facebook to Android, bringing cross-platform multiplayer to the Droid-loving masses.
Crazy Fairies is a turn-based shooter in the same vein as the PC classic Worms, with a heaping helping of American McGee's penchant for twisted fairy tales. Players choose a character from several fantasy archetypes and then take to the battlefield in single and multiplayer shooting matches. They'll collect fantastic weapons, level up their characters, and participate in massive online tournaments against fellow Android players, browser gamers and, eventually, iOS warriors.
Team17's battling invertebrates hunger for the blood of a billion Facebook users. The original Lumbricus terrestris-based trajectory shooter is going social, and it craves your beta testing prowess.
With bite-sized real-time multiplayer battles, weapons drawn from the span of the series' 17-year history and an array of stylish hats, Worms for Facebook is a different sort of social gaming animal. Should you find yourself online with your friends at the same time, you can challenge them to a one-on-one battle to the death, pitting your squad of four worms against theirs. If they are offline you can battle their automated defense force.
You can rename your Worm Totilo, if you so choose.
But no one will see your Totilo worm if you don't sign up for the closed beta.
Join me, and together we will... well, one of us will lose. It could be you!