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Worms 2: Open Warfare
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Team17 Software
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Online/ Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
I was a fan of the first installment of Worms on PSP. What it lacked in depth it more than made up for in madcap antics and a simple, cheerful interface. Much has changed this time around, but not so much in the interface department. The backgrounds are more dynamic and showcase the power of the PSP. The worm soldiers and their trappings are customizable to a greater degree than before. This extends one of the more enjoyable and keep-on-the-shelfable features of the first game. Customizing a team by swapping out players was fun and it was possible to do some minor editing like the team name and costumes, in addition to building environments for battle. This time we have the option to customize to a high level of detail and the additional tweaking will keep fans busy for a long, long time. The voice options include old favorites and new voices destined for greatness. The performance and feel of the game online is smooth and loses nothing in the translation.

A standout in Open Warfare is the quality and fine detail in characters and weapons. Without this, we'd be instantly reduced to a catatonic state. The principle action is shooting something up, down, or over so things don't get very complicated in the gameplay department. To take something this simple and build a compelling entertainment experience is a feat and it's done through attention to the little things like worm animations, weapon animations, timing, and subtle comedy. Weapon sounds and the background music fills out the offering nicely without getting in the way of the action. The music is light, elevator-fare that keeps the mood equally light and prevents any of the combat from become too serious. The weapons are a contrast in that they represent their real-life counterparts to a high degree. Whether it's the release of the new Concrete Donkey and Buffalo of Lies, or just a good old fashioned air-strike/rocket-launcher combination, you'll find the sights and sounds of the weapons steal the show in any Worms game.

The standout for this iteration is online play and team play. The first Worms game on PSP didn't thread the needle in this respect, but contained respectable single-player action. Worms 2: Open Warfare features both the online network play and various options for playing ad hoc with friends in the room. The online play brings out the addictive qualities of this game that PC fans have known about for a long time. When you see the strategies that some players come up with that you've never envisioned, you'll realize that the Worms concept is more than meets the eye. Joining an online session is relatively easy and it was nice to see many players stacking up instead of the lonely lobbies seen in the early days of some titles with online capability. Once you find the style game you'd like to initiate, it doesn't require more than a ready team of worms and you are deep into the action. Match yourself up against contestants to find out whose Worms mojo is greater. Less threatening than the shoot-em-up is a more strategic battle of competing forts and race games that involve as much skill as luck.

The offline multiplayer is equally simple to initiate and rich in options. For a turn-based game as this to offer a "hot seat" option is very nice and Open Warfare also features game sharing to whet your friends' appetites. If you never did more than host games for friends and play online, you'd have a blast. The single-player features of Open Warfare are tremendous and every bit the equal of the first installment. More game modes, more customization, and more weapons round out the offering and make for a nice surprise to fans. Newcomers will have no problem grasping the point of the game, namely to knock the stuffing out of the opposite team. The themes and backdrop for each stage comes from famous wars of history. To think that under the feet of our troops raged such conflict... New modes like the Rope Race and Puzzle are nice additions if only to allow for a break from the non-stop action. Solving puzzles using worms and their limited repertoire of movement is a good kick in the gray matter for gamers that spend time obsessing over the trajectory of a ground-fired missile versus a grenade. Campaign Mode takes the great battles of history as a setting for the worm soldiers' ongoing search for glory. Or are they just incredible stupid and possessed of bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Worms 2: Open Warfare, like most Worms-themed games, has plenty of cheap-death moments. Isn't that the point of the game? Every death is pretty cheap when you battle with worms and watching a soldier drown in a shallow pool is as likely to elicit a chuckle as a groan. Even when it's your soldier... The A.I. battles aren't nearly as difficult as the online battles or offline multiplayer. People can be devious, as you've learned if you've ever bought a house or car. Watch your tail when you go online to play against real people. No amount of documentation can adequately capture all the possibilities of the Worm weapons, but the manual included takes a stab. In the spirit of any good turn-based strategy game, there are lots of ways to employ weapons and use the environment to one's advantage. Learning the ins and outs of each weapon takes time, but pays off when you realize how many tricky little tricks there are to be had. Using the correct weapon at the correct time is the secret of Open Warfare and it is harder than it looks.

Game Mechanics:
The only tarnish on this worm is the slightly cumbersome interface. Too many menus and too much ticking off options before the game begins. A Quick Play feature irons out most of this annoyance, but as you get deeper into the game you'll find yourself working through lots of menus and waiting for things to load too frequently. Online I don't have a problem with loading, but the offline loading gets old quickly. Thankfully there is no loading after a game starts, but I don't like having to set up all my variables before watching a loading screen before playing my game. Even setting up a new team is cumbersome. Recruiting worms, giving them names, and choosing a team overall feels like work before you actually get into the fun stuff. Setting up a Custom Game is a long process and the editing takes a time commitment as well. If anything could be streamlined more it would make a huge difference in ease-of-use for Worms.

All the working pieces of Worms 2: Open Warfare can be summed up nicely in a few words. The only buttons you press are to select a weapon and fire a weapon. Moving around the screen is a strategic component since the worm soldiers move slowly and have relatively no cover from weapons. Only the inaccuracy of your enemy saves you sometimes. Learning to leverage some weapons to move your soldier around the battlefield more quickly is essential. Not overdoing it on your attacks, using attacks incorrectly, or triggering the correct attack at the wrong time are all learning lessons. Like The Colonel's Recipe, the secret of success for Worms is secure but in evidence constantly. The addition of online features makes this a complete keeper and a title sure to knock most other strategy games off your bookshelf. Get your Worms on...

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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