They may come with fancy graphics and epic storylines, but most videogames boil down to one basic premise: Kill the other guy before he kills you. No franchise has embraced this particular goal with quite the same whimsical delight as Worms, which has spawned more than a dozen games during its lifespan. Worms 2: Armageddon , now available on XBLA, is everything you've come to love about the series, an absolute explosion of annelid-slaughtering joy. To arms!
In Worms 2: Armageddon, teams of worm soldiers wage battle on 2d, randomly-generated landscapes in the hopes of wiping each other out before they're consumed by the rising tide. Being the polite creatures that they are, the worms take combat in turns, patiently awaiting their chance to wreak havoc on the enemy. You begin each round with a veritable buffet of weaponry at your disposal - shotguns, Uzis, grenades, bazookas, even Napalm - and additional weapons crates and first aid kits are airdropped periodically throughout the round to help prolong the fun. Blow torches, pneumatic drills, and ninja ropes will help you reach the nooks and crannies where the other team is hiding, or you can use mines and sentry guns to set a trap. Whatever you do, just make sure you pay attention to the wind, because it'll affect anything airborne.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Worms game without an assortment of particularly ridiculous weapons, and W2A doesn't disappoint. There's the Banana Bomb (which splits into five other bombs when it explodes), the aforementioned Holy Hand Grenade (which at least serenades you with a bit of Handel before it blasts you to smithereens), the Concrete Donkey, (so massive it even destroys the landscape), and what I believe to be the most awesomely-named weapon in the history of gaming, the Buffalo of Lies. The question you'll find yourself faced with throughout much of the game isn't "How do I kill this guy?" but rather "What's the most creative or amusing way I can kill this guy?" Even when things don't quite go the way you plan - blowing yourself up is so common it's practically a listed feature of the game - you'll still be laughing and having a great time.
Even the most entertaining killfests will grow tiresome if they're too repetitious, so W2A provides a variety of ways to mix things up. 130 base landscape types, including some daunting vertical levels, keep the scenery feeling fresh, while your ability to customize everything from your worms' hats to their voices, gravestones and victory dances ensures you won't become tired of your team. If you find yourself growing weary of the game's built in game types, which add variants like rope racing and fort mode to the more typical deathmatch, you can always create your own, tweaking details like turn length, fuse time, and weapon limits to your heart's content.
In an amusing reversal of the current trend to shoehorn multiplayer into single-player games that don't need it, Worms 2: Armageddon includes a single-player game when it doesn't really have to. The levels are a mix of puzzle-solving and deathmatch, pitting your team against AI-controlled enemies of varying skill and strength. The puzzle-type of levels, which usually require you to finish off the enemy worms in a specific way, are an entertaining diversion from the usual gameplay, but the other levels highlight how much better Worms is when played against human opponents. The AI seems to have two settings: dead-eye sharpshooter or recent victim of head trauma, with little in between. Overall, the single player campaign is fun, if forgettable, but worth finishing if only to unlock new maps and hats.
For flat-out good times with your mates, it's tough to beat a round of Worms, and Worms 2: Armageddon just keeps heaping on the fun. The weapons are hysterical, the controls are just right, and the visuals have been polished until they gleam. I could wish for slightly more precise cursor or a wider variety of taunts (I've probably heard my team utter the same handful of phrases a few hundred times now), but those are minor gripes that are almost completely overshadowed by the game's copious merits.
Bottom Line: Tiny worms, kicking the snot out of each other with flying sheep and dragon punches. Surely, there is no better way to spend a summer day.
Recommendation: Unless you're morally opposed to playing against other actual humans, a stupidly good time awaits you. Go and get it with all due speed.
Susan Arendt uses the "Angry Scots" voice for her worms and finds it hilarious when they yell "PANTS!"