This newest entry in the Worms franchise makes some significant changes. Instead of a team of worms fighting it out in turns, Worms Rumble puts you in charge of a single worm, wiggling around a side-scrolling arena in real-time while trying to annihilate other players.
For those worrying that Worms Rumble is gaming heresy, don’t be alarmed. Team 17 has worked hard to make Rumble remain as true to its origins as possible. The silly worm voices remain, as do the Python-esque weapons. The Holy Hand Grenade and the Sheep Launcher remain highlights. It feels fundamentally like good old Worms, despite the bolder and brasher presentation.
Playing as a single worm makes everything suddenly feel more frantic and urgent. Part of this is because the movement speed is faster than before, while the new wall jumping and rolling mechanics make traversal swift.
The urgency is compounded by the fact that Worms Rumble is entirely online. You’re playing against real people out for your worm blood. They’re bloodthirsty, too – we found ourselves getting absolutely destroyed. Luckily, there’s a team play option, which we found much more rewarding than the single-player deathmatch.
Unfortunately, destructible environments haven’t made the transition. Part of the comedy of Worms was always the slapstick of trapping people or watching them fall to their death after mistiming a jump. Destroying the environment also led to a significant amount of strategy. It’s a shame that the environments here are more static. To compensate, however, the areas have expanded in scale and scope.
The side-scrolling stages are surprisingly large, each with distinct locations. There are loads of traversal options – ziplines, elevators, trampolines and escalators all help you move about the place and either escape danger or sneak up on victims. Tunnels provide shelter, and there are loads of set-pieces, with the level gradually changing as the matches go on. Although occasionally a little overwhelming, those who enjoy exploring a map for all its possibilities will love it.
Around the arenas, dozens of weapon crates appear. Switching out weapons is key to success. We did find, however, that trying to recognise each icon on the screen meant that our weapons strategy wasn’t very considered. We just went with what we had and hoped for the best. We managed to observe some very skilful players, and clearly, more familiarity and confidence comes with time.
After each game, you level up both your worm and the weapons used during battle. Practically this means unlocking new outfits, skins and emotes. The Fortnite influence is obvious, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy decking out or worm in a variety of outfits.
Despite competing in a crowded genre, Worms Rumble is a success. It takes Worms and updates it for the Fortnite generation. It remains to be seen if it takes off and if it sustains a player base. But things are looking promising. The fact that Worms Rumble is 2D gives it a good differentiator from other online games, and its polish sets it apart from similar indies.
Worms Rumble is out now on Switch and Xbox One. It first launched on PS4 and PC.