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Overview

Worms' Main Menu (DOS)

Originally created by Andy Davidson for the Amiga, and later ported to a variety of other systems by Team17, Worms is the first iteration of the long-running Worms series of turn-based strategic artillery games. As in subsequent games, the goal of Worms is to use a team of well-armed annelids to kill worms of opposing human or A.I. players; in each round, the last player with living worms is declared the winner. Worms was first published by Ocean Software Ltd. in 1995, and in addition to its original platform, it has appeared on the Amiga CD32, PC, Game Boy, Genesis, Jaguar, Macintosh, PlayStation, Saturn, and SNES; in fact, it has been ported to more systems than any other Worms game. A version of the title was even considered for Nintendo's Virtual Boy at one point, though Team17 co-founder Martyn Brown stated in 2008 that the Virtual Boy port never truly made it into the development stages due to a sentiment that the platform was "doomed to failure".

The DOS version of Worms was followed up by Worms: Reinforcements, an expansion to the original game, in late 1995; the following year Worms and Reinforcements would be released as a single package under the name Worms United. Worms would later be released on Steam in 2011 and GOG.com in 2012, though in both cases the version sold is Worms United, not the original game. After completing Worms Davidson would also head up the development of Worms: The Director's Cut, released in 1997, which was an Amiga-exclusive version of Worms that featured a large number of new weapons and game options not previously seen in other iterations of the game, many of which were adopted in Worms 2, released the same year. Both 2006's Worms: Open Warfare and 2007's Worms are considered remakes of the original Worms due in large part to similarities in their weapon loadouts.

Development

Worms was originally conceived not as a commercial product, but as a distraction for creator Andy Davidson, a fan of local multiplayer games like Bomberman and Super Mario Kart, and his high school friends. It was initially built using borrowed assets from Psygnosis' Lemmings, and the earliest version of Worms was known as Lemartillery as a result. The game eventually became so popular among the students of Davidson's school that it was banned entirely, prompting Davidson to consider the possibility of having his game published. In order to make the game more attractive to would-be publishers, however, the game's graphics had to be reworked, and thus Davidson scrapped the original lemmings on favor of worms, giving this new iteration the name Total Wormage. Davidson was so intent on getting his game published that after high school he decided to forgo the pursuit of higher education in order to do so. While he continued to work on the game, Davidson used the customers of an Amiga store where he worked as a form of playtesting for Total Wormage.

In one of his efforts to get his game noticed, Davidson submitted Total Wormage into a competition held by Amiga Format, a British Amiga magazine. By Davidson's own admission, though, his entry into the contest did not accomplish what he had hoped, as he neither won nor received any mention in the magazine. Although discouraged by this and a number of failed attempts at garnering attention for Total Wormage by mailing copies to publishers and developers, Davidson had one final idea: to take the game to the European Computer Trade Show in London. This would prove to be the turning point in Davidson's fortunes, as while there he demoed the game to Team17, who showed an immediate interest in it. Team17 offered to help Davidson develop and publish the game; much of their work went into porting Worms to other game systems, as the original Amiga version that Davidson had been working on was by this time fairly well-developed. In total, Davidson estimates that he spent about four years of his life in the development of Worms.

Gameplay

Gameplay in Worms consists of actions taken by between two and four teams of human- or A.I.-controlled worms on a two-dimensional playing field. The game is turn-based, with each player being able to move a single worm per turn; turns typically end once a worm has either fired a weapon or sustained damage, although they can also end automatically if the allotted time for a turn runs out. From there, play shifts to the next player in the sequence, which is determined randomly at the beginning of gameplay, and that player proceeds in the same fashion. The objective of worms at all times is to cause as much damage to enemy worms as possible while also preserving one's own worms. Each worms starts the round with a certain amount of hit points (typically one hundred), and if their hit points are reduced to zero, they will die, leaving behind a gravestone and creating a small explosion that can harm nearby worms. Worms can also be killed instantaneously by being knocked outside the boundaries of the level or into liquid substances that reside at the bottom of the stage. If a player loses all four of their worms, they are eliminated, and the winner of a given round is the player that survives the match without being eliminated.

A Banana Bomb causing widespread destruction. At top, opposing players' health bars can be seen; within the lower HUD, a wind strength indicator (top right) and power bar (bottom right) are visible.

Each player starts the match with an assortment of armaments and utilities in order to aid them in their goal of dominating their opposition. This includes staple weapons such as bazookas and grenades, which can be used frequently, to more powerful weaponry such as homing missiles and dynamite that can only be used a finite number of times. Worms also contains a handful of "super weapons" such as banana bombs and explosive sheep, which can only be obtained through periodic weapon crate drops during a match; these items are extremely potent, though incredibly rare to find. Some weapons require that the player be able to accurately gauge the proper weapon trajectory and launch power necessary to hit a target, which can be further complicated by the inclusion of wind conditions that can affect certain projectiles while in flight. In addition to weapons, Worms also offers a number of movement utilities designed more for defense or traversal than offense; this includes items like ninja ropes and teleporters, which allow different ways of moving around the environment, and items like blow torches and pneumatic drills that can carve through obstructions.

Environments in Worms are completely destructible, and almost all weapons cause some amount of deformation to the terrain. Over time, this reduces the size of the overall play area, making defensive positioning increasingly difficult while simultaneously increasing the danger that players will fall or be forced off of the map. In order to help make the game more replayable, levels in Worms are also randomly generated, and prior to a match players can cycle through maps indefinitely until they find one to their liking. Several other aspects of the game are adjustable as well, though not all of these variables have a dramatic affect on gameplay. Team and individual worm names can be changed, starting hit point totals can be set between seventy-five and five hundred points, and the intelligence level of A.I. opponents can be tweaked. The availability of all of the game's default weapons can be tailored to suit personal tastes, and Sudden Death, a late-game stalemate breaker that reduces all worms to one hit point, can be made to occur sooner, later, or not at all. A number of other variables exist as well, such as default worm placement and turn length, and an optional Banzai mode is also included which makes explosions even more destructive.

Weapons

The Worms arsenal includes more than twenty weapons and utilities that vary in strength and purpose. All but three of these tools are given automatically to the player during a match, while the others are designated as "super weapons," and must be collected from randomized weapon crates (although these crates can also contain other weapons or booby traps). A wide variety of different armaments are represented in Worms, including melee weapons, firearms, and a variety of explosives that may be thrown, dropped, propelled by rockets, or conveyed in less-than-orthodox ways. Some usable items are classified as utilities, and while these objects may cause damage to enemies in some cases, the intent of utility items is generally to offer worms additional mobility or defensive options. Weapons can be selected either by right-clicking in order to bring up a weapon selection panel or by hitting their associated function key.

Bazooka

Bazooka

  • Damage: Up to 50 HP
  • Hotkey: F1
One of the go-to weapons of Worms, the Bazooka fires a single explosive shell in a trajectory and at a velocity determined by the player. Provided that it successfully finds its target, it does a solid amount of damage and causes a fair amount of concussive force as well. It also destroys a sizable chunk of the surrounding landscape. Bazooka usage is unlimited by default, and it can be extremely useful to skilled players. Its course is heavily influenced by wind, however, requiring some amount of compensation in gusty conditions.
Homing Missile

Homing Missile

  • Damage: Up to 50 HP
  • Hotkey: F1 (2x)
The Homing Missile is similar to the Bazooka in many respects, though it has one crucial difference. Prior to being fired, the player is able to select a point on the map that the Homing Missile will zero in on after it takes flight. Though it's tracking capability is far from perfect, with foresight it can be used to hit almost any target that is not hidden underground. Due to the increased accuracy over the Bazooka, it is easier to propel worms in a desired direction with it, though just like the Bazooka it is affected by wind.
Grenade

Grenade

  • Damage: Up to 50 HP
  • Hotkey: F2
Being equal in strength to the Bazooka, the Grenade is another of Worms' staple weapons, and similarly it is a deadly weapon in the hands of a seasoned player. One of the Grenade's main advantages is the fact that it is not affected by wind at all, and thus two Grenades thrown at the same angle and strength will always have the same trajectory. A Grenade also does not explode on impact, but instead possesses an adjustable fuse that automatically detonates it after a preselected number of seconds (between one and five).
Cluster Bomb

Cluster Bomb

  • Damage: Up to 25 HP per impact
  • Hotkey: F2 (2x)
The Cluster Bomb takes after the Grenade in terms of its low susceptibility to wind and adjustable fuse length. Once the fuse is detonated, it splits into five distinct explosives that scatter and fall to the ground, causing additional damage to any worms within a short vicinity of the initial blast. While each individual explosion is less damaging than the force of a Grenade, combined they can cause far greater damage. The natural target for a Cluster Bomb is not a single worm but a gathering of enemy worms situated fairly close to each other.
Banana Bomb

Banana Bomb

  • Damage: Up to 75 HP per impact
  • Hotkey: F2 (2x)
The Banana Bomb can be thought of as a version of the Cluster Bomb, though a far more destructive one. After a Banana Bomb has been thrown and its timer expires, five deadly bananas are unleashed that fly into the air and explode immediately upon contact with the ground. Each banana is akin to a single stick of Dynamite, and the combined detonation can kill several worms, or even an entire team of worms, relatively easily. Due to its potentially enormous area of effect, the Banana Bomb is a frequent source of self-injury.
Shotgun

Shotgun

  • Damage: Up to 25 HP per shot
  • Hotkey: F3
The Shotgun is one of three point-and-shoot firearm weapons in Worms, and its main distinction over its brethren is the ability to shoot twice in a single turn. Even though the damage it causes with each shot is somewhat on the low side, it affords some strategic possibilities that are not possible with other weapons. A player can use it, for example, to attack two different worms in a single turn even if they are not close to one another; alternately, it can be used to attack once before using the remainder of the turn to seek a defensive position.
Uzi

Uzi

  • Damage: Up to 50 HP
  • Hotkey: F3 (2x)
Using the Uzi unleashes a short stream of bullets in a specified direction. If all hits connect, it causes a significant amount of damage, and there are other benefits to the weapon as well, as it creates a significant amount of pushback that can be used to propel enemy worms into hazards such as mines or water. The downside of this property is that it is at times difficult to get the maximum amount of damage from the weapon. Perhaps the best way to ensure this is to use the Uzi against enemies that have their backs against a wall.
Minigun

Minigun

  • Damage: Up to 75 HP
  • Hotkey: F3 (2x)
The Minigun is essentially a more deadly version of the Uzi, and as such its applications are fairly similar. Like the Uzi, it is unlikely that all bullets will hit their target unless said worm is pinned against a solid surface, though the damage boost of the Minigun makes this drawback less of an issue. It is an extremely good tool for pushing worms around the landscape and into peril. Because of its wide bullet spread, the Minigun is best used from close range, though care should be taken, as it is possible to damage oneself with it.
Fire Punch

Fire Punch

  • Damage: 30 HP
  • Hotkey: F4
Upon activating the Fire Punch ability, a worm will unleash a Street Fighter-inspired Dragon Punch that damages an opponent and sends them flying across the map. The trajectory of the Fire Punch's knockback is arguably its most advantageous attribute, as the actual injury caused by the attack is somewhat modest. More often than not, the Fire Punch is either used to knock an opponent off of a precipice, hopefully to their death, or as a stylish way of finishing off a worm that is nearly dead already. It can also strike worms above the player.
Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball

  • Damage: 30 HP
  • Hotkey: F4 (2x)
The Dragon Ball ability creates a short-range fireball that damages the first worm it touches. It is similar to the Fire Punch in many ways, and even does the same amount of damage on hit, though it is more horizontally oriented. This goes not only for the attack itself, which travels horizontally as opposed to the Fire Punch's vertical movement, but also the result of the attack. Enemies hit by a Dragon Ball will be thrown a great distance but will not gain much altitude, which can be used to great effect to push worms into mines or water.
Dynamite

Dynamite

  • Damage: Up to 75 HP
  • Hotkey: F5
A simple yet undeniably powerful weapon, the Dynamite stick is a dropped explosive device with an extremely large blast radius. Since it must be placed manually, the user is required afterwards to beat a hasty retreat lest they fall victim to their own destructive predilections. It leaves a very large crater in its wake, and any worms within its range when it detonates sustain heavy damage. Dynamite is the most potent weapon in Worms that is not considered to be a "super weapon," and by default it is available in very limited supply.
Mine

Mine

  • Damage: Up to 50 HP
  • Hotkey: F5 (2x)
Deployed in the same manner as the Dynamite stick, the Mine may be a step down in terms of power, but it has uses that Dynamite does not. It can of course be placed directly on top of a worm so that it will activate and explode immediately, but it can also be used as a defensive tool, which can be particularly useful in securing underground tunnels. Against A.I opponents, its defensive utility is somewhat diminished, as computer worms tend to move around far less than human ones, reducing the chances of mine activation significantly.
Sheep

Sheep

  • Damage: Up to 75 HP
  • Hotkey: F5 (2x)
Seemingly innocuous at a glance, the Sheep is in truth one of the deadliest weapons in Worms. Once released, the Sheep will amble along while trying to bound over any obstacles it might encounter. When the fire button is pressed a second time, the Sheep will detonate, creating a blast equal to Dynamite in terms of its size and lethality. The Sheep negates one of the primary drawbacks of Dynamite, that being that players must place it themselves; Sheep can have some difficulty navigating uneven terrain, though, so flat surfaces work best.
Air Strike

Air Strike

  • Damage: Up to 75 HP
  • Hotkey: F6
Calling in an Air Strike orders an aircraft to perform a bombing run over a targeted area. When initiated, the player is asked to select a target zone in a manner similar to the target selection of the Homing Missile; in the case of the Air Strike, the selected point is then used as the bull's eye for an immediate missile bombardment. Explosives fall in a fairly large area around the target, making it an attractive way to cause heavy damage to a large cluster of worms, though it does require a fairly clear path to its target in order to be effective.
Teleport

Teleport

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F6 (2x)
The Worms equivalent of a Get Out of Jail Free card, the Teleport instantaneously transports a single worm to any point on the map the player so desires. This can be used in situations where a worm is surrounded by hostile worms, and it is also a popular way to collect weapon crates. Using a teleport immediately ends the worm's turn, so it is important to ensure that doing so will not leave the player vulnerable to attack in subsequent turns. As the most powerful movement tool in the game, its use is severely restricted by default.
Blow Torch

Blow Torch

  • Damage: 15 HP per hit
  • Hotkey: F7
The Blow Torch allows a worm to carve into the environment either horizontally or at an angle. While it does cause a pittance of damage to worms in its path, the primary purpose of the Blow Torch is in tunneling through the map to reach new areas or building underground defensive structures that shield worms against attack. This is a particularly vexing problem for opposing worms, as burrowed worms can't be attacked easily in many scenarios, often forcing players to waste several turns in an attempt to infiltrate or destroy enemy defenses.
Drill

Drill

  • Damage: 15 HP per hit
  • Hotkey: F7 (2x)
Unlike the Blow Torch, the Drill burrows into the environment in only one direction: down. Though this is not intended for offensive purposes, it has more damage potential than the Blow Torch, as a worm can in some cases become stuck in the hole created by the Drill and continue to take damage. Unfortunately, worms who use the Drill to escape enemy fire are more vulnerable to attack than those hidden in horizontal tunnels. This is because it is a fairly simple matter to drop a Grenade, Cluster Bomb, or other ordinance on their heads.
Ninja Rope

Ninja Rope

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F8
Aside from walking and jumping, the Ninja Rope is arguably the most important means of locomotion in Worms. Casting a Ninja Rope will attach a worm to any solid surface via rope, and from there the player is free to extend and retract the rope and also swing back and forth to gain momentum. In this way players are able to rapidly traverse large sections of the map and access areas that might otherwise be inaccessible. Most importantly, using the Ninja Rope does not end the player's turn, leaving worms free to attack their foes afterwards.
Bungee

Bungee

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F8 (2x)
Having the Bungee utility selected allows the player the freedom to walk off of cliffs without fear of sustaining fall damage. Dropping from a precipice activates the item automatically, and from there the player can control their movements on the Bungee cord. It behaves somewhat like a springier version of the Ninja Rope, and like the Ninja Rope the player can detach from it at any time by hitting the fire button. The player's turn does not end once the worm dismounts the cord, so the remainder of their turn can be played out as normal.
Girder

Girder

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F9
Offering a number of strategic possibilities, the Girder utility is the only usable item in Worms that creates a terrain feature rather than destroying one. Using a Girder allows the player to place a long solid metal beam that acts like all other solid objects in the game. For allied worms, this can be a useful means of protection or a way to assist mobility, and it can also be used as a way to restrict the movements of enemy worms. Girders can have their orientation rotated at will and their size adjusted prior to being placed on the map.
Kamikaze

Kamikaze

  • Damage: 30 HP
  • Hotkey: F10
True to its name, the Kamikaze attack is a one-way proposition for any worm that chooses to utilize it. The idea is that the worm in question will fly forth and explode violently, causing damage to enemy worms while sending them flying. Since worms are the player's most valued resource, it is a tool to be avoided if at all possible. The ideal candidate for a Kamikaze attack is a worm that is near death and would likely die before their next turn anyway. Even so, it is usually only worth considering if the blast will affect multiple worms.
Prod

Prod

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F11
The Prod is the ultimate Worms insult: an attack that does no damage. By standing next to another worm and issuing a Prod command, the player's worm will give a gently nudge to the adjacent worm that will push them forward ever so slightly. Nothing more, nothing less. The only practical application of this ability is in the event that an enemy worm can be pushed off of or into something, and even then there are weapons that can accomplish the same while also causing damage directly. It is used primarily to humiliate an opponent.
Skip Go

Skip Go

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F9 (2x)
As it implies, Skip Go allows a player to prematurely end their worm's turn without taking any further action. This can be useful if a worm has no viable means of attack or if the player simply wishes to force their opponent's hand. If a worm is burrowed safely underground, for instance, a player might decide to skip their turn rather than risk retaliation by leaving and going on the offensive. Skipping a turn also has the effect of allowing more turns before the onset of Sudden Death, which is activated based on play time rather than turn count.
Surrender

Surrender

  • Damage: None
  • Hotkey: F10 (2x)
By selecting Surrender and pressing the fire button a player can at any point raise the proverbial white flag and remove themselves from play voluntarily. In a two-player match, this ends the round automatically, though if two or more players remain after a Surrender then play will continue until only one team remains. It should be noted that surrendered worms will remain on the playing field even after they are no longer in competition; aside from their lack of any agency in the match, these worms behave as they normally would.

Reception

Worms was fairly well-received upon its release in 1995, and many critics commending it for having easy-to-grasp yet strategic gameplay, a humorous, lighthearted presentation, and a great deal of customization options and replayability. The original version received a great deal of positive attention from the Amiga gaming press, with a large number of review scores falling within the ninetieth percentile. Ironically, Amiga Format, the very same British publication that had failed to acknowledge Davidson's game when he submitted it into their yearly Amiga game competition, issued a glowing post-release review of Worms in their 1995 Christmas issue, saying that it "thoroughly deserves to be a real smash."

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