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Worms Rumble

8 August, 2021 - 3:20 pm by
About 11 mins to read
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

The sole meaning of life is to MaKe MoRe BaTtLe RoYaLe GaMeS

Leo Tolstoy

Or something like that.There isn’t a rock big enough for you to live under to miss these; you’ve all played arena shooters and battle royale games by now, or at least be aware of what they are. As a genre, they’re usually fun and even the ropey ones have their moments. You can happily sink hours and hours into them, and that isn’t wasted time as long as you’re enjoying yourself. And with the introduction of Worms Rumble, Team17 have added another title to the popular genre. 

At A Glance

Visuals6 /10
Sound6 /10
Gameplay7 /10
Overall6 /10
Positives+ Easy to learn, hard to master 
 + Fun movement controls 
 + Bursts of intense action 
Negatives– Matchmaking hit and miss 
 – Chaotic visuals impair gameplay  
 – No strategy  
Launch Price£10.99
Our Playtime7 hours
Available OnPS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One 

Unlike earlier games in the Worms franchise, Worms Rumble is a 2D arena shooter. It’s multiplayer only with no single-player campaign, and there’s no offline mode vs bots on offer. Jumping into the game you’re given a training session to get used to the controls, which are all fairly sensible. Jump, reload etc. are all on the ‘right’ buttons, and muscle memory from similar games will quickly kick in. You’ll also have a chance to familiarise yourself with the various pickups in the game; from different flavours of weapon, mobility powerups and health and armour boosts.  After the training you can start dropping into matches or go and customize your worm if that’s your preference.

Someone looking over your shoulder at the main menu might be forgiven for thinking you’re playing Fortnite. The UI is astonishingly similar, with many of the same tropes that you see in battle royale games the world over. There’s a challenge system where you might need to deal a certain amount of damage in a particular game mode, or score a double-kill with a Holy Hand grenade. There’s a cosmetic system to customise your worm, and if you like hats then you’ll be very happy as there are many many hats. Then there’s the DLC store where you can buy packs of cosmetics or gun skins with a familiar “store-front” setup. 

There are 4 main game modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Squad Standing, and Last Worm Standing. A special rotating game mode “The Labs” offers an adjusted ruleset of one of the main modes too where, for example, players might have infinite ammo, missile weapons and double health. Deathmatch is straightforward, with 32 worms on a map who all shoot each other, and Team Deathmatch is the same except players are split into two teams of 16. Last Squad Standing splits the players again, but this time into teams of four, and the map starts fully open,  with zones becoming toxic over time, making the available space smaller as time goes on. Last Worm Standing uses this format too, except you’re a lone worm in a free for all.

The ‘Last Standing’ modes are a tough sell. Being downed early in a game and having to go through the entire process of backing out to the main menu, matchmaking, and waiting on a new match kills the flow completely. Especially since the core mechanics of Worms Rumble focuses on fast paced action and high damage output. These modes have you spending more time on a loading screen than in a match, at least until you find your feet and your survival is a little more guaranteed. (Do worms even have feet?)

Matches last 4:30 each and are chaotic. The pace you’re expected to play at is incredibly rapid and Team17 have leaned heavily into the idea that more power equals more fun. The weapons are mad! You spawn with a random low-tier weapon in each match and have to search for something more meaty, and if you don’t find anything then you’ll feel horribly underpowered against your opponents. The pickup weapons are over-the-top powerful – Banana Bombs and Holy Hand Grenades can clear a room in moments; the Sheep Launcher (yes, sheep explode – that is normal – go back to school), can be utterly oppressive, rapid firing exploding sheep down a corridor. It’s a lot of fun if you are the one doing the shooting but you’ll often be on the receiving end, and that can be a frustrating experience. 

Movement is fun, and worms can tuck and roll to move faster for a limited time, offering speedy redeployment that feels remarkably similar to the Splatoon squid transformation. It means that when you die (and you will), you can get back into the fight in short order or bail out of a fight you know you can’t win. There’s certainly a learning curve getting used to using the roll, grappling hook, wall jumps, and jetpack, which can be frustrating at first, but once you have it down the matches become an absolute joy. Once you get used to the mechanics and your aim dials in with the bullet speed, you’ll be having a blast – it’s frantic but fun and Team17 have executed the design very well. 

My only niggle with the core gameplay is that sometimes it’s tricky to see opponents, projectiles or even your own worm, when the combat heats up. Playing on the Switch, I tried the game in Handheld, Tabletop and Docked Modes and it’s often difficult to see if you are hitting the target you’re shooting at no matter how you choose to play. It can lead to some feel-bad moments where you think you’ve died unfairly, but the reality is that you probably didn’t see a grenade at your feet. (I’ve since googled it; worms do NOT have feet.) 

Audio feedback does help with recognising danger though; in fact, the sound design is on point. Each projectile hit is accompanied with a satisfying splat sound, and effects for weapons and explosions do their job well. I particularly enjoyed the Holy Hand Grenades’ “Hallelujah” sound that gave me vivid flashbacks to the old days of Worms Armageddon. There’s one lame duck in the sound department though, in the “Noooo” sound that every worm makes upon taking damage – you’ll hear it a lot, and it really gets old. The music is a bit generic and forgettable too, but since you hear it so much it’s probably a good thing that it fades into the background. 

If you come to the Worms franchise demanding strategic gameplay then this entry will disappoint you. There’s next to no strategic gameplay in Worms Rumble; the optimal play seems to be to run towards the action and shoot at the nearest thing that moves. You can hide in vents or go looking for better equipment but frankly, the matches are too short for you to mess about with any of that. Especially if your goal is to grind out those sweet, sweet EXP points. 

Your worm accrues experience based on your performance in a match and you unlock more weapon skins and cosmetics for your worm as you level up. My playtime showed that the player skill levels are split down the middle, with half the players at the max Level of 50, and the other half under Level 10, including many Level 1 players. Those Level 50 players are a force to be reckoned with and float effortlessly around the map assassinating everything in their way while everyone else flails around, blowing themselves up with bad grenade throws and shooting the walls more than other worms. As I elected to enable cross-play (which was offered the first time I started),  I imagine that some of those gods amongst us insects were coming from the PC version. 

Battle Royale games live and die on the concurrent player count, and mainly playing on weekends I had a good experience with wait times for matches – never more than 3 or 4 minutes each. And with the map load times being only 20 seconds or so, you can get into a game and into the action rapidly, which is a refreshing change to the standard BR and arena shooter. After years of games where you might have to wait 5-10 minutes from pushing the play button to your first few shots at an opponent, Worms Rumble‘s fast paced arena shooter mechanics have been a welcome breath of fresh air. 

There’s always a danger in reviewing games where the only appeal is online multiplayer as it could still be going strong when a reader buys the game, or it could end up being ghost town in 6 months. At the time of writing, I had a reasonable experience matchmaking on Deathmatch and Last Worm Standing, but the Team Modes are problematic. I’d say that in six out of ten games the team balancing was broken, and many times I entered them to find 16 worms on one side and only three or four on the other, which makes for a frustrating experience whichever side you’re on. I do worry about the longevity of the community and if the critical mass of engaged players can remain for long enough to make it a worthwhile buy. 

Worms Rumble is a fun time for anyone familiar with fast paced action shooters. It’s a shallow experience but it’s aiming to be fun, not to tell a story and it does a pretty good job with it. Although not a first person shooter or a true battle royale game, there are plenty of notes here for fans of those genres to enjoy, and it might scratch a part of your brain that’s been missing the flow state of a simple arena shooter. Worth a try if nothing else. 

In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.

Our Rating