Worms Revolution hands-on preview - the Worms are back in glorious 2D!

We can’t be the only ones with Worms in our hearts! These squishy, squeaky-voiced little devils have an arsenal that rivals Wile E. Coyote’s biggest Acme order for volume and sheer ridiculousness. We’ve spent many a night crowded on the couch with four friends, passing a laptop between us, taking swipes at each other’s teams of little pink miscreants. Needless to say, we were pretty excited to try Worms Revolution. It brings the series back to its 2D roots, but not without introducing updated graphics, new game modes, and even a class system - but don’t worry purists! There’s a Classic game mode just for you.

Even if you’re not nostalgic for the series, Worms Revolution is worth your attention. The worms games have always been an excellent blend of twitch gameplay, nuanced tactics and totally bonkers humor. For the uninitiated, each player controls a gang of worms tasked with murdering the other team, either by knocking them out of the arena, or by blasting them with all manner of bizarre weaponry. Armed with everything from shotguns, karate chops, Banana Bombs, Holy Hand Grenades, Super Sheep and the beloved Concrete Donkey, there’s a lot to at your disposal for offing your fellow worms. Most weapons are fired in arcs, so getting a kill is a matter of judging angles and nailing timing. You can also blast and burrow through the deformable terrain, letting opponents drown in the drink below.

Just like in the classic Worms Armageddon, in Worms Revolution the map itself is as much your enemy as your wormy foes. The Ninja Rope, which now waves and warbles thanks to a modern physics engine, is still the high point of precision play. The clock is your enemy as well, since each player’s turn is about 25 seconds. We were feeling the pressure as we struggled to rappel our way over to an enemy, plant a bomb at his feet and make it back to safety in time. We didn’t, and met a with a watery grave just like our enemy. No big loss though, the chaos of over-powered weaponry and destructible environments is exactly what makes a Worms game so fun. It’s like playing dominoes with dynamite, you can never calculate all the chaos a grenade or two will cause.

With a name like Worms Revolution, Team17 knows they need to provide some gameplay evolution, and the British developer certainly has. The game now features dynamic water as a hazard. We used weapons to uncork water bottles and beakers strewn about the map, unleashing liquid that flowed into the nooks and crannies of the terrain. Thankfully, it's not as deadly as the briny deep below every map. Instead of instant death, any worm caught with his head under water will lose some health on every turn. The next big addition is Fort mode, where teams start off in their own heavily protected bases. To take out the other team, we had to make our way into the enemy battlements, or crack the fort wide open with artillery to get at the enemies inside. How’s that for opening up a can of worms?

The new class system introduces four distinct types of worms to control. The Soldier is your classic worm, a balanced jack-of-all-trades. Then there’s the slow moving, bullet absorbing Heavy worm - this guy does extra damage with weapons and chews up more terrain with each blast. He's literally heavy, good luck knocking him in the drink! Next is the Scientist, we immediately identified him by his enlarged cranium. Having this worm around heals your team each time he takes a turn, plus he builds more effective Girders and Sentry Guns. Last is our favorite, the Scout. He moves the fastest and digs slim tunnels only he and other Scout worms can use. For an even deeper level of strategy, players can build teams composed of whatever worm types they like.

The Worms games have always been about multiplayer, local or online, but Revolution doesn't skimp on the single player. It's even narrated nature documentary style by English comedian Matt Berry - you might remember him from such British comedies as The IT Crows and Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. There's online play too, of course, but the real treat with this series has always been local multiplayer. It’s just so much fun to bomb and beat an opponent’s worms while he waits helplessly for his turn, plotting his revenge.

The mix of turn-based style, lively animation and explosive gameplay make Worms Revolution play like a living board game. With a release date planned for September, it’ll be hitting Steam, PSN and the Xbox Live Marketplace right in time for the holidays.

Alex Roth