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Have You Played... Worms?

The original, not one of the million sequels

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Worms feels like a joke now: by my count there have been 23 games in the main series, and that’s not including the Facebook version or pinball and mini golf-themed spinoffs. It feels like so much iteration – or milking – glumly undermines the simplicity and silliness of the original I loved as a kid.

Games in which two players too turns to fire weighty projectiles at one another were relatively common in the mid-’90s, but Worms went a step further by i) starring worms, not tanks and ii) having an arsenal of weapons that went further than mere rocket shells. There were bouncy exploding sheep, dividing and destructive banana bombs, hilariously useless grappling hooks. It was a multiplayer game that recognised that its competition would be twice as compelling if there was a chance you could kill your friend in the silliest, most dramatic way imaginable. Worms was the Gang Beasts of its day.

It was also my first experience with level design. Its destructible terrain was simply a bitmap image, meaning you could create your own in Microsoft Paint and have your friends hop inside. I did what every kid did and made a level that was almost entirely solid, with each player spawning inside an underground bubble and weapons being used to tunnel towards one another. It was fun for five minutes – at least for the person who created the level.

I haven’t played a Worms game in years, so it’s entirely possible that recent versions are every bit as silly, simple and fun as the original. It’s also extremely possible there’s a generation of children playing Worms now just as I did, who would have been denied the experience if it still ran at the lowly resolution it did back in 1995. I probably should be happier it’s still around. But I’m not. Worms’ gleeful destruction was innocent in a way barely-different sequels are not, and so I choose to leave the series in the past.

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Graham Smith

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