UK-based Team17 have been busy bunnies of late, looking through their back catalogue and picking some IPs ripe for updating. The 90s are the target: Superfrog from 1993 (Amiga and PC) and Worms, from 1995. Superfrog is given an HD shine and some shiny new levels, whilst Worms is graced with a full sequel: Worms 3.
Superfrog HD does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. You can play the original 1993 levels with updated graphics, and aside from the introductory story (You’re a prince! You like the princess! Witch steals her! You’re a frog! Drink Lucozade! Become super! What?) losing its full animation and becoming a slightly disappointing set of stills, the experience is not far removed from its retro sibling. Team17 have also provided new levels; they’re certainly based on the originals, but, if one were to be slightly cynical, have been made a little easier for a generation gamers less likely to have been brought up on the pretty unrelenting platforming of the 90s.
The traditional game mechanics are all in place. There’s enemies, spikes, jumping, coin collecting, and some switches to make doors open. The levels are brightly coloured, and the music is appropriately jaunty. As with the original, you can collect speed boosts and a pair of wings, the latter of which let Superfrog descend slowly onto deviously-placed spikes rather than barrelling into them face first. As well as your fresh new levels, there is an endless runner mode, in which you can rack up high scores until an angry bee ends you in a fit of spite.
Superfrog HD is pretty tough. The platforming requires precision, and Superfrog’s big, quite floaty jump lends itself to accidentally catching on the corner of a spike or robot. Some of the collision detection feels a bit suspect at times; there were plenty of occasions when I could have sworn I landed right in the middle of an enemy, only to have Superfrog keel over. The wimp.
There are plenty of restart points which makes life easier, but the game is light on extra lives (they have to be well and truly earned with judicious fruit collecting and exploring all the numerous hidden areas), and certain obstacles kill you straight away. You’ll see the game over screen a fair few times. This isn’t to say that the difficulty is a bad thing; if you’re up for a challenge, then you’ll enjoy negotiating the levels, uncovering the secret areas, and beating the clock. If you’re looking for something a little more casual, it’s worth trying elsewhere. This ain’t no Nintendo-style ‘here, have some more continues’ gaming.
With six worlds’ worth of original levels, plus new levels, and the endless runner mode, there’s plenty here for your money, particularly if you like to 100% your games. If you were a fan of the original game, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this. It’s a faithful reproduction of the levels and mechanics and spirit of 1993, and certainly worth your time. If you like your gaming a little less tough, you may find this a little frustrating, but it’s a nice piece of gaming history to experience.
Moving on slightly in the decade, the original Worms was a hit on every platform Team 17 could find at the time, and deservedly so. The premise was simple and bizarre, and had a really catchy theme tune. For Worms 3, the simplicity and good humour has been retained. And the theme tune has been remixed, you’ll find it by hanging about on the menu screen for a while. Top tip.
Worms 3 is the same basic premise as before: your team of 4 worms are dropped into a deformable landscape with an array of weapons, and your aim is to demolish all the enemy worms in turn-based play. For this sequel, playing cards have been introduced. You can find cards that will, amongst many other things, reveal the contents of all the crates in the landscape, prevent enemy worms from having retreat time, or increase the amount of damage enemy worms take during a turn. Certain cards are played for one turn, others are played for the duration of the match. Cards are bought with coins that you’ll earn by taking part in single-and multiplayer campaigns. It’s a new level of tactics, and will keep even veteran Worms fans interested.
If playing cards aren’t enough for you, there’s also now worm classes. You can mix and match your teams with any type you want, in any combination. Soldiers are all-rounders, doing a decent amount of damage and traversing the landscape well. Scouts are little guys who take a lot of damage easily, but they’re the smallest and quickest at moving. Heavy guys are, as expected, big and tough, dealing a lot of damage but are relatively immobile. The Scientist class seems to have the fewest applications, as a sort of support role that benefits your other worms. Adapting your worm classes to fit your playing style is strongly recommended.
The game works extremely well on its new iOS home. The controls are accurate (your own dodgy distance-judging notwithstanding), employing an on-screen d-pad for moving and aiming, and buttons for jumping and accessing your arsenal. The weapons include the ‘traditional’ boom sticks you would expect such as sheep, old ladies, and the ever-satisfying hadouken. There are some excellent new additions, too. Without wishing to spoil too many surprises, Nora’s Virus is particularly amusing.
Worms 3 also looks good. The visuals are bright and vivid, and the worms have a nice range of animations to give them some personality. The voice acting, as expected, does a great deal for characterization too. The little yelp that comes from a worm at the end of a dynamite-related countdown will raise a smile on the most concrete-hearted of players. There isn’t too much variety in the voices, so you may find yourself getting a little tired of some of the phrases, but the game would be far poorer without them. It runs smoothly, although the camera does start to get a bit strange in later levels with lots of worms present; it will struggle to focus on the current action and you might miss just who has been catapulted off a ledge.
As well as a thoroughly enjoyable single-player campaign, Worms 3 includes a well-implemented online mode. It’s turn-based a la Words With Friends, so you don’t have to commit fifteen minutes at a time if you don’t fancy it. After placing your worms, the app will notify you when the other player has had their turn, and will replay you the most recent action so you can see exactly what’s just happened. It’s sturdy and kept track of three ranked games at a time without falling over. If you’d prefer, you can just play friendly games, and if you have no online access but some friends around, there’s a play and pass mode.
The gameplay is much as you’d expect if you’ve played a prequel. The skill is in deciding which weapon to use in combination with the wind direction, the conveniently scattered mines and oil drums, and where you can get the heck away in a rush. The enemy worm AI in the single player campaign isn’t too tough, so if you want to test your mettle, there’s a survival mode that pits you against worms that get ever stronger and more cunning (and some might say cheaty, but whatever).
As with Superfrog HD, there’s a heck of a lot of content here, far more than you might expect from an iOS game. It would have been very easy for Team17 to phone in updates to both titles and coast on the names of their IPs, but both games have clearly been lovingly worked on to make the most of the basic gameplay mechanics and produce worthwhile standalone experiences. Whilst Superfrog HD might have more of a draw if you were a fan of the original, anyone who fancies a meaty platforming challenge should investigate it. It will draw you in with its brightly-coloured, jaunty stylings, and will make you stay for that just-one-more-try compulsive level completion. Worms 3 is a joy to play, right at home on iOS, and retains all the charm and humour it had way back when.
If you have some money jangling around your Steam or iOS pockets, you could do far worse than picking up these two titles. Install them and have a thoroughly good time.
A PC version of Superfrog HD and an iOS version of Worms 3 were provided for this review.