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Latest 'Worms' turns on defense

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

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A squad of worms can construct defensive fortifications in "Worms: Forts Under Siege."
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Nearly 10 years ago, a little-known British game developer, Team 17, introduced the world to a quirky strategy game called "Worms."

The premise: Two warring squads of worms are spread out on a huge map and take turns using devastating but zany weapons to destroy each other. The last team standing wins.

The silly game has inspired many sequels over the years, but the latest release, "Worms: Forts Under Siege," adds a new spin to the title's traditional game play.

"Under Siege" includes a defensive component. Instead of just choosing which weapons to fire at an opposing squad of worms, you can now build towers, walls and ramparts to protect your four-worm platoon.

You also must build hospitals to heal wounded worms and construct libraries and weapons labs to research new armaments that your worms can use against enemies.

Similar to chess, "Under Siege" is a turn-based strategy title. You take turns with computer-controlled or human opponents and only have limited time each turn to add a new building and still fire a weapon against your enemy's base.

Weapons in the game include traditional munitions such as grenades, missiles and land mines as well as ludicrous ones, such as the Chili Con Carnage bomb that wears a sombrero and explodes into flaming bits. You also catapult a live caribou, a refrigerator or a horde of nasty monkeys. If you're close enough to the opposing team, worms can also don red headbands and punch rival worms with giant fists.

Sure, the game play sounds silly, and the humorous animations add to the fun, but you'll need a lot of tactical savoir-faire to successfully demolish the enemy --and now, the enemy's base. A tip: Consider wind speed and direction when firing projectile weapons if you want to win on one of the outdoor levels.

The single-player games include a Quick Play mode (against the game's artificial intelligence), a story-based "campaign mode" and a "trials game" that serves up a random map each time it's played. Once missions are completed, "Under Siege" unlocks new weapons, buildings, fort styles and environments.

Multiplayer options include "hot-seat" play for as many as four players at the same screen, while the Xbox and PC versions also support Internet play for online gaming.

"Under Siege" has a few shortcomings, such as a slight hiccup in the action after part of a building is struck by weapons, which can affect the smoothness of the game's animation. Some awkward camera angles can make it difficult to gain a clear view of your worm's environment.

You can download a 503-megabyte PC version of the game from TryMedia (http://www.trygames.com/external link) and play for 60 minutes before you are asked to pay $29.99 for the complete game. The PS2 and Xbox versions are only $19.99 apiece, which is considerably cheaper than most new console games.

Whether or not you've played a Worms game before, "Worms: Forts Under Siege" is a fun but tough strategy game with a sense of humor.


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