A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game is the latest in the long-running Worms franchise, which features small worms firing rockets and throwing grenades at one another in fully destroyable two-dimensional environments. The violence is pretty much non-stop, but it's directed entirely at worms, is highly cartoonish, and lacks even a hint of blood or gore. The edge is further removed thanks to some genuinely funny, all-ages quips spouted by the worms before and after attacks. This is most appropriate for tweens, who could have a fun time playing in groups of up to four players in the same room.
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What's it about?
No matter how many times we karate chop them, blow them up with deranged lambs, or nudge them off cliffs, the worms just keep coming back. WORMS: A SPACE ODDITY, roughly the gazillionth game in the Worms franchise, might be the annelids' first outing on the Wii, but it will nonetheless feel very familiar to anyone with previous experience playing these 2-D, turn-based strategy games.
Same formula as always: Players command small groups of creepy crawlies as they wiggle their way across the screen to destroy their equally legless enemies. The differences this time out are the sci-fi settings and the fact that you get to use the Wii's motion sensitive and infrared controls to issue commands.
Is it any good?
Worms: A Space Oddity has an uneasy relationship with Nintendo's slender white controller. Tossing weapons like grenades by first pressing the B-button to control strength and then flicking your wrist in a throwing motion proves both more intuitive and precise than the series' traditional hold-down-a-button-and-let-go-at-just-the-right-time method. But using the same thumb to control both movement (via the d-pad) and jumping (the A-button directly underneath) is a little awkward, especially for those with small hands. Overall, it's an improvement in the way you interact with your worms, but it will take time for franchise fans to grow accustomed to the new controls.
Once players figure out the controls, it's pretty much business as usual. As always, you can customize your worms' names, appearance, and voices (there are several hilarious new personality types, including a mock-grave narrator), construct your own maps, and choose whether to play the single-player campaign or local multi-player matches. We recommend multi-player; four-player Worms games have always been -- and remain -- a terrific social gaming experience. Aside from a few new space-y weapons, like the UFO air strike and the Atom Pack explosive charge, the only legitimately fresh content is found in a handful of mini-games. One of these challenges sees players using the Wii remote's motion-sensitive functionality to pilot a little rocket ship through a rocky cavern, while another involves sorting and placing shapes to create an object. Fairly fun stuff, but, like the rest of the game, not particularly ground-breaking. It's probably not worth $50 if you have any of the more recent console-based Worms titles, but worth a look if you're new to the series and on the prowl for a simple and casual multi-player game.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the delicate relationship between violence and humor. Is the game funny despite its violence because its characters and settings are clearly unrealistic and cartoonlike? Would the game have been less funny and more unsettling had the characters been humans instead of worms? Families can also discuss the multi-player experience. Do you find that Worms games, which allow plenty of free time between turns, are more conducive to socializing with friends than games in which all participants must constantly focus on the action? When you play a Worms game with friends, is your goal to win, or simply to have a good time?
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