[ Monday, 4 May 2009, Adam M. ]
I remember the old times, when we would gather the whole family, and with impunity besiege the computer without a break.
It was a time of the Worms series reign, a reign that we all enjoyed. Though the initial release hit the skies in 1994, I have never forgotten the past, and it was one of the most wanted Linux games when it happened to convert to it.
Now years have passed, technology has evolved and new possibilities have appeared, but I still look back to those golden years, when computing was most fun, and gaming was most addictive.
If you have similar feelings, I’ve got some good news for you! You don’t need to employ Wine or another (non-)emulator to bring back time anymore.
There is an open source alternative, that can easily replace the King with dignity. The project I am talking about is called Hedgewars, and though it’s been here for some time (first released in 2004), it seems to have gone unnoticed by many and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Before we begin, you deserve a few words explanation on what the Worms game actually is.
Worms is a turn based artillery game developed by Team17 and released in 1994. It resembles other games of the genre such as Scorched Earth. It’s much more developed though as it combines plenty of game types. It can be considered an artillery game, a logical one, arcade or strategic… and even as a platform game! It all depends on the situation on field. It’s really addictive mixture, so beware not to abuse. The original game is still under development, however I find the so called ‘third generation of Worms’ is pretty different game with different goals and different treatment, that actually killed whole playability in my opinion. Beginning with Worms 3D, Worms era ended – not that it’s so bad, it’s yet another overdo. You can find no PC versions available anymore (I mean the classic ones), and I feel like it went one step too far and left the fans behind. Enough of these personal thoughts, let’s get back to the game philosophy.
As a player, you control a team of worms, and have to ‘dispose’ your ammo to your enemies – other worms team controlled either by another human player or a computer. There’s some impressive equipment to help you with that, so don’t worry, you can do it! The more lead-resistant team wins the match which is divided into three separate rounds. Sounds interesting? Well, too bad that there’s no Linux alternative…I mean…there wasn’t because now we can play Hedgewars!
There is a Unix Worms-like game, called Hedgewars, developed by a Russian programmer Andrey Korotaev. It might be hard to believe, but hedges have been there since 2004, so don’t waste any time and proceed with the review. It’s free and open source project, GPL v.2 based, and more importantly – it’s available for Linux, Windows, and MacOS supporting both – 32, and 64 bit architecture.
For review purposes, I have used the latest release available, 0.9.10.
The first look after starting the game brings back the past memories. The artwork seems to be solid, fresh and appealing, and it also – as the game itself – it maintains the standards set by the original predecessor. As in Worms, you can either play against your computer, or choose
the more addictive, multiplayer option against your friend(s). More over, you can start the bloodshed over the Internet since Hedgewars offers this option too. This was not so common in the original Worms. Well, at least you had to apply a special game patch to make it playable over the net. Now you have this by default, which is very impressive and brings playability to a higher level.
At this point I have to mention, that there are some other, alternative solutions such as Wormux project, which is a great game for sure, but sadly I do not consider it as a worthy successor. Despite the name similarity it’s just a different game, with different goals and ideas behind it. It may find its place in Linux gaming area, but it definitely doesn’t meet my tastes as – discussed here – Hedgewars.
The main menu is divided into several sections, which allows you to select desired play mode, set up your teams, and play around with some configuration options. All is clean and simple yet visually appealing and made with taste. I felt like I was running another Worms release, and I really enjoyed that!
The top menu choice is only limited to a few options, but there’s no need to have more at this particular stage. The menu allows you to pick a quick, single or multiplayer game which can be set up more deeply further on. You can also make some practice exercises by choosing the third option, a kind of a training course. Beside the above, you can of course set up the game itself in the config menu, and even watch previously saved game demos. That suprised me to be honest, since it’s a brand new possibility in the Worms world.
The quick play mode is really straightforward so I won’t focus on it that much, the multiplayer option offers much more however. In multiplayer mode you have to set up nearly every aspect of the game, from setting up your weaponary, teams and ground editing, to setting your teams eventually. Talking about the little squad of hedges… you can even provide them with nice looking head-coverings, varying for each little soldier. It looks pretty funny.
That’s also what worms didn’t like. Well, it’s their loss anyway. There is also a very limited possibility to change the default speech sets, the hedges can communicate with the environment. These are similar to the one we knew before, and there’s just a few schemes, but it would be changed surely in the next releases.
If you’d like to play against people from all over the world, feel free to do so using the multiplayer mode by selecting the Internet play mode. It is a very addictive way to spend your spare time, but
I’m afraid I wouldn’t write this article at all if I played for any longer, so let’s leave that part, say, because of security reasons . Let me just mention that if you decide to play over the net, you can take part in many competitions and tournaments being held in hedgenet and described on the Hedgewars website. It’s definitely one of these “must have” features in games like these.
Of course you can find many more goodies and configuration options, which might be useful during the game. You can create or modify your team, select your weaponary, and even more.
The network options screen allows you to either join, create or modify your network game. You can even chat with other players before, or during the game. This is probably the most addictive part, which is also really hard to resist to.
If you eventually decide to eliminate some creatures, you can proceed and start the match. The rules haven’t changed at all for years.
Though you can find many new weapons in your inventory, find out several new features and maybe discover even more pretty artwork in some aspects, it’s still the same old Worms that we used to play with such passion but with many improvements in comparison to it’s predecessor. However you can still do the very same well known tricks, jumps, and spectacular evolutions. All to send dozens of enemies back to hell again. Generally, nothing has changed, and I took that fact with some kind of relief – it’s just the way it should go!
The one thing I miss is that the match itself isn’t divided into rounds, but it’s only a minor inconvenience in view of what you get in advance.
The Game Experience
In-game atmosphere brings back the magic feelings that was with you when you played original Worms. Hedgewars is visually tempting – all the same great, cartoon styled graphics are looking nice and appealing. I didn’t like some of the map designs though – they are too bright and too lacking in contrast, like the kitchen for example. On the other side, the underwater theme is well designed and original, but too colourful, and distracts player’s attention away in my opinion. There are also some rather poorly designed scenes, but since the game is in constant development, many things can change rapidly.
You are however, far from restricted to using one you don’t like. There are plenty of maps to choose from, so go ahead and pick the best.
Unlike in Worms, you can even pick some extra guns, which you won’t find in Team17′s production. It’s also very important in view of the fact, the developers didn’t try to force their ideas. These are really original and funny, and furthermore, it is smooth to use them, and you’ll love them eventually.
I also discovered many interesting features while playing or setting up the game. You can, for example, play a basketball match (sic!) using your hedges or rather, the opponents’. It is a really great, and original idea, which I remember I was trying to bring to the game before by editing the levels when things get boring over time.
There are also some other play modes, which are as follows:
- Pro mode
- Shoppa mode
is a game type where players only have 15 seconds to move, and are limited to skill based weapons. There is a pro mode weapon set-basically bazooka, grenade and mortar only.
It puts the player under a lot of pressure to make an accurate shot very quickly. Turns are also very short so players get turns more often.
is a mode usually played on a shoppa map (try ropes map), where players only have a rope as a weapon, and 30 seconds to move. However, a weapon crate drops at the start of every round, so in 30 seconds the player must use the rope to collect a crate and then launch an attack on an opponent. “Shopping” for weapons.
…and even more still to come.
As mentioned above, the game itself is very similar to what we played before. Although it has to be played within a single round, not three. It is definitely one of the options I miss. I hope that it will be implemented soon, as the game is moving forward all the time, and the process seems unstoppable.
During the rather fast paced game, you can do almost everything you could before. For example it is possible to dig through the terrain, swing on a rope or drop some presents from it. Digging up the land is even better-designed than in Worms, since it’s possible to change a dig angle smoothly when hedge digging. Just please be aware of mines placed randomly on the field. As I said, the game tends to be fast paced. On the other hand, you have the possibility to slow things down a bit and take some time to plan your strategy, think, and perform some more logical movements, which is often a key to survive when your situation on field is getting difficult.
In terms of arcade elements, it is very enjoyable too. As stated, there are plenty of similarities between both discussed titles. Still you can perform some rope acrobatics, jumps and nearly whatever you could imagine, whatever you could do in Worms, you can do in Hedgewars. ‘Backspace jumping’ is also here. It helps a lot when an item falls out of reach and you are out of your ropes.
There are several item types that you can get during the game. These are of course well-known crate drops performed by a defined period of turns (default is 5).
As well as a ‘regular’ crate that holds a random weapon, you can pick a tool crate, health crate, and some utlilities. These can help you to build the structures with girders, get some extra health points and even expand your abilities by collecting utilities. I was, however, a little disappointed by a lack of my favourite items and guns. There is no sheep weapon and no jetpack included. On the other side, you have some extra guns and items which Team17 developers do not include, and they are in Hedgewars. It gives some balance, doesn’t it?
Eagerly, I noted the game keeps the famous atmosphere and won’t let you turn off your boxes that easily. It has nice looking graphics, good sounds and music themes, different in each environment. The hedges are also very nice and have good animations. In particular, when they are hit. Well, it is one of the primary targets after all.
Talking about in-game animations, there are also some that spoil the overall impression. The water effect seems very modest, and that’s surely not enough to call it a water movement. Also, the blast effects need to be improved a bit, in my opinion. These are fair and well reflect what is happening on the screen, but these are far from what I would call ‘well designed’.
Depending on the surrounding conditions, there are also different background animations like snow, rain or falling leaves. All of these is make the game very interesting and a very attractive and coherent audio-visual frame, even in spite of aforementioned shortcomings.
The game is very playable itself and may entertain you for many hours. If you liked Worms, you’ll certainly love Hedgewars and if you have never heard of them before, it is time indeed to get to know them.
The problems mentioned above are smoothly balanced by the game’s ‘freshness’. Those that remained, are the result of the hard work of the developers. If you are looking for the Worms successor, here it is, you’ve just found it. If you cannot forgive Worms developers for going commercial, to gain easy money, and set to 3D – Hedgewars is just for you and you’ll love it.
Hedgewars seems to be untouched by current trends and retains its own identity. It also brings a lot of fresh air into the genre, as it didn’t try to pretend just another Worms clone. Although it keeps all of it’s greatness. It’s definitely worth to play!