Checking out the new Evercade Worms Collection 1 cartridge

The Evercade’s got a great few months ahead of it, with a whole bunch of fantastic cartridges releasing as we approach the end of the year — and, of course, the long-awaited Evercade VS in November. (Incidentally, if you fancy one of those and haven’t preordered yet, our friends at Funstock have got an amazing deal that’ll save you about fifty quid going right now — click here to check it out!)

The first of the new batch of cartridges that will eventually take us up to the end of 2021 is finally here, and it brings together three games from Team 17’s classic Worms series. While that might sound a little more light on content than some other Evercade cartridges, there’s a ton of replayability in this cartridge — and there are a number of things that make it especially noteworthy among the complete collection.

Let’s take a look at each of the games in turn, then.

Worms

Worms for Evercade

The Worms series, for the unfamiliar, is a long-running range of games that are primarily turn-based strategy titles based loosely on the classic “artillery” titles for home computers. Taking control of each member of a team of heavily armed worms a turn at a time, you can move around the randomly generated landscape, fire or throw weapons at your opponents and do your best to have the last worm standing.

Worms is where it all began — though the version of Worms we get on the Evercade cartridge is the Mega Drive console version rather than the original original PC version. The reason for this is that we don’t yet have any MS-DOS (or indeed home computer in general) emulation on any Evercade cartridges. There are numerous potential complications when emulating a computer rather than a console — most notably some systems’ requirement for BIOS ROMs, which are often copyrighted, as well as the fact controls tend to be built for keyboard rather than controller.

These aren’t insurmountable obstacles and I don’t doubt we will one day see things like MS-DOS, C64, ZX Spectrum and Amiga games on the Evercade. But for now while there are more readily accessible (and licensable) console versions of games out there, those are the versions we’re more likely to see on Evercade.

Worms for Evercade

The Mega Drive version of Worms is relatively bare-bones in that there’s none of the single-player content from the home computers’ later Reinforcements expansion pack, and the amount of customisation you can apply to the game is fairly limited. You can rename all the teams, but only have a limited number of them in total; you can turn on and off weapons, but not save them as game schemes to return to later; and you have no control over the generated landscapes.

Worms’ core gameplay shines as it always has, though, and in many ways the simplicity of this version makes it an excellent pick-up-and-play option for when you just fancy a quick game but don’t want to faff around setting things up. Even better, the fact that the game has always supported “pass and play” rather than requiring one controller for each player means that you can play this game with friends using just the Evercade handheld. Yes, the experience will likely be better on Evercade VS — part of the fun of Worms is seeing your friends’ reactions to that awesome turn you just had — but for quick, impromptu Worms sessions, this is great.

Worms is highly replayable by its very nature, but don’t come in expecting a structured experience for the solo player. There’s no campaign, no missions, no real “progression” as such — though there is a fun “league” system where the game keeps track of a variety of sports-style stats for each of the teams saved on the cartridge, allowing for longstanding competition between friends, housemates or spouses.

Worms Armageddon

Worms Armageddon for Evercade

Originally released for PC as the third installment in the Worms series, Worms Armageddon is regarded by many as one of the best games in the series for its sheer flexibility. Once again, the Evercade cart eschews the PC original in favour of the a console version — PlayStation this time around — but this is a solid version with a lot more customisation on offer than the Mega Drive version of the original. Not quite as much as the highly moddable PC version, of course, but certainly enough to keep you occupied for a long time with a variety of different ways to play.

Worms Armageddon features a lot of different ways to enjoy the game straight out of the box. Single-player modes include training minigames that allow you to master the various weapons in the game, take on missions that are more than just “kill the enemy team” and compete in a string of increasingly challenging deathmatches against computer-controlled teams. Multiplayer modes include both the option to quickly start a game with the minimum of fuss, or create a fully customised game using any one of the included “game schemes” plus tweaks to things like turn time, total round time and other such settings.

Worms Armageddon on Evercade

Worms Armageddon’s main benefit over its predecessor is its much wider variety of weapons. For newcomers to the series, this can potentially be a bit daunting, so it’s a good idea to start with the original Worms first and get a feel for how the game in its most basic form works. Veterans, however, will be in absolute heaven, as the varied game schemes allow for everything from classic-style Worms to fixed-position artillery games to be played. While the manual only lists a few of these due to the limited space, a full list can be found online — and if you’re nice to us, we’ll do a full How to Play article on Worms Armageddon very soon that lists all the possible game schemes and what they offer.

The PlayStation’s power also allows for presentation that is much closer to the original PC releases of Worms. While the Mega Drive version lacked background music during gameplay and only had very limited sounds for the worms themselves, this version of Worms Armageddon features the atmospheric background ambience of the original version, plus a hilariously overdramatic narrated song on the menu screens. There are also a variety of different voice banks available to use, though unlike the PC version (where they could be assigned on a per-team basis) they apply to all the worms participating in a single match.

It’s also worth noting that this is the first game on Evercade to support widescreen natively — there’s an aspect ratio setting in the options menu, which we didn’t often see in games for the original PlayStation. Whack that on 16:9 and you can use that “full screen” option in the Evercade’s menu without fear of scorn from your fellow retro gamers.

Worms Armageddon has potentially limitless replayability, both in single- and multiplayer; when the Evercade VS is safely ensconced under our TVs I suspect this game in particular will ensure the Worms Collection 1 cartridge is a fixture in a lot of consoles for quite some time.

Worms Blast

Worms Blast for Evercade

A rather less well-known installment in the series, Worms Blast (here seen in its Game Boy Advance incarnation) eschews the turn-based combat of the mainline games in favour of something more puzzle game-inspired. Coloured blobs appear at the top of the screen and can be destroyed by shooting them with various Worms-style weapons; hitting them with the same colour weapon destroys all the blobs of the same colour that are connected to one another, while hitting them with the “wrong” colour paints a small area around where you hit.

These mechanics are then used in a wide variety of ways across the game’s diverse collection of game modes. In the Puzzle mode, you’re confronted with a sequence of minigames that use the game’s core mechanics as their basis in many different ways. In the Tournament mode, you’re presented with score-based challenges that reward accuracy and timing. And Versus mode allows you to compete against computer-controlled opponents.

Worms Blast for Evercade

The Versus mode is actually rather interesting when compared to other similar-looking puzzle titles in that it places an emphasis on direct conflict. While you can defeat your opponent by them being crushed under the ever-descending rain of blobs, every so often the barrier between the two “screens” will open up, allowing you to fling weapons at one another — so you can absolutely win by defeating your opponent in combat as well as through canny puzzling. In practice, you’ll need to do a bit of both — puzzling to keep yourself safe, going on the offensive to keep your opponent on their toes.

While not the most well-loved installment in the Worms series from over the years, Worms Blast packs in a lot of gameplay and plenty of longevity. Once you get to grips with the unusual mechanics, there’s a lot to enjoy here — it’s just a bit of a shame that the nature of the Game Boy Advance means we won’t be able to enjoy this one in multiplayer on the Evercade VS in the same way as the other titles in this collection.

Summing up

While some may have preferred the home computer versions of the Worms games in this collection, the console versions make the most sense for the Evercade’s control scheme and are solid, enjoyable titles in their own right. And who knows — the “1” at the end of this compilation’s title means that this likely isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Worms series on the platform, so maybe one day we’ll see those home computer versions too.

The Worms games are all-time classics of gaming, and between the three titles in this collection, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Both Worms and Worms Armageddon shine the brightest in multiplayer, of course, but there’s definitely value for the solo player here — particularly in Armageddon, whose tricky missions and training sessions provide an almost puzzle game-like feel to the experience.

This cart will definitely make its value most apparent when the Evercade VS is with us — but don’t discount the appeal of pass-and-play fun with the handheld. Just the thing for a bit of friendly rivalry with a friend, family member or spouse. Just remember that you should never go to bed angry!

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