There are two very good reasons why releasing Worms Crazy Golf was a clever decision by Team 17. Firstly, their franchise was in desperate need of some new ideas. Without wishing to confuse matters with a different animal metaphor, if the Worms series was a dairy cow, such is the extent to which it has been over-milked, those responsible would probably be in the dock facing some pretty serious farming welfare charges. A change of direction has long been overdue. The other reason WCG is so timely is that, following the moral nose-dive of the, once squeaky-clean, Tiger Woods, the golfing sub-genre is crying out for a new face. Could our little pink, subterranean friends fill the gap?
Needless to say, Worms and golf feel like a natural fit. Any gamer who has ever experienced firing a Bazooka (whilst carefully judging the impact the wind will have on its trajectory) in any of the earlier series’ iterations will appreciate how easily such mechanics translate to driving a golf ball onto the fairway/green. Of course, the same folks will be well aware that Team 17 have always had plenty of crazy tricks up their sleeves and can rest assured there are a multitude of alternative approaches to getting the ball to disappear down the hole.
While the basic Driver/Iron/Wedge/Putter clubs can all be found in your bag, in many ways these are just there to get things started. Once you’ve sent the ball up in the air and heading vaguely in the direction of the flag, it’s time to employ one of the crazy gadgets to do the rest. Whether it’s a quick blast of the anti-gravitational device to give a bit of extra height/length to a tired drive or a few seconds of the cheeky parachute to gently meander through an assortment of obstacles concealing the green, there’s always some way to turn the worst of shanks into something that would make Peter Alliss cry with joy.
There are 4 different courses included and on top of trying to sink the ball in less shots than par, there are coins/crates to collect and scores to beat on each of them. The settings include lush green fields, a gaudy fairground, a bleak graveyard and a series of pirate-themed ships/islands (with gold-coin bunkers which make a splendidly crisp noise when you have the misfortune of landing in them).
On top of each theme’s 18 holes, there are a series of extra challenges where you must complete set objectives, like destroying enemies or chipping onto the green, against the clock. In all honesty, apart from the ones where you must keep the ball up in the air for as long as possible (which are an absolute riot), although the challenges are a pleasant distraction, they’re definitely too similar to the standard career mode gameplay. It’s a shame, because with a bit more imagination this mode could have added a whole new dimension to the package.
Of course the main question everyone wants an answer to is, how well has the franchise coped with it’s translation from replicating full-blooded combat to aping the pensioner’s recreational activity of choice? While having an A to B objective definitely breathes some fresh life into the series, the unfortunate side-effect of such a change is that a lot of the previous game’s tactics have disappeared. Players no longer have to worry about the repercussions of their decisions, like whether their latest move could leave them open to immediate retaliation. In the earlier iterations, a shrewd participant knew there were times when he must seek out some form of cover from potential grenade attacks or disperse his team to avoid being totally wiped out by an imminent airstrike. Here, the attention is solely on manipulating the ball. Yes it’s still fun, but in a more shallow way.
Another concern is that many conscientious gamers will probably end up feeling a little bit dirty after experiencing some of the bizarre successes the game throws their way. While the “special” moves can, on occasions, be used with intelligence and skill, when they’re employed to resurrect a seemingly “dead” ball from a bunker or to enable it to artificially stumble its way (after several attempts) into the hole, the whole process ends up seeming like a glorified form of cheating. It’s a real disappointment because if their use had been further restricted, these tools could have provided a subtle extra element to each shot, rather than becoming the entire focus. On a more positive note, the basic spin system works very well and triumphs gained in this manner leave a definite sense of satisfaction.
There are plenty of positives about Worms Crazy Golf. The humorous sound effects (particularly those that accompany the slow-motion replays), rich soundtrack (so good, it’s arguably wasted on such a novelty title) and the range of ingenious gadgets at your disposal are enough to bring a smile to Colin Montgomerie’s face. But anyone looking for some of that Worms subtle strategy, or who prefers to succeed on their own merit, may well be better served staying in the clubhouse.
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