Ten minutes after booting up and playing Worms: A Space Oddity for the first time, I already had a first-draft review written in my head. It was only 11 words long, too: "This one is just like the rest of 'em. The end." But with our little editorial policy about reviewing games "thoroughly" and all that, I had to play more -- and I'm sure glad I did. A Space Oddity is still mostly a rehash in a series that has had plenty of them, but the puzzle-centric style of the single-player experience won me over.
Puzzles? In a turn-based strategy game? Yup -- in this edition of Worms, you still progress by taking your team of cute, cartoony invertebrates, arming them with highly volatile weapons, and blowing up the other guys (all while laughing as the chaotic physics and destructible 2D environments do their best to mess up your war plans). But the scenarios go beyond the typical 4-versus-4, last-team-standing-wins setups we've seen countless times before. On one map, for example, you're given four "Astro Punches" (aka the old Dragon Ball/Fire Punch melee attacks) and three minutes to get rid of two docile enemies (hint: Use the stage's proximity mines for the extra damage needed). On another, you have to use "Impact Frags" (aka Rocket Launcher) to knock mines into a valley to help blow up a single trapped enemy. Some stages may not even have any foes. In one early level, you must navigate floating platforms by purposely walking into mines so that their explosions will launch you in the right direction with the right arc (pick up health crates to stay alive). Mix in tricky-to-reach "locked crates," which unlock video clips and more items to customize your teams with, and you have the most noggin'-scratching, and therefore most addicting, single-player Worms yet.
Notice all those "aka's" above? That's where the rehashiness comes in. A Space Oddity has a sci-fi-themed coating (space environments, futuristic weapons, robot and alien sound bites, etc.) over very familiar gameplay. But any Worms veteran will instantly see through the charade. Almost every "new" gun, bomb, or grenade has an exact equivalent from an older game, making the space theme almost disappointing. I guess if it ain't broke, just lower the gravity and put it on another world....
Actually, lowering the gravity (and doing other out-of-this-world tricks like high gravity, slippery ice conditions, sticky planetary surfaces, etc.) does help vary the gameplay from what our worms have grown accustomed to in the past. Once you finish a hub world of six stages, you will touch down on a new planet with different laws of nature and physics governing the environment. A simple, silly minigame level caps off each world, and this also helps keep things fresh (and once beaten, these minigames are available for four-player play).
The Wii motion controls are initially as friendly as a Rancor beast, but they're just as easily conquered. Instructions line the bottom of the screen, showing you how to launch each type of attack. It takes some getting used to at first, especially when filling up a power/strength meter for throwing or firing (by tilting the Wii Remote)...or when trying to pan the camera outside of the original view. But after a few Wiimote stabs, swings, and pumps, you'll probably never want to go back to traditional button-pressing controls. And the Wiimote comes in tremendously handy in the most user-friendly map creation mode I've ever seen. Just point, draw, and hit OK -- voila...instant new stage.
I thought I'd seen enough of these squishy warriors, but they've managed to clean themselves off and make a decent comeback with a few simple design choices. The space theme could've been carried further, and the weapons need way more originality, but that doesn't stop A Space Oddity from being one of the most refreshing Worms in quite some time.