Q: What do you get if you cross B-movie homage Tremors with an 8-bit console game?
A: Super Mega Worm for the iPhone
Yes, there's no doubting where the developers of this title got their inspiration from. The Tremors influence comes from the idea of giant worms attacking people from underground and eating them. In this game, though, the boot is on the other foot because rather than trying to kill the worm, you ARE the worm and your job is to burrow through the ground and leap out on unsuspecting people and animals and eat them. The 8-bit console part comes in since every aspect of presentation - from the graphics to the sound, the titles screen to the high score table - deliberately apes the style of old SNES games and Master System games.
If you've read some of my other reviews, you have no doubt noticed that I'm rather fond of old-style games, so the idea of this one appealed to me straight away. Graphics are blocky, basic and limited in both size and colour. They are simplistic and look like they could have been drawn by a reasonably talented 10 year old. Yet, from the moment the title screen appears explaining the game's plot, they are also full of character. Sure, they might not be the photo-realistic, high definition graphics that modern consoles can generate, but when it comes to character, they are in a class all of their own.
The graphics offer up lots of little humorous touches too, from the cute, bubble-style police cars that patrol around trying to stop your munching through to the funny speech bubbles that appear over your victim's heads as you hunt them down ("I promise I'll be good" "Why me?" etc.) These add some nice little touches to the game and make your victims seem that little bit more human. Similarly, when you eat them there's a pleasing splash of blood (a series of red pixels) yet the game never really seems violent, thanks to its low-tech graphs.
Tunes and sound effects are similarly "basic" when compared to today's games, but again that only adds to their appeal. The sound of your worm tunnelling through the ground is atmospheric, whilst the cries of the little people as you chase them, and their squeals and screams as their sad little lives end in a squelch of blood are appealing. This is topped off by a suitably beepy SNES-style tune will bring back fond memories for anyone who can remember the days when the number 45 was significant as the amount of kilobytes a game had to be squeezed into, and not the ludicrous price of new releases.
This unashamedly retro approach is without doubt that game's strongest suit and will hold instant appeal to anyone who grew up with gaming in the late 80s or early 90s. It's a shame, then, that the designers couldn't quite come up with a game to match. The action in Super Mega Worm is initially fun, but soon becomes rather repetitive. Each level boils down to little more than eating stuff to stay alive and eating enough people to progress to the next level and increase your score. There's not much more to the game than that with few/no hidden objects to discover and no variety to break up the game. Indeed, if you've played Hungry Shark, this is pretty much the same game with different characters and an 8-bit feel.
It's also rather on the easy side. Although new enemies (people with guns, police cars) come along with each level, they don't really pose much of a threat. Even if you do find your energy bar depleted, it's always easy to track down stuff to eat to replenish it and so it's pretty easy to rack up some high scores.
There's no real sense of risk and reward to the game. In Hungry Shark, you can take strategic decisions that affect both the way you play the game and your score. You can hang around at the top of the ocean and eat easy and plentiful (but low-scoring) victims or you could dive to the depths where food is more limited and more dangerous, but worth a lot more points. In Super Mega Worm, there are some bonuses to be picked up underground, but most of your time will be spent on the surface hunting down targets which are pretty easy to catch. Unfortunately, unless your goal is simply to rack up a massive high score, Super Mega Worm soon becomes rather repetitive.
At least controls have been reasonably well implemented, although they are not without some issues. Direction arrows are in the bottom left corner of the screen with a button (for speed boost) in the bottom right. Most of the time, this configuration works, but there were times when I felt that the buttons were a little bit too close together and I found myself accidentally pressing the wrong one and heading off in completely the wrong direction. I also think that the accelerometer controls used in Hungry Shark are better suited to this type of game than a virtual joystick and whilst Super Mega Worm offers both a D-PAD and tilt controls as an alternative, I didn't find these terribly responsive.
For all I love the retro-styling and the feelings of nostalgia this game stirs up, it is a bit shallow. It's rare (and painful) for me to admit this, but this is one instance where the superior graphics and sound of Hungry Shark hide the game play deficiencies better than the retro-appeal of Super Mega Worm. If you really enjoy games where the aim is to eat as many possible, then you might want to download both games. For most people, though, one such game should be more than enough, and since they are both available for the same price - 69p, I'd plump for Hungry Shark which offers a bit more depth and strategy behind its basic game play mechanism.
© Copyright SWSt 2011