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Game Review #3: Worm War I (Atari 2600)

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Game: Worm War I
System: Atari 2600/VCS/Sears Video Arcade
Developer: Serius Software
Publisher: 20th Century-Fox
Programmer: David Lubar
Serial/Catalog Number: 11001
Copyright: 1982

Genre: Shooter
Controller: Joystick (Sega Game Pad compatible)
Players: 1 or 2 (Competitive or Cooperative)

Game Variations: 9

RARITY RATING: 3 (Scarce)

Your mission, as a master tank commander, is to drive through the city of Teriyaki and blast away as many Worms and Blocks as possible without running out of fuel.

That's the closest the manual gets to a story. Are these gigantic mutated Worms from Earth, or are they invaders from the planet Slitheron? Who knows, and more to the point, who cares? This game is just plain fun to play. It's a blast shooting the Worms with your tank's blaster cannon.

I was first exposed to this game when I saw a play video of it at http://highscore.com , so I downloaded the ROM .bin file into my emulator. I tried it out. I had so much fun playing it that way that I had to buy a physical copy. Fortunately I scored (sorry to hit you with pun) a manual at the same time.

SINGLE PLAYER VARIATIONS

Game 1: The "Obstacle Course" begins with side Wall Segments and a clear playing field. Obstacles appear after the first group are demolished and grow denser with each round. That's what the manual says, however sometimes you start off with worms and sometimes you don't, in a random fashion.
Game 2: The "Straightaway" maintains a clear playing screen.
Game 3: "Invisible Worms: uses Game Variation 1, but Worms are only visible during brief flashes that light up the screen.

2 PLAYER COOPERATIVE VARIATIONS

Game 4: Uses the same screen as in Variation 1.
Game 5: Uses the same screen as in Variation 2.
Game 6: Uses the same screen as in Variation 3.

2 PLAYER COMPETITIVE VARIATIONS

Game 7: Uses the same screen as in Variations 1 and 4.
Game 8: Uses the same screen as in Variations 2 and 5.
Game 9: Uses the same screen as in Variations 3 and 6.

Both Difficulty Switches come into play (there I go again) with this game.
The Left Difficulty Switch is used to control the movement of the Worms.
A Position = Random Worm Movement.
B Position = Fixed Worm Movement.

The Right Difficulty Switch concerns your tanks's Brake Response.
A Position = Slower Break Response.
B Position = Faster Break Response.

Personally I prefer to use Position A on the Left Difficulty Switch. Maybe it's the way my mind works, but I find the Worms moving in a fixed pattern more difficult than if their movements are random. So with Games 1 and 3 I prefer the Difficulty Switches to be set for A/B.

FUEL
You start off with 99 units of fuel. The game ends when you run out of fuel. If you are playing Game Variations 7, 8, and 9, the game ends when both players' tanks run dry. You lose fuel when you run into a Worm (10 fuel units), a Block (5 fuel units), and while you move forward (1 fuel unit for each Wall Segment). You gain fuel by driving through a Pagoda Gas Station. The faster you pass through it the more units of fuel that you gain (1 to 12 units).

Worms attack in groups. You will start off by encountering 1 Worm, then 2 at once, then 3, eventually reaching 6.

SCORING
In the first attack group you earn 20 points for each Worm destroyed. The amount of points that you get increases after each group. After a wave of groups you will receive bonus points!

HINTS BY PROGRAMMER DAVID LUBAR AND I

  • To avoid being totally clobbered by hordes of Worms, pull back on the stick whenever a new group is appearing.


Do this as soon as you exit a Gas Station.

  • If a fuel Pagoda appears on top of a block, carefully shoot away the block, or try just to nick the Pagoda.


If you miss and shoot the Pagoda Gas Station instead it will explode, killing all of the remaining Worms on screen, which will trigger the next wave of Worms. ​
You don't receive any points by killing Worms this way (not that I've noticed anyway). You won't lose any fuel doing this, but it will take longer before you gain any fuel because you have to shoot the entire next wave first.

  • When you are refueling, you are safe from collisions. Use this to move over inconvenient Blocks.


Actually, the best time to move over inconvenient blocks is right as the game starts awarding you bonus points. While that is happening you can re-position your tank and pass over those blocks that are in the way, and you aren't in a position to shoot.

The far left and right sides of the screen are safe spots, but don't hang there too long. If you don't shoot Worms, you won't bring on any Pagodas.
If a Worm has reached near the bottom of the screen I move as fast as I can toward the nearest wall, while accelerating enough to get past him. Or her, we don't know if these Worms have a gender.

WORLD RECORD RUN AT HIGH SCORE FOR GAME 1; B/B (w/Play Video)
http://highscore.com/scores/Atari2600/WormWarI/67399

ANOTHER PLAY VIDEO (from S.BAZ, a regular at High Score)



:60 SECOND AMERICAN TV COMMERCIAL FOR WORM WAR I



GAME RANKING: 1 (out of 3)

CURRENT RANKING OF REVIEWED ATARI 2600/VCS GAMES:

1. Worm War I
2. Demolition Herby
3. Alligator People (Prototype)

My favorite way to play is to shoot as many Blocks as possible, so I will frequently hold off on shooting the last Worm in a group until I've shot as many Blocks as possible (thump thump thump). This comes in handy, because while I'm busy racking up points I'm also clearing the screen at the same time. You never know where the Gas Station will appear.

Worm War I is in the database at http://highscore.com for the Atari 2600. Game 1 is the default. Difficulty B/B is the default for a Novice score, whilst Difficulty A/A is the default for Expert. Game 1, Difficulty B/A and Difficulty A/B are as well. Game 3 is included too, for both Difficulties B/B and A/A. It is also in the High Score database for the Atari 400/800/XL/XE line of computers. All games in the High Score database include an emulation category.

Other Atari 2600 Games Programmed by David Lubar
  • Bumber Bash
  • Challenge of Nexar
  • Fantastic Voyage
  • Flash Gordon
  • My Golf
  • River Raid II
  • Sentinel
  • Spacemaster X-7


A special thanks to those who have posted comments to my Blog entries, such as RetroRob, carlsson, and johnnywc (yes, I know who he is). Mind blown.





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