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Previews

Worms: A Space Oddity

Preview: How did they get there? Through a wormhole, we presume...

In a few short months, a similar scene will be played out in Wii-enabled parties across the length and breadth of the land.

That familiar "your turn!" chime rings out from a remote somewhere near the punch bowl, and out oozes Cuthbert Pythagoras-on-the-Horse (the real name of your local sap may vary).

You might remember this odious little swot as the guy who ruined your Christmas party's Wii Sports tournament.

This he did by eschewing all that jumping and grunting in favour of a vantage point in the middle of the sofa, upon which the joyless twit proceeded to pick apart his opponents using a series of flicks measurable in nanometers. He's the one who doesn't 'get' the Wii, you know?

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This time, however, it's Worms: A Space Oddity whirling away in the Wii's big blue mouth. With a smugness normally reserved for A Question Of Sport contestants, he wriggles his spineless avatar up alongside an opposing worm, taps the minus button to bring up the weapon menu, and selects the dragon punch.

Following the on-screen prompt to make an 'uppercut' motion with the remote, he lets rip with a timid jab that wouldn't bruise a guinea pig.

To his dismay, this tepid display is reflected on screen by a weedy poke which barely scrapes the opposing worm.

It's the other guy's turn now, and he unleashes an earth-destroying sho-ryu-ken motion that, in turn, launches Cuth's worm into orbit.

It eventually lands on the other side of the map, careening into his teammates, who all tumble into a waiting swamp. Back in the room, Cuth, still stunned, somehow gets a really bad papercut - in his eye - and then falls over. Victory!

Soil yourself

All of which explains how Worms: A Space Oddity's big 'thing' - that all the weapons are activated by motions and gestures - makes a difference to the age-old Worms template.

Ostensibly just a gimmicky addition to what at first glance is a reskinned Worms: Open Warfare (and it's nice to see a 2D Worms game reappear on the big screen, isn't it?), what it adds in practice is a gameplay mechanic that rewards effort, vigour and a willingness to make a fool out of yourself.

Whereas before a stick of dynamite (say) would always deal a fixed amount of damage, in A Space Oddity, once you've slithered your way out of the blast radius, you simply flip the remote sideways (as though holding a plunger), and then determine the amount of damage dealt by plunging it down as fast as you can.

Worming it out

Other changes to report - explosions. This time, they're massive. A Space Oddity is Team 17's attempt to create a Worms title on Wii that retains all the good points of previous games, but one that's accessible to newcomers in the same breath.

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The Yorkshire-based outfit has decided that the best way to do this is to ramp up the size of the worms and the explosions they absorb, shortening the average game length from 30 minutes to somewhere around ten, a positive approach that also makes it very difficult for 'dark side' players to bury themselves into the scenery and hold out for a draw.

Elsewhere, if you get your jollies from dressing your worms up in little helmets and masks, you'll be happy to note that these are present and correct - your reward for hunting out special crates in the Campaign mode.

So, everything's good, except for one thing. And it's quite a thing. Actually firing a normal bazooka shot - the meat and potatoes of Worms - is the stuff of nightmares.

You have to tilt the remote to set shot strength and tweak the trajectory using the directional pad - it's possible to learn it, but in the process we ended up becoming The Angriest Thing Ever. Sort this one problem out, and we're sure A Space Oddity will be, ahem, inverte-grate.

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