The Double-A Team is a feature series honouring the unpretentious, mid-budget, gimmicky commercial action games that no-one seems to make any more.
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“You, I reckon, are definitely a roper.” I had known Aidan for about twenty minutes by the time he made this judgement. It stung a little. How could he be so certain after such a short period? How – augh! – could he be so right?
Worms 2 came out while I was at university, and we all fell for it quite hard. This is social gaming at its most brilliant: a bunch of friends wash up on some procedural 2D island and then they take turns trying to kill everyone else off. Weapons are dropped in crates, mines litter the landscape. You can die by losing all your health or by falling in the water. It is simple, but fraught. It can be wonderfully maddening.
“Roper” referred to “ninja rope”, one of the few Worms items that wasn’t explicitly about doing people harm. You can move about in Worms 2, but it’s a pretty slow, incremental business. But if you used your ninja rope, that fired off like a Batman gadget and allowed you to swing around and launch yourself across the map, man, if you used that you could really cover some distance. It was very risky: mines, the beckoning yawn of the ocean. But done well it meant you could bounce all the way from one side of the screen to the other and menace people who had assumed they were safe.
Reader, I used the rope a lot. I was, I reckon, definitely a roper. And this meant that I was a smart-arse, a show-boater, a person who didn’t just want to win, but who wanted to win in the most annoying manner possible. Because, along with the rope, and this felt unspoken but present in Aidan’s accusation, I was also a fan of “prod”.
Prod! Oh man. Worms 2’s arsenal was filled with massive explosive unpleasantness, starting with the humble bazooka and building to the legendary Concrete Donkey, and even a nuclear bomb of some kind, that went off at the bottom of the sea and raised the water level while the Marseilles played for a few seconds. But at the other end of the scale was prod. Maybe it was called poke. Whatever. You would walk up to an enemy worm and prod them. If they were in the middle of the island, this did very little. If they were on the edge of the waterline it would knock them in and kill them. If they were close to a mine, well, who knew? (The secret thrill of Worms was that, because it was turn-based, once your turn was done you had to just stand there and witness whatever was coming your way, powerless to do anything. That’s why stuff like prod was so brilliantly upsetting.)
Despite being such an unbearable jerk, with my roping around and my poking people to death, it wasn’t hard to get people to play Worms 2 back then. In 1997 it ruled. All day Worms 2 sessions, lectures ignored, seminars left unattended. Worms 2 campaigns, spite matches, the works.
Where does Double-A come in? Well there was this other thing about Worms 2. It was lavishly made, but it wasn’t 3D and it wasn’t a big budget affair with cut-scenes and voice acting and bosses and whatnot. I had been out of games for a few years – left during the tail end of the 16-bit era and missed the birth of next-gen consoles. So I found 3D gaming really disorientating. Worms 2 looked a lot more like the games I recognised. Double-A not because it was 2D so much as because it was informal, jokey, because nothing really mattered. You could name your worms teams after local takeaways and give them a silly accent and when they were all done you’d just make some more and give them new names. Nothing really was at stake.
Nothing was at stake until a spot of ninja-roping went very wrong, of course. A worm lost through showboating! The shame of it all. The endless shame.