I love and hate games like this. Worm Jazz is destined to ruin my life; a game so insidiously clever and deliciously addictive I may as well cancel my next-gen console pre-orders. Puzzle games are notoriously hit and miss with me, but when they stick I can do nothing until I have beaten them, and in this case there are 50+ puzzles to be conquered…well 30, as I solved the first 20 before tearing myself away to write this review.
Worm Jazz is so simple in design and concept, presented with far more flair than required. You could easily recreate this game in ASCII and it would be just as much fun, but I do appreciate a sharp-dressed worm in a top hat slithering through maze-like corridors set in a photo-realistic moist environment or a dry sandy desert or something in-between. That constant rain had be taking bathroom breaks every 20 minutes, or maybe that was the G FUEL I was slamming back to maintain sufficient mental acuity to solve the ever-increasing challenging logic puzzles presented to me.
The premise is simple; you play Mr. Mark, a pink earthworm that navigates corridors and rooms eating up all the food, avoiding mines, using wormholes, and gathering power-ups until you reach the golden apple. Of course space is tight and each pellet of food you eat causes your body to grow larger making it increasingly difficult to move through the maze. Thankfully there are green pellets you can eat that will create a regeneration point within your growing body so when you move onto a mine and blow your body up your head will appear at the closest green segment. While intentionally crawling onto mines seems crazy it is actually the core strategy to playing and winning Worm Jazz.
There are also orange pellets that create orange body segments that will act like a remote detonated bomb. These are useful for blowing up crumbling wall segments to reveal new paths or clear a way to the apple, but you have to make sure you have a green segment in the proper place so you can regenerate after the blast. Using a combination of orange and green pellets you get to figure out how to solve some truly inspired puzzle levels. I was doing okay until I reached a level called “Countdown”. This actually required some math to figure out, as you have to preload all the green segments with proper spacing between to finish the level in a single one-way trip. That feeling of satisfaction after conquering this and many levels after is unlike anything I’ve had in recent puzzle-game history.
As the title implies, there is some cool jazz playing in the background, but there is only one song per environment so things can get repetitive after a while if you take too long solving the puzzles. I didn’t mind it at all and if I ever do you can easily swap in your own music; jazz or something else. The patter of rain is almost hypnotic and the explosions from the mines rocked my subwoofer. Great audio mix.
Each puzzle awards you up to three stars based on how much you eat and find before reaching the gold apple. Thankfully there are no timers or other stress-inducing features in the game. In fact, the quality of life functionality of the unlimited UNDO option is greatly appreciated, as I can undo my entire attempt one move at a time if I wanted. This allows you to try out certain theories without having to restart the entire puzzle. There is even a “run” button that makes Mr. Mark move faster if you do have to replay a level.
There is a smooth progression of difficulty as you make your way through the numerous environments and changing levels. New elements and strategies are constantly being layered in keeping the gameplay fresh and challenging, plus you always have the incentive of unlocking a new hat for Mr. Mark to wear. I’m not sure how much replayability the game will have once you’ve finished it but for only $7 you will surely get your money’s worth on your first pass, which I would guess to be around 10+ hours unless you are some sort of super-genius. Worm Jazz is easily one of the best puzzle games I’ve played this year. It looks good; it sounds good, the controls are responsive, the design is gamer-friendly, and the puzzle solutions are logical and intelligent, which only fuels that endorphin rush when you solve one. Plus, this might be the only time you ever get to use “worm” and “jazz” in the same sentence again.