Everybody Do The Worm
Developed by UK-based indie developer Mission Ctrl Studios, Writhe is a retro-inspired FPS that puts players in the P.H.U.L.A. suit of an exterminator tasked with obliterating waves of giant, flesh-hungry sago worms. Fast-paced and unapologetically brutal, it’s a fun score-chaser that will test your reflexes and scratch your itchy trigger finger. It’s just a shame that its lean selection of stages and severe lack of enemy variety will probably keep Writhe from wiggling its way into your heart.
The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out
The premise here is straightforward enough. Once you choose from one of the game’s three playable stages, you’re dropped into a small arena and must survive as long as you can against an endless onslaught of ill-tempered invertebrates. Lucky for you, you’ve got your trusty E-43000 plasma launcher, an L3 phosphorus-caster, and an infinite supply of bullets to help keep the creepy-crawlies at bay.
Worms spawn from wormholes scattered around the environment and come in three forms. The most common enemy is the Giant Sago Wyrm. These are basic cannon fodder who make a bee-line towards the player and gnash at you with their giant fangs. Next up is the Fusewyrm. These guys behave similarly to the Giant Sago Wyrm, but they’re full of radioactive material that causes them to explode on contact and deal massive damage.
The third and final enemy is the Bullwyrm. When you leave a Giant Sago Wyrm alone for too long, it’ll transform into a pupa. Once this bundle of joy bursts out, you’re in serious trouble. Bullwyrms are fast, freaky, and can absorb a ton of damage. Given how fearsome these creatures are, you’d think you would want to destroy Sago Wyrms right away. However, letting them evolve into their pupal form is an essential strategy. When you blast these incubating beasties to bits, they’ll drop a can of health-restoring Grubjuice. This nasty nectar is the only way to restore your health in Writhe, which gives the game a satisfying risk versus reward element.
Let Me See You Wiggle It (Just A Little Bit)
You know how most games tend to start off easy and get more challenging as the action progresses? Well, Writhe is most certainly not one of those games. Right out the gate, you’ll find yourself running for dear life as an army of angsty annelids pursues you. Now, I don’t mind a challenge. Quite the contrary: I love a game that pushes me to get better and better each time I play. The problem with Writhe is the enemies never feel like they’re fighting fair.
Each of the maps is quite claustrophobic, and the worms are fast and hone in on the player with laser precision. Given the way these creatures nip at your heels like a chihuahua on methamphetamine, you’ll find yourself taking damage from off-screen the second you stop moving. And considering the way the worms swarm you, you’re going to have to stop fairly often unless you want to run headlong into a dozen or so gnashing sets of fangs from oncoming enemies.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, getting killed by unseen enemies every time you stop to dispatch the horde that’s wiggling its way towards you from the other side of a narrow corridor gets old pretty fast. My average run would last anywhere from a minute and a half to three minutes before my hapless exterminator became worm food. Judging from the online leaderboards, this seems to be fairly standard, too.
I Thought You Said You Wanted Grub Hub
As frustrating as Writhe’s uneven difficulty can be, I could forgive it if the game did enough to keep me coming back for more. Sadly, you can see everything it has to offer in about half an hour. With only three stages to choose from and three enemy types to battle, it doesn’t take long before Writhe‘s action starts to feel very stale. There are no bosses to fight or other weapons to collect. A couple of extra levels and some more inventive weaponry could have gone a long way towards giving Writhe some additional replay value.
Still, completionists may be able to eke a few extra hours out of the experience by unlocking pages of lore with the gems they accumulate from killing worms. There’s also a well-done museum mode that allows you to get up close and personal with the creatures, weapons, and other interesting tidbits from the game’s story. Of course, with so little to work with, it’s mostly barren. Still, it’s a nice piece of bonus content that adds a bit extra to the writer’s overall lean package.
What’s The Best Nation In The World? Extermination!
If you’re looking for a retro-style FPS that will kick you in the teeth, Writhe certainly fits the bill. It’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t offer much else apart from its considerable challenge. With only a small smattering of stages to choose from and enemy types to exterminate, it’s tough to recommend adding Writhe to your Switch library, even at its budget-friendly price.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Mission Ctrl Studios; Developer: Mission Ctrl Studios; Players: 1; Released: January 15, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.