Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Earthworm Alchemy reminds me of games like Flappy Bird, Katamari Damacy, and Fruit Ninja. All of these games have a very specific aesthetic, a very simple concept, and are extremely replayable. In Earthworm Alchemy, players tap the screen to raise and lower their bug-eyed worm in hopes of growing it as long as possible (and avoiding bombs), which is weirdly funny and compelling despite being so painfully simple.
The premise of Earthworm Alchemy has something to do with an alchemist finding a worm and a note that reads "The road to true happiness lies beneath 50cm." What this translates to in gameplay is players tapping on a worm to control where its mouth is as they try to eat food to grow the worm. At particular intervals, the worm will grow a new length of a particular type before resuming the feeding process.
While trying to catch food, players may also encounter bombs, gems, and stars. The bombs, if eaten, result in the worm exploding and losing all of its links, then starting players back at 0cm. On the other side of things, gems and stars are power-ups that enable the worm to grow without having to contend with bombs, sometimes in intervals greater than 1cm.
Along the way, players earn gems that can be used to unlock new feed packs to grow further or faster, hats for the worm, crystals to increase the likelihood of growing rarer worms, and more. If this all sounds ridiculous or crazy, that's because it is. Much of Earthworm Alchemy doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but that just adds to its charm.
As a free-to-play game, Earthworm Alchemy contains ads that appear at the bottom of the screen, and players can opt to buy gems for money. Also, when players accidentally swallow a bomb, they can use a continue in the form of watching a video ad. Thankfully none of these things are particularly obtrusive to the game experience, so the game is allowed to be its weird and nonsensical self relatively free of distraction.
Earthworm Alchemy isn't anywhere close to a deep gameplay experience, but it is fresh, new, and exciting in its simplicity and weirdness. It definitely isn't for everyone, especially for those with little tolerance for unencumbered whimsy, but it's worth trying out just to chuckle at its presentation. Even though it has a paper-thin premise, Earthworm Alchemy is somehow more than the sum of its parts, and can stay remarkably replayable even once some of the charm has worn off.