App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Early Worm is a physics-based puzzler where you “fling” a little inch worm around environments in hopes of reaching your goal: a nice, juicy apple. It mimics the mechanics of some of the best platformers on iOS (i.e. Ordia), but the puzzle design and and controls don’t quite feel as satisfying as they do in similar games. It’s still fun enough, but Early Worm is mostly just a short and largely forgettable experience.
You control a worm-like creature in Early Worm, but the game is built around its odd movement style. The creature itself stays curled up in a ball, and only by dragging a finger back across the screen and releasing can you launch the worm in the direction you’d like it to go.
Your ultimate goal is to reach an apple that’s usually placed in a hard-to-reach location, and you can do this by taking advantage of prescribed environmental features that enable you to hop through the space effectively. Sometimes these features are sticky pads that allow your worm to stick to walls. At others, it’s a diving bell that can let you sink down in water. No matter the case, Early Worm’s levels make it very clear what you’re supposed to do on any given stage, and the challenge comes mostly from mastering the game’s flinging mechanic.
In addition to simply reaching the apple, Early Worm tests players to see how many jumps it takes them to get there. This is done through a traditional star-rating system, where players get three stars for using the fewest number of allowable jumps, and losing a star for each additional threshold of jumps they surpass in their efforts to reach the apple.
This rating system adds an additional layer of challenge to the game, and—although it is mostly arbitrary—can be cause for some frustration. This is because Early Worm’s physics are pretty squirrely and your worm doesn’t always jump the way you expect it to. As a result, you may find yourself restarting levels to three-star them simply because the game doesn’t always feel like it’s responding to your inputs properly.
Just like with the funky controls, Early Worm also has a somewhat bizarre level progression. The game has 80 levels, which are divided into nine chapters evenly. Each chapter has a name that seems to suggest what each level collection will be designed around, but this isn’t the case. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to why the levels are in the order that they are. Some late-stage levels are super simple compared to ones in the first chapter and vice-versa. It all just seems random.
Early Worm is also not a particularly long game. You can cruise through the entire experience in an hour or two probably, though it may take longer if you’re playing the free, ad-supported version. You can also revisit levels to try and get higher star ratings on them, but given the control wonkiness, I was more than ready to move on from Early Worm once I hit the end credits.
The bottom line
Early Worm borrows a gameplay formula that has worked well for other mobile games, but things don’t quite click into place here. Between the awkward physics and uneven level progression, the experience of playing Early Worm is puzzling, but not in the way you want it to be.