How can one pass up a game billed as "Exciting, intuitive and simple gameplay based on revolutionary worm-physics"? Come again? "Worm physics"? Oh yes, Finnish company 10tons has taken the basic game structure of the famous Angry Birds, created by their country mates Rovio, and applied it to their own physics-based game, based on the way caterpillars 'swing' around their environment (allegedly), swinging end over end. Is it as polished as Angry Birds? A resounding yes. Is it as much fun to play? That depends on your gaming preference and time available.
From the moment you start up Swingworm, there's an overwhelming air of professionalism. No doubt inspired by Rovio and the success of Angry Birds, 10tons has aspired to the same quality level, with the result that the cut scenes are charmingly done, the background music seamless and the gameplay instantly obvious. All very good signs.
One minor quibble up front is that there's no support for the volume keys on Symbian phones, so the first thing you're going to have to do is dive into the Options menu in order to turn the music down a little. Not a huge deal, but why not support volume keys, guys? Every other top game does.
Thankfully you can adjust music and sound effect volume separately. 'Low details' takes away some of the super-swishy backgrounds, in theory speeding the game up on a less powerful device, though as most of the current Symbian phones have powerful GPUs I can't really see the point. In the game, as you pan around, there are parallax effects giving a pseudo-3D feel - very nicely done.
The Help screens are just a set of graphical instructions, but they're a) clear enough and b) not so many in number that you lose heart:
Yes, like any 'pro' game there's a back story. It explains why your Swingworm is there in the first place, mind you, and it (sort of) explains the goal, which is to climb higher and higher, grabbing berries and accepting elevator rides (cough).
As with Angry Birds, Swingworm is cleverly divided into snack-size 'levels', each of which will take you from a minute to around five minutes to complete (i.e. collect all berries and make your way to the elevator) - there are well over 50 levels in all, split into 'episodes' and, just as with Angry Birds, completing a level unlocks the next one, right through the game.
Rather cleverly, extra help prompts appear on screen when you start the first level, showing what to do. As you then move through each level, flashing pink (berry colour) arrows appear from time to time, showing you in which direction the remaining berries lie.
In addition to dragging the alternate ends of the swingworm around, you can move your view onto the environment around by tapping and dragging on any other point on the screen.
Note also the clock, top left. In addition to the puzzle-like 'Can I even get through this level?' aspect of Swingworm, you're playing against the clock, with the game recording your fastest time for each level and awarding stars for speed. Again as with Angry Birds, the '3 star' system is used - complete the level as efficiently as possible and you get the full complement of 3 stars - stumble around and take ages like I did here(!) and you just get the one star. Hey ho...
Sound easy? Just to throw you an obstacle or two, along the way there are bad guys, black prickles, which, if touched, cause you to recoil in pain and (more worryingly) add twenty seconds to your time. Ouch. On the plus side, on later levels you'll come across moving platforms that can help you rise vertically, plus bonus levels that get revealed when you contact egg-boxes (or whatever they're supposed to be - this isn't real, you know?....)
At this point it's worth noting that that levels are all hand-designed. In other words, purpose-built to gradually get as fiendishly difficult as possible, so expect those black prickles to be placed in more and more inconvenient places. The downside of hand designed levels, of course, is that the game will play the same on the second time round. But, as with Angry Birds, it's a) unlikely that you'll have got three stars on every level, so you can always go back and try to achieve Swingworm nirvana, and b) you're unlikely to remember intricacies of each level, since they're fairly similar in terms of graphics.
The animation and physics of the worm's body is very nicely done, it almost looks cute and cuddly, with teeth and err.... sticky bottom latching onto anything green, in your quest for altitude.
The layers in the interface are parallax scrolled and have subtle little animations here and there. Just the programmers showing off, really, but it all adds to the luxurious effect.
With all of the above admirably implemented, it seems churlish to complain, especially at the amazing price of just £1.50, but one thing I did miss from the Angry Birds world was a zoom facility - some way to zoom out in order to 'see' the whole level in one go. Maybe this wasn't implemented because of time constraints - or maybe this would have been against the spirit of the 'worms eye view' of the world, crawling (or should that be swinging) around to explore?
If you love graphical, level-based puzzlers then you'll love Swingworm - that there's time pressure too just adds to the fun. Swingworm, ultimately, hasn't got quite the same immediacy as Angry Birds for casual users, but it's very definitely in the same league as game titles go. Which is a pretty high compliment.
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 13 Dec 2011
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at