The temptation to type out the entire theme song to Earthworm Jim is overwhelming, but seeing as it has little to do with the actual game I think I’ll leave it out. Everyone remembers Jim, the worm with the super suit, super gun, and super vocabulary. The Earthworm Jim videogame was developed by Shiny Entertainment way back in 1995. The game was originally developed for the SEGA Megadrive/Genesis but was subsequently ported to a huge number of systems. The game appeared on the SNES, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sega Master System, and years later, the Game Boy Advance; its also now available on the Wii’s Virtual Console.
Earthworm Jim is a run and gun game, and if you don’t know what that is; think Metal Slug. The game in itself is completely bizarre. As an example, there are such an uncanny amount of cows found in the game, it’s just downright creepy. The story contains a fair few imaginative characters. Jim himself used to be an ordinary worm, doing what ordinary worms do; eating dirt, praying for rain, and escaping scary birds. One day however, the evil “Psy-Crow” had cornered a rebel spaceship pilot who had nicked an “Ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit” built by “Professor Monkey For A Head”. The suit had been ordered by the evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt so she could use it to further conquer the galaxy and beyond.
Somehow by sheer stroke of luck Jim had the suit fall on him from space, which was lost by Psy-Crow after a fight ensued. Jim managed to land on the collar of the suit, where he suddenly mutated into the large, muscular and robustly handsome Worm/Hero that we know today.
You control Jim throughout the entire game, and have to use his many abilities to complete the subsequent levels; launching cows, using Jim’s head as a whip, along with other crazy features all add to the insanity. During the level sections of the game Jim can run, use his gun, swing on hooks and obtain power-ups for his blaster. The “in-betweeny” bits, called Andy’s Asteroids, this places you in a semi-3D race against the Psy-Crow. If Psy-Crow wins the race you have to fight him in a one on one battle to progress.
Throughout the game a lot of features were added in, such as mini-bosses whose weaknesses Jim would need to find through trial and error. Crystal treadmills, underwater pod races, and other related things also appear. Earthworm Jim is a fantastic game, as a platformer and a side-scrolling shooter it reaches above and beyond of the norm.
The crystal clear sprites looked fantastic on the Gen/Megadrive and still look great today. In fact one of the first things you’ll notice when you play is the fluidity of the game, every one of Jim’s movements are carefully crafted, giving him incredibly smooth animation, which is very impressive for it’s time. The levels and scenery are all gorgeous too; you’ll stroll though some interesting levels over the course of the game. The only downside is that you’ll occasionally mistake the background for a platform and fall.
Unfortunately while the gameplay is crazy, it doesn’t match the expertise of the visuals. Jim is pretty annoying to control, his jumps are floaty, and his attacks are difficult to aim. His whip is exceedingly difficult to aim, and his blaster, while looking good, doesn’t show any projectiles firing from it, just a blast aura, so you are usually guessing whether your shots are actually connecting.
While its unfortunate that the gameplay doesn’t quite reach the mark left by the visuals, you’ll be glad to know that the soundtrack does the gamejustice. The music is just as interesting as the off-the-wall as the visuals, enhancing the experience for the player. The cast in the game can’t be called anything but original, after all you’ve got bad guys like “Bob The Killer Goldfish” and “Professor Monkey For A Head”.
Whilst Earthworm Jim may stir up nostalgia, you may be better off picking up the sequel, Earthworm Jim 2. While the original is a great game in general, but is lacking in a few aspects, the sequel retains the quirky sounds and visuals and contains a far more solid version of the gameplay. You may remember Jim as a “Hero of the Ages”, but his original game isn’t as fun to play as you remember, it’s just fun to look at. While you can get this on the Virtual Console, you may want to wait for the sequel.