This month, I decided to take the reigns and look at something console based. Growing up, my favorite console was probably the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Although I loved playing on SNES games at my friends house, and prefer the SNES titles now that I’m older, a the time, nothing could beat some good old arcade-style action. And that’s what the Mega Drive was – a home arcade system. With the hand-drawn cartoony graphics and simple platformer gaming that most titles covered, it really stood out as an impressive platform – and many of the games are still fun today.
When the Retro Game Rewind first started, the first game that instantly sprung to mind for me was one of my favorite games from childhood: Earthworm Jim. Me and my friend used to spend countless days playing this game; beating it, trying out cheat codes, beating it again, searching for secrets and beating it some more, all the while laughing at the childish humor pouring from every cartoony orifice.
Released in 1994 on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis), Earthworm Jim was Shiny Entertainment’s first game – and first big hit. Earthworm Jim was an instant success as fans instantly took to its brilliant art style, smooth animations and, above all, its surreal sense of humor and (according to the wiki page I’ve just glanced at to confirm dates) was the first game ever to receive a 100% score from Gamesmaster Magazine.
For those who are unfamiliar with the game, Earthworm Jim is the peculiar story of an earthworm granted powerful abilities through a Super-Suit which had fallen from space. Jim then sets out on a quest across the galaxy to rescue Princess-What’s-Her-Name from the evil Queen Slug-For-A-Butt, fighting various, equally preposterous villains along the way. It was a surreal, cartoony adventure with a brilliant sense of humor about it.
With such booming success, winning several awards and much-loved by the public, a sequel (aptly named Earthworm Jim 2) was released a year later and was received with the same enthusiasm and accolade as the first. Some reviewers of the time even claimed it to be greater than the first, with an even more varied style of gameplay, longer campaign and improved graphics.
There was also an Earthworm Jim 3D released on the N64, but the less said about that the better…
My First Encounter
When I first saw this game on the shelves, I knew I had to have it. Saving up for weeks, I finally bought it and invited my best friend around to play. We sat there entranced by the sheer brilliance of the game; the humor, the graphics, the gameplay – everything seemed perfect! All summer we were going to each others houses to play the game, completing it over and over again. One of my funniest memories as a kid was walking into the newsagent and seeing my mate laying across the floor, copying all the cheat codes for the game out of a gaming magazine! (Remembering this was before the days of YouTube)
Playing the Game: How Does it Hold-up Today?
Now available as a HD remake, Jim has never looked nicer. It really was a blast from the past – sound effects were spot on, the art design still holds strong today and it was fantastic to play in HD. The controls were very intuitive, too, as I never had to think about what buttons to press (granted there weren’t as many buttons to press back them, but the mapping on a modern controller is exactly what you’d expect).
As mentioned before, the art style alone is a reason to pick up this title. Rarely do we see games this unique coming to the market; the levels are incredibly varied and interesting, with bold colours in a cartoony art style that makes it stand apart from the dreary grey/brown look modern games often tote. That said, the game is far from perfect…
Although the levels themselves look great, it can be tricky, sometimes impossible, to differentiate the background from the foreground, leading to plenty of frustratingly clumsy plummets down pits – a flaw I remember the original game suffering from. Another irritating feature that was ported over is when your weapon instantly changes to the over-charged “Plasma” gun when collected. So many times I’d attempt to take down one measly enemy when I’d fire a flurry of over-kill Plasma shots. The difficulty can be another problem at times, as this game hails from the days platformers hated players completing the game… So many times you’d have to make perfectly timed jumps and swings, making sure to get rid of any insta-kill enemies that popped out of the dark. Pete the Puppy gave me the toughest time, with sections seeming almost impossible (I have no clue how I completed this game as a kid.)
That said, the arduous task of completing a level always seems to make the experience feel more rewarding, and since the levels themselves were so varied, each new world felt like a well-deserved prize. Completing the full game only took a couple of hours, and getting to fight the last boss again – Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed Slug-For-A-Butt – brought back fond memories.
This HD remake also hosts 3 new bonus levels, created specifically for the remake. Sadly, although reminiscent of the good old days, they seem to lack the certain charm found in the original levels. All three levels, although interesting, were ultimately forgettable – even when trying to crowbar “modern” memes in like a keyboard playing cat plonking a strangely familiar tune…
Keeping up with the standard of modern gaming, the game also has its own “Online/offline Multiplayer” feature but as I no longer live anywhere near my childhood friend, and the online mode was curiously empty, I can’t really comment. Although judging by the lack of players, I can only presume that it’s not all that memorable nor enticing…
Is it Worth Buying?
I didn’t think twice about buy the game for this review. It was a great gateway to nostalgia, reminding me what I loved about the gaming era of my childhood. By todays standards, however, I’m not so sure it’s worth it. It was a great run while it lasted, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but for price I paid I was expecting more. Games like this were far shorter than games now days, and my main feeling after playing this was “Man, I wanna play Earthworm Jim 2 now…”
With a price tag of £7.99/$9.99 and available on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and Steam, this could be for you. Download the demo first; if surreal humor, interesting level design and nostalgia is enough to carry a title in your eyes, then this is the game for you.