Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Retro Review Tuesday: Earthworm Jim
Earthworm Jim is one of the most popular platform games ever made. It spawned a line of toys, a cartoon show, and bunches of rereleases, remakes and sequels. It was released in 1994 on both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Unlike most games released on both systems during this period, the Sega Genesis version of the game is widely considered to be the superior version and is the version this review covers. Besides, I proudly admit my status as a Genesis fan girl. :)
When you open the instruction booklet you find a well drawn mini comic which introduces you to the basic concept of the game:Jim is just a normal earthworm when fate steps in to change his life forever. One day a space suits falls from the sky, once inside this suit he finds himself able to move and act in ways no worm would ever dream of. He finds himself running, jumping and blasting his enemies (and his face occasionally) to smithereens. Unfortunately, he also pissed of PsyCrow who was in pursuit of the suit. Jim spends the rest of the game running away from PsyCrow and searching for Queen pulsating, bloated, festering, sweaty, pus-filled, malformed-slug-for-a-butt and her lovely sister, Princess What's-her-name.
You can tell just from that basic description that Earthworm Jim is a level of craziness you rarely find in modern American produced games. With the over abundance of cows (well, really one cow that gets around), the ridiculous settings of the levels and really the entire concept of an earthworm running around in a space suit, you're guaranteed raised eyebrows and fits of giggles and fits of giggles are exactly what you're going to get. Jim's silly sayings and idle animations(my personal favorite is when he drops his pants) are guaranteed to get you to crack a smile if somehow anthropomorphic brains and giant hamsters don't.
Graphically the game has held up very well over the years. The animation is bright, crisp, smooth and fluid. Character sprites are detailed without excessive pixelation and the backgrounds are big and colorful without being distracting. It also is rare instances of a "3d" graphic that was mind blowing and innovative at the time and still looks good today.
Sound wise it's pretty basic. Sounds and voices are clear and the music is memorable and quite appropriate, but nothing special compared to other classic games.
The game on every difficulty level ranges quite a bit from easy, silly, fun to rage inciting, controller throwing, impossibilities. When you start the game you can choose one of three difficulty choices: Practice, normal, and difficult. Practice mode even though it seems easy in the beginning still presents a challenge in the later levels, Buttville in particular can be ridiculous when you don't know what's coming. The harder difficulty levels render some portions neigh on impossible as you move on.
The controls are smooth and responsive. Like most older games they're pretty basic: A shoots your gun, either the normal or super plasma depending on what you've picked up recently. B whips Jim around which is good for things like killing crow and swinging across large chasms. C when standing still or running is good old fashioned jump, when falling it's used for the helicopter head move which slows Jim's fall, allows him to maneuver into different space and saves your butt more often than most of us would like to admit.
Like you'd expect for a platformer you spend the majority of your game eliminating or avoiding enemies, collecting items, and working towards hitting a continue or a boss. However, there are several levels that break from the mold and give you a bit of a different gaming experience, like riding a mini rocket, bungee jumping, piloting an airless and extremely fragile submarine and keeping an adorable little puppy out of harms way.
You start off the game in "New Junk City",a junkyard guarded by Chuck the fish retching overseer and Fifi his loyal worm hating canine companion. They aren't the only problems for poor Jim as he presses on in his quest, there's is also a steady stream of crows that are delighted with the sight of a giant worm and if given a chance they will grab poor Jim's head and not want to let go. Not to mention the numerous spike pits that dot the landscape.(which does beg the question as to why would a junkyard want or need spike pits...) After beating the area boss Jim pulls out his trusty pocket sized rocket ship and heads into space for a little race with PsyCrow you'll become all to familiar with as the game progresses (AKA Andy Asteroids). If Jim wins the race he heads to "What the Heck" a reimagining of hell where elevator music floats through the air and a cat named evil reigns supreme. If Jim loses the race he has to fight PsyCrow beforehand but still ends up in "heck".
The rest of the game proceeds in an equally as absurd and improbable manner culminating in an epic battle with the Queen, Queen slug-for-a-butt for short, so that Jim can finally meet with the lovely princess..and a cow.
Overall Earthworm Jim is a game that just about everyone in my generation played and remembers fondly. It's a game easily beat in one sitting but one that sticks with you whether because of it's comic genius, it's almost infinite playability, or just for nostalgia. It is easily one of most memorable games ever made and possibly the most influential game in the platformer genre. This game ranks among my top favorites and as an owner of hundreds of video games spanning a dozen systems that's no easy feat, even if I were liquidate the majority of most of our gaming collection this would be one worth keeping forever.