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Not Your Average Fish Bait

  • Jul 23, 2011
  • by
Remember the show Rugrats? On the Nickelodeon network? For those who don't, let me clue you in: Rugrats was a show about what our infant children did behind our backs. The parents would be in their faces one second, affectionately mimicing those indecipherable baby sounds, but the second their backs are turned, the babies reveal their true selves. They begin plotting and scheming to do what is just normal baby stuff, and their attempts to follow through on those plans often wind up making huge messes for other people to clean up. This poses an interesting question: What DO your babies think and plot behind you backs? You're probably thinking nothing, since you were that young one time. But most people can't remember ever being that young, so what they really did is up for grabs.

Along those same lines, you have to wonder what your average garden variety worm does when you're not gardening. According to Shiny, they put on intergalactic space suits that give them super powers and limbs. This is the concept behind Earthworm Jim, probably the most popular game Shiny ever produced. And also the Sega Genesis game of the year in 1996. Probably would have been the Super NES game of the year too, had it not been for Donkey Kong Country.

Our little monsters-under-the-bed concept begins one fine day when an earthworm named Jim crawls out of his hole in the ground to go about his regular daily routine, and narrowly escapes a crow. At the same time, a crow named Psy-Crow is chasing a small renegade ship in outer space, which has stolen an ultra high tech indestructible super space cyber suit. After Psy-Crow overtakes and blows up the ship, the suit gently falls into Earth's atmosphere and onto our protagonist. A radical evolutionary morph takes place, and our earthworm hero named Jim is transformed into... Earthworm Jim!!!! Jim then notices the red thingie hanging on the suit (not THAT thingie, you perverts. Seek help) and begins playing with the buttons (not THOSE buttons). Off in the distance, the crow who was hunting for Jim earlier is turned into a crispy critter. With super strength and his plasma blaster (not THAT plasma... Ah, forget it), Jim thinks he's got it all easy now. But Psy-Crow needs the suit back, or he'll face the wrath of Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt. The Queen knows that this suit will make her even more beautiful than even her twin sister, Princess What's-Her-Name.

By now, the quirky humor present in Earthworm Jim should be obvious. Other characters include Bob the Goldfish and his pet cat, #4. Evil the Cat runs the world of Heck, where lawyers lurk and Evil tortures his enemies to the tunes of lounge music. Professor Monkey for a Head is a mad scientist who crawls along ropes on the ceiling. And Peter Puppy is a cute little puppy... Until he falls into a pit. Then he becomes a grotesque, rabid animal who mauls Jim.

The levels in Earthworm Jim are even weirder than the characters. The game begins with a quick romp through New Junk City, with its endless tire yards and attacking crows. After that, you go through Heck, where one of your fiercest enemies is a snowman. From there, the levels only get weirder and weirder, not to mention much more brilliantly designed. There's a level where Jim runs through a giant hamster maze and has to take flight in giant bubble balls to get to some sections-one of these rides is a white-knuckle race against time, where you have to reach the other end in 99 seconds or the bubble implodes. The giant lab level includes a section where you have to navigate your way through the dark, but you only get to that if you look hard enough. One level has you whipping Peter Puppy to keep him from falling into pits, and a level not included on the Super NES version has you moving upward through a giant intestine. It all climaxes in a particularly unpleasant place called Buttville. Between levels, you guide Jim on his pocket rocket through a space wormhole in a race against Psy-Crow. If you lose the race, you have to fight Psy-Crow one-on-one on some mysterious planet. But the rocket levels are like the Gummi Ship rounds in Kingdom Hearts-fun the first few times, but then just tedious. And unlike Kingdom Hearts, you don't get to skip them.

It should be obvious by now that Jim is not just your garden variety worm (well, okay, he is, but not while wearing that suit). Jim's moves include a head whip, which is really the only way to defeat some of the enemies. You can repeatedly press jump to activate a little helicopter, making Jim's head spin. This is supposed to make Jim's descention from jumps and long falls slower, although it hardly does any good. Jim can also use his head to swing from hooks Tarzan-style. Poor Jim's head takes a lot of punishment for simply being there. He reminds me of Bonk, the little caveman who whacks bad guys with his head. Jim's plasma gun shows a surprising lack of imagination considering the rest of the game; all he gets to play with is the always-basic machine gun ammo and, if he finds them, powerful super shots that will wipe out most foes that couldn't be killed otherwise.

The graphics in Earthworm Jim are about as spic-and-span as they could possibly get on the Genesis. The general weirdness of Earthworm Jim's worlds are all imaginatively represented, and the themes are all milked for everything they're worth, which is more than I can say even for the mighty food-themed lands of Super Mario World. The only problems with the foreground and background are the way some of the sights occaisionally hamper your view of Jim. This is a big problem in the Down the Tubes level, where the foreground will block your view of the #4's roaming the pipes. The sprites themselves have a lot of creative caricatures-the mad dogs running around New Junk City move around in little tornadoes, Peter Puppy holds an astounding resemblance to Snoopy, those kinds of things. The little details attached to many of the sprites are nice touches, like the paper spilling out of the lawyers' briefcases. Naturally the graphics feature a lot of subtle slapstick humor, like the way the little cats in Down the Tubes maul Jim and Jim using his head as a lasso.

The music isn't quite the best I've heard, but it gets the job done. The only music in the game worth noting comes from Heck, which starts off with a rousing round of "Night on Bald Mountain", only to be scratched out and replaced with lounge music. The western hoedown music that plays in the rocket levels is like the levels themselves-funny the first few times, but beyond annoying afterward. Earthworm Jim may be the only game I've ever played in which the music was actually overshadowed by the sounds. Many of the sounds are of the disgusting bathroom variety. Chuck, the appropriately named boss of New Junk City, lets out a convincingly sick barfing sound when he... Well, chucks. The music in Heck is complimented by tortured screams. There are also more cartoonish sounds whenever Jim tkes a hard hit.

For a garden worm, Jim certainly runs fast. And jumps high. That's a very nice thing about the controls. The best thing about the controls, though, is when you try to shoot at something. The computer reads what you're aiming at, and the eight-way plasma blaster fans out in a whopping 64 directions. A nice touch, but not enough to make up for some of the flaws in the scheme. To make the helicopter work, you have to press the jump button ultra-fast, only so Jim can fall too fast. Swinging from the head whip is no easy trick either, considering how small the hooks Jim swings from are. But the helicopter and swing are skill issues, not really the kind of things to base control complaints on. The overall control responds well.

A worm in a space suit, a crow in a space suit, cartoonish, let me read your mind: You're thinking, "Hey, my little brother would love this. I'm gonna go out and buy it for him.". Well, you'd be best advised not to. If your little brother is a teenager, it's fine, but for a six or seven year old, Earthworm Jim will be a nightmare. This is one of those games that will rip your limbs off on the easy setting, so don't buy this for Mickey unless you like hearing him wail constantly about the high skill factor. Power-ups and ammunition are both prevalent, but so are annoying, hard to hit enemies. The lawyers in Heck are a tricky bunch to get rid of. The bubble race in Down the Tubes is a challenging race to the finish where any mistake will cost you, and whipping Peter over pits gets HARD later in the level. So this is not a game that you should give to a kid who hasn't yet learned to lose at video games.

If you HAVE learned how to blame yourself for your own life loss, you can't do much better than this. Earthworm Jim is a very satisfying blend of video games and Saturday morning cartoons. It's yet another Genesis must-own game.

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July 23, 2011
man....I used to plat this game a lot! Thanks for the memories!
July 23, 2011
Yeah, what a shame the series couldn't live up to the promise this game showed.
More Earthworm Jim reviews
Quick Tip by . January 13, 2012
posted in Siliconera Bounce
Earthworm Jim is a classic moment of 90's gaming, with it's addictve run-and-gun gameplay, precision platforming, varied soundtrack, surreal humor, and weird-as-hell imagery.  If you love challenging 2D action games, this is one you gotta play if you haven't already (for those of us who don't have working SNES or Genesis consoles, you can get this on Steam, the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, or the Wii Virtual Console).
Quick Tip by . September 26, 2010
Tough and wacky platformer about a Earthworm named Jim who gets super powers from a super space suit. Tough but fun.
review by . September 04, 2000
Although the graphics are on an out-dated system (It's been almost 7 years this game has been made!), "Earthworm Jim" is still one of the best action-adventure game to date! I was very impressed with the gameplay, storyline (Even though there wasn't much of one), graphics, and originality of this game! And still catch myself playing it sometimes! And for those who have only played "Earthworm Jim 3D" (Such a bad game!!!) I strongly recomend renting this game to see how Earthworm Jim was made to be …
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #17
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this video game


Earthworm Jim is a run and gun platform video game starring an earthworm named Jim in a robotic suit who battles evil. Created by Doug TenNapel and designed by David Perry, the game was developed by Shiny Entertainment, released for the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1994, and subsequently ported to the SNES, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sega Master System, and years later, the Game Boy Advance. Upon its release it was praised for its detailed animation, polished gameplay and surreal humor; it became the first game ever to receive a 100% review in GamesMaster magazine. A special edition of the game was released for the Sega CD which features a Red Book audio soundtrack, improved graphics and expanded levels,[5] and an even further enhanced version with redrawn, 256 color graphics and an Earthworm Jim desktop theme, as well as all the Sega CD improvements, was released for Microsoft Windows 95. A planned Atari Jaguar release was cancelled. The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version was released through Wii's Virtual Console service in Europe on October 3, 2008,[4] and in North America on October 27, 2008.[3] Gameloft released a version for the iPhone and Symbian S60 devices and has recently developed an HD version for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
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Number of Players: 1 Player
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Console: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
Genre: Action

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