Earthworm Jim (series)
|First release||Earthworm Jim
August 2, 1994
Earthworm Jim is a series of side-scrolling platforming video games, the first game of which was released in 1994. The series is noted for its platforming and shooting gameplay, surrealist humor, and edgy art style. Four games were released in the series: Earthworm Jim, Earthworm Jim 2, Earthworm Jim 3D, and Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy. The series lay dormant for almost a decade before Gameloft remade the original game in HD for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. Interplay announced an Earthworm Jim 4 in 2008, but little has surfaced since.
- 1 History
- 2 Characters
- 3 In other media
- 4 Television series
- 5 Reception and legacy
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Earthworm Jim (1993–1994)
Playmates Toys, finding success with the license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, wanted to start their own franchise. Inspired by the success of the Sonic the Hedgehog series with Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, they decided that they wanted to start the franchise as a video game, a rare approach at the time. From there, the game's design actually started with creator Doug TenNapel's simple sketch of an earthworm that he presented to Shiny Entertainment. Impressed, David Perry and the rest of Shiny bought the rights to Earthworm Jim from TenNapel, and started developing the game. From there, TenNapel would work on doing the game design, creating level ideas, and voicing Jim's character, while Perry and the other programmers created other characters and game mechanics.
The game's crazy atmosphere, world, and characters was due to the fact that the company had previously always been restricted to doing licensed games, like 7up's Cool Spot, where they had to conform to the other company's preset limitations. In that respect, the game was actually created as a satire of platform video games at the time; for instance, "Princess-What's-Her-Name" was a parody of how so many video games had throw-away female characters to be saved.
The resulting game would be the original Earthworm Jim. The game would play as a 2D sidescrolling platformer with elements of a run and gun game as well. The player controls Jim and must maneuver him through the level while avoiding obstacles and enemies. The player can use Jim's gun as a method of shooting enemies, or his head a whip for whipping enemies. The whip move also allows the player to grab hold of, and swing from, certain hooks in the game. Some levels have additional requirements beyond merely getting to the end of the level. For example, the level "For Pete's Sake", involves making sure the computer-controlled Peter Puppy character gets through the level unharmed, which is accomplished by whipping him to make him jump over pits, and defeating enemies before they can damage him. Failure to do so results in Peter lashing out at Jim, taking away from his health.
The developers also created a wide variety of colorful villains for the game as well, including Psy-Crow, Queen Slug-for-a-Butt, Evil the Cat, Bob the Killer Goldfish, Major Mucus, and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head.
The game was very well received on both the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. It was awarded Best Genesis Game of 1994 by Electronic Gaming Monthly and was rated the 114th-best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list. The game was noted for its fluid animation, featuring a hand-drawn style that was unusual for 16-bit releases.
A special version of the game entitled The Great Earthworm Jim Race was broadcast in 1995 for the Sega Channel. The game featured an increase in difficulty level and a secret room which, when reached by the first 200 players, would display a password and a toll-free telephone number. Those that called the number were awarded special prizes. Shortly afterwards, the same development team started work on a sequel.
Earthworm Jim 2 (1995–1996)
The premise of the sequel was largely the same as the original; traverse through the levels in order to save Princess What's Her Name, and defeat the game's numerous enemies, namely Psy-Crow. However, gameplay was much more diverse. While the majority of levels was still based on run and gun and platformer game elements, separate levels incorporate different gameplay elements as well. Some levels, such as the opening level, "Anything But Tangerines", and the game's eighth level, "Level Ate", play largely the same as the original Earthworm Jim, with the exception of there being a larger variety of moves at the players disposal. For instance, there are more types of guns to use once found in a level, such as an auto-aiming gun, or the "brick-wall" gun which takes out every enemy visible on the screen. Additionally, Jim's friend "Snot" travels with him, and can be used to stick and swing to other slimy green surfaces, or as a parachute, upon jumping.
Other levels stray much farther from this formula. In the third level, "The Villi People," the player must guide Jim, defenseless in the disguise of a blind cave salamander, through intestinal passages, while avoiding exploding sheep and hazards embedded in the floor and walls. The latter part of the level suddenly switches to a game show/trivia format, where the player has to answer nonsensical multiple choice questions that commonly have no logically correct answer. Another level, aptly titled "Inflated Head", has Jim's head inflated much like a balloon, and the player must control Jim as he floats upward, avoiding touching sharp objects which cause him to fall back down to the start of the level. Yet another plays as an isometric shooter, with Jim again on his "pocket rocket", where a balloon with a bomb must be directed to the end of the level, and defended from enemies. The last level of the game is not a typical boss fight, but rather, a race against Psy-Crow through an obstacle course, to get to Princess What's Her Name.
Earthworm Jim 2 was also well received on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, with some reviewers such as IGN and Gamezone declaring it as better overall than the original. The game's humor, innovative gameplay, and "mini-game" style levels spread throughout the game were also held in high regard as a welcome change from the linear gameplay common at the time, although some reviewers had mixed reactions to some of various different gameplay mechanics.
However, the game was later ported to the more advanced PlayStation and Sega Saturn systems, and those versions were generally criticized more due to not having any significant improvements despite the more powerful hardware.
Earthworm Jim 3D (1997–1999)
Shortly after the release of Earthworm Jim 2, its original developer, Shiny Entertainment was bought by Interplay Entertainment, and then put onto other projects, most notably working on the PlayStation platformer Wild 9 for three years. With them busy, the franchise was given to VIS Entertainment, and it was decided that, much like many platform game series at the time, like Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog, that gameplay would transition from 2D to 3D. Development started shortly after Earthworm Jim 2 and had a drawn-out three-year development cycle, so much so that it was at times believed it would become vaporware.
Problems arose from this extended development cycle. Much content from previews and promotional material was no longer in the final game; most notably being that the game's final packaging showed Evil the Cat as the boss of the "Fear" level, where as Professor Monkey-For-A-Head was actually the boss of the level. Many locations displayed in early versions of the game are nowhere to be found in the released copy (such as a level set in a house, where Jim is ant-sized). Additionally, Evil Jim, Earthworm Jim's evil twin from the cartoon series, was reportedly a part of the game. Early screenshots and footage also display Jim riding his Pocket Rocket, with a fuel meter, in races and other missions, as well as snowboarding. Additionally, the game was loosely was based on the Earthworm Jim TV series which by the time of release, had been off the air for more than three years, thus hurting the game's promotional tie-ins.
At the time, original series designer David Perry had sold the rights to the franchise. The characters had to be redesigned for the shift from side-scrolling 2D to free-roaming 3D. Perry and original series creator Doug TenNapel were at first involved in the game as minor consultants, but were dismissed for unexplained reasons. Both expressed that they hated what was done with Earthworm Jim 3D, but legally could not prevent anything from happening. TenNapel said he felt the series was "ruined" by the game.
The game was not considered either a critical or commercial success. Many reviews called the game uninspired, mediocre, and unable to compete with many other similar, higher reviewed platform games at the time, such as Super Mario 64, Rayman 2, or Banjo Kazooie.
Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy (1999)
A final, fourth Earthworm Jim game was released shortly after Earthworm Jim 3D in 1999. It was developed neither by the original team, nor the Earthworm Jim 3D team, but by David A. Palmer Productions and published by Crave Entertainment. The game played similarly to the first two games, but gameplay was greatly simplified, concentrating on exploring levels to collect items, rather than the constantly changing gimmicks present in the original two games. Levels typically involved goals such as collecting 100 or more coins to progress through levels, and if the player leads Jim to take too much damage, the player must start the level over again, with zero items collected. The game was poorly received as well, with reviewers complaining about the tedium of the collecting, and the game lacking the charm and style of the original games.
Dormancy and cancelled titles (2000–2007)
The series lay dormant for the first half of the decade. Rumors of a new Earthworm Jim game for the PlayStation Portable started in 2006. Referred to as Earthworm Jim (PSP), it was originally believed to be a remake of the original Earthworm Jim due to footage of Jim in a level very reminiscent of the "New Junk City" level from the first game. The game was formally announced at E3 2006 by Atari, who had obtained the rights to the franchise. However, the game was reported to still to be made by members of the original two titles, Earthworm Jim and Earthworm Jim 2, including Shiny Entertainment founder Dave Perry, Doug TenNapel, Nick Bruty, and Tommy Tallarico. The developers later announced that the game would be mostly new content, with elements of the earlier games included. Past character to return in the game included Princess What's Her Name and Peter Puppy. The game was to retain the gameplay of the original two titles, playing as a 2D sidescrolling platformer with elements of a run and gun, but now with 3D computer graphics. It would be two-dimensional gameplay with three-dimensional graphics, much in the vein of Sonic Rivals or Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. Similar to the original two games, the gameplay consisted of maneuvering Jim through levels through running and jumping, and defeating enemies with a machine gun, and by using his head as a whip.
By August 2006, the game was reportedly at 80% complete, and many video game journalists had hands-on playable builds of the game, such as Gamespot, GamesRadar, and IGN. It was scheduled for an early 2007 release. However, Atari quietly put the game "on hold" by mid-2007. The game has since been cancelled due to financial troubles."
Remakes, re-releases and future (2008–present)
Interplay announced an Earthworm Jim 4 in 2008, but little has surfaced since. Series creator Doug TenNapel later denied work on it had ever started in 2010. However, Interplay referred to the game as "still in development" as of May 2011.
While no new, original games were released in the 2000s, the franchise was still used in the last years of the decade. With the trend of games from the 1990s being re-released digitally, the two original Earthworm Jim games were re-released on platforms such as the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live. The original was also ported to iOS for play on iPhones as well.
In 2010, a remake of the original game, titled Earthworm Jim HD was released on PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3, and Xbox Live for Xbox 360. The game was very similar to the original, but had redone, smoothed graphics, and new multiplayer exclusive levels.
In other media
Earthworm Jim also starred as a fighter on Interplay's Nintendo 64 title, Clay Fighter 63 1/3 in 1997 and the Blockbuster rental, Clay Fighter 63 1/3: Sculptors Cut in 1998. In the original, Jim was a default character, however in the Sculptor's Cut, he was required to be unlocked. Also in the game, he and Boogerman hold a strong rivalry between one another.
A line of Earthworm Jim toys and action figures was released in late 1995.
Shiny has also made references to Earthworm Jim in its later titles; their game Sacrifice features an earthworm-like god called James, and there were additional references in the game MDK. Earthworm Jim also appears as a secret character in the first Battle Arena Toshinden game for PC.
An animated series based on the Earthworm Jim series of video games was also produced, and ran for 23 episodes in 2 seasons from 1995 to 1996 on the Kids' WB programming block on The WB Television Network. The show maintains much of the absurdist and surreal humor of the original games, as well as introducing its own features. Most of the episodes revolve around one of Jim's many villains trying to reclaim the super suit, or otherwise causing mayhem through the galaxy. Actor Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer Simpson on the animated television show The Simpsons, voiced Earthworm Jim in the animated series.
Reception and legacy
The original two Earthworm Jim games of the series has been praised for its detailed graphics, well developed platforming and wacky humor. The original game was received very well, even being rated the 114th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Powers Top 200 Games list. Earthworm Jim 2 was also received very well. Both were better received than many of their other projects being worked on around the same time, such as Interplay's Boogerman, which was criticized as being cretinous, disgusting, and patronizing, and Cool Spot, a project Perry and Tallerico worked on, which was criticized for having a "lack of personality".
Earthworm Jim 3D was the start of the downfall of the series, as it was not considered either a critical or commercial success, and many reviewers claiming the game uninspired, mediocre, and unable to compete with many other similar, higher reviewed platform games at the time, such as Super Mario 64, Rayman 2, or Banjo Kazooie. Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy was even more poorly received, with reviewers claiming it had lost of the charm of what made the originals good, and sadly pretty much "killed the series".
Other aspects of the series in particular have received praise as well. Music from Earthworm Jim 2 was included in Game Central's Best of the Best CD compilation of video game music. It has also been requested at concerts where game composer Tommy Tallarico has had his music performed. The character Earthworm Jim has been recognized as one of the greatest animal protagonists in video game history.
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