Earthworm Jim (video game)
European Mega Drive cover art
|Platform(s)||Sega Genesis, SNES, Sega CD, Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, Windows 95, MS-DOS, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DSi|
|Genre(s)||Platform, Run and gun|
Earthworm Jim is a 1994 run and gun platform game developed by Shiny Entertainment, featuring an earthworm named Jim, who wears a robotic suit and battles evil. The game was released for the Sega Genesis, and subsequently ported to a number of other video game consoles.
It was well received by critics, and received a sequel, Earthworm Jim 2, in 1995. In 2010, Gameloft developed and released a high definition remake for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, titled Earthworm Jim HD. In February 2018, Gameloft’s contract with Interplay ended, so Earthworm Jim HD as well as the Nintendo DSi , Wii and Windows Phone ports were removed from digital stores.
The game plays 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 as 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.
Levels commonly culminate with a boss battle. The game incorporates a large variety of villains in the boss battles, including Psy-Crow, Queen Slug-for-a-Butt, Evil the Cat, Bob the Killer Goldfish, Major Mucus, and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head. Two villains made their only appearance in this game, Chuck, a junkyard man with a tendency to vomit bizarre objects, and Doc Duodenum, a crazed organ of a giant alien.
In-between most levels, a racing level called "Andy Asteroids" is played. Unlike the rest of the game, it places the viewpoint behind Jim. The player must direct Jim on his rocket, in a race against Psycrow, through a tube-like structure while collecting items and boosts and avoiding asteroids. If the player wins, the next level is started instantly. If the player loses, a special boss fight against Psy-Crow must be won in order to progress to the next level.
Other variations in gameplay occur over the course of the game as well, such as a competitive bungie-jumping and fighting level, and an underwater maze that must be traversed both within a timelimit and without crashing too many times.
Jim is a normal earthworm, until a special "super suit" falls from the sky and allows him to operate much like a human, with his "worm-part" acting as a head and the suit acting as arms, body, and legs. Jim's task is two-fold, he must evade the game's many antagonists, who are after him because they want the suit back, and also rescue and protect Princess What's-Her-Name from them. The game plays out with Jim eluding and defeating all enemies, and saving Princess What's-Her-Name. However, not only does she not return Jim's affection, but she is also crushed by the flying cow that was launched at the beginning of the game by Jim himself.
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 Douglas TenNapel's simple sketch of an earthworm that he presented to Shiny Entertainment. Impressed, programmer 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. Perry recounted that the giant hamster "was drawn by one of our guys at three o'clock one morning".
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 original version was released for the Genesis in 1994. A version for the Super NES was released shortly after the original and is largely the same as the Genesis version. The Super NES version has altered graphics, with alternate backgrounds and special effects, but lacked some sound effects and one of the levels from the Genesis version (titled "Intestinal Distress"). The stated reason for the Genesis version having the extra level was that the "Genesis version was more easily compressed and had the room for the bonus level". Subsequently, Nick Bruty has stated in an interview that Sega asked Shiny Entertainment to add a level exclusively to the Sega version in exchange for reduced cartridge cost. Nick states that they designed the level overnight, and completed coding and testing the level in a single day–the day the game was sent to be printed to the consoles. The Japanese Mega Drive version was available exclusively via the Sega Channel service.
The game's Genesis release was promoted with a television commercial in which an elderly woman tells a bedtime story about Earthworm Jim while eating live earthworms (actually plastic props). The networks airing the commercial received so many complaints from nauseated viewers that the commercial was pulled in some markets, including stations in Portland, Spokane, and Sacramento.
The game's Special Edition was released for the Sega Genesis add-on, the Sega CD, and Windows 95. It was based off the Genesis version, contained all of its levels, plus some extended section to the levels and a single completely new level, titled "Big Bruty", a new remixed CD audio soundtrack, as well as around 1,000 more frames of in-game animation. These versions were also the only ones to contain alternate endings when winning on the "Practice" or "Difficult" difficulties, in which a narrator rambles on about many (false) facts about worms or congratulates the player in a similar absurd manner respectively.
Another special edition of the game was released exclusively through the Sega Channel for a contest dubbed The Great Earthworm Jim Race. This version included 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 prizes.
Eurocom ported a compressed and scaled down version for the Game Boy. It was hindered by the lack of color, lack of graphical detail due to both processor and small screen size, choppy animations, and a lack of buttons, which made it hard to control. This version was also ported to the Game Gear, which included color graphics, but still suffered from all of the other problems of the Game Boy version. A direct port of the Game Gear version was also brought to the Sega Master System, but only in Brazil. However, it only has 4 levels, and the boss in What The Heck? is missing.
A conversion of the game was also being developed by German studio Softgold and planned to be published by Atari Corporation for both the Atari Jaguar and the Atari Jaguar CD, but it was never finished due to the departure of Normen B. Kowalewski from Atari, who was the lead developer of the port, sometime between or at the end of 1995. The alpha prototype, which consisted of basic character animations, and the source code of the conversion are currently lost.
The game also had a MS-DOS port released in a package titled "Earthworm Jim 1 & 2: The Whole Can 'O Worms" (along with the MS-DOS port of Earthworm Jim 2) with redrawn graphics and missing the level "Intestinal Distress". The game was ported by Rainbow Arts.
In 2001 Game Titan ported the Super NES version to the Game Boy Advance. Despite the extra power of the Game Boy Advance, this version still ran very poorly, with poor animation, missing details, and was widely criticized.
The game was re-released digitally on a number of platforms in the late 2000s as well. The original Genesis version was released through Wii's Virtual Console service in Europe on October 3, 2008, and in North America on October 27, 2008. The MS-DOS version was re-released through DOSbox emulation on GOG.com and Steam.
High definition remake
In 2009 Gameloft released digitally an updated remake of the game on a number of mobile/handheld platforms. The remake was made entirely from scratch, without using the original game's code, and featured overhauled and smoothed graphics, a remixed soundtrack, re-recorded voice of Jim and touchscreen controls. Completely new, computer-themed levels were added, however, some previous features were lost. While extended version of the "New Junk City" level from the "Special Edition" is included, the "Big Bruty" ("Special Edition" new level) and "Who Turned out the Lights?" (secret level from the original release) are not present. It was later released as a download for the Nintendo DSi as DSiWare, which is also downloadable on the Nintendo 3DS system. The only new addition for the DSiWare version was an extra minigame that involved the player using the system's camera on their own face, in order to mimic the same faces Jim would make on-screen. The Gameloft remake was also later released digitally on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as "Earthworm Jim HD". It featured a comic book-like introduction, three new computer-themed bonus levels, and a 4 player multiplayer mode with special levels based on already existing ones.
Reception for the game was very positive. Earthworm Jim was awarded Best Genesis Game of 1994 by Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro gave the Genesis version a perfect score, and Famicom Tsūshin scored the Super Famicom version of the game a 30 out of 40. Earthworm Jim was rated the 114th-best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.
The game has been noted for its fluid animation, featuring a hand-drawn style that was unusual for 16-bit releases. GamePro argued that the game has "the most innovative game play since Sonic first raced onto the Genesis", backing up the point by noting "In the first level, New Junk City, Jim leaps off old tires, climbs strange crevices and cliffs, swings from chains, and creeps through a maze of garbage - and that's the most traditional level in the game!" Electronic Gaming Monthly gave rave reviews for both the Genesis and SNES versions, praising animations, long levels, and warped sense of humor. One of their reviewers summarized that "This game was made by a gamer, and it shows." With regard to the game's overall appeal, a review from GameZone stated "Back when platformers were the king of genres, Earthworm Jim made its presence known as the 'cool kid on the block' by appealing to many demographics. Obtaining a moderate difficulty level and establishing itself with stylish humor, Earthworm Jim was a financial and critical success for Interplay and Shiny Entertainment. Even though I feel the sequel is the best of the series, the original still is able to stand out on its own." The review also went on to praise the soundtrack from Mark Miller as well. Next Generation reviewed the Genesis version of the game, and stated that "Sure, it's only a slick 16bit platform game. And anyone looking for anything revolutionary will be disappointed - there's nothing strictly new here. But it's a whole load of fun, and that's what counts."
The Sega CD enhanced port was also well received. GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly remarked that whereas most Sega CD ports simply add enhanced music, Earthworm Jim included a number of worthwhile additions such as new animations, new levels, and the new homing missile weapon. EGM gave it their "Game of the Month" award, and GamePro later awarded it Best Sega CD Game of 1995.
Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewed that the Game Gear version has impressive graphics by portable standards but is crippled by the Game Gear's limited two-button control, frequent screen blurring, and frustrating difficulty. GamePro also felt the two-button control to be a serious problem, but concluded the Game Gear version to be "Overall ... fine for fans who want to take their EWJ show on the road."
Reviewing the Windows 95 version, Maximum claimed "it's not only a damn fine platform game, it's probably the best the PC has seen to date." They particularly praised the non-frustrating challenge and the strong personality of the graphics. Computer Games Strategy Plus named the computer release of Earthworm Jim the best arcade title of 1995.
Next Generation reviewed the Sega CD version of Earthworm Jim: Special Edition, and stated that "While a prepackaged, presold character, who's as cynically calculated for hip success as Earthworm Jim does rub us the wrong way, we admit there was a cracking good game to back him up, and this new CD version is even better." Entertainment Weekly gave the game an A and wrote that the game is too similar to the Genesis and SNES versions to warrant a new purchase.
However, later Gameloft remakes of the games received mixed reviews. Reception for the 2010 remake, Earthworm Jim HD, less positive. IGN and GameSpot both felt that the surreal art style and animation stood the test of time, but felt that some gameplay aspects and controls felt dated in comparison to modern platformers. Similarly, the iPhone version of the game was criticized for its sloppy controls, mostly due to being touchscreen only.
A sequel, Earthworm Jim 2, was released in 1995. It was released in the same manner as the original; first on the Sega Genesis, and then ported to many other systems. It too was generally well received. Two further games, Earthworm Jim 3D for the Nintendo 64 and PC, and Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy for the Game Boy Color, were produced in 1999. However, they were developed without the involvement of Shiny Entertainment and were mostly met with negative reviews. An enhanced remake, Earthworm Jim (PSP) by Atari was planned for a 2007 release for the PlayStation Portable, but was ultimately cancelled.
The game also inspired non-video game products, such as the Earthworm Jim television series, a comic book series, and a line of action figures. Earthworm Jim is playable as a standard character in ClayFighter 63⅓, and as a secret character in the "Sculptor's Cut" version of that game.
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