61st game played so far
Genre: Platform/Shoot ‘em Up
Platform: Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1994
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Publisher: Playmates Interactive Entertainment/Virgin Interactive
Despite how big it must have been in some points, Earthworm Jim seems to have only slightly hit my life, bypassing me most of the time. There was a cartoon series I’ve seen bits of, but nothing more than that really. Then there’s a video game, which I’ve seen people play a bit, but never much. And then it turns out to be better than I thought and, well, I played it.
Basic story? Earthworm Jim is, well, an earthworm, who becomes a sort of superhero through some strange suit. People try to steal the suit back, destroy him, and capture his princess. There’s nonsense. There’s lots of shooting and fighting. There’s rabid dogs. And you launch cows into space.
Time for a rare case of a game which went on to inspire a rather successful surreal animated series. A fantastic show that I would love to watch again at some point. Okay, so you’ve seen the show and played the demo of the game? You were ahead of me by a mile here. I also had a favourite villain. Who’s that? Evil the Cat. Very atypical. Although Professor Monkey-For-A-Head wins in terms of nomenculture.
This, at the same time, is mostly a colourful, funny platform game with shoot ‘em up interludes. Where you can use your wormhead to traverse pits, hang on to wires and whip opponents into submission. I was going to make a crack about a worm-like appendage but thought it beneath me. Groan. There’s clever bits in the game, that’s for sure, and it looks lovely. It also has a fantastical sense of humour where villains spit out rotten fish and you launch a cow into the sky at any given opportunity. Something that comes back to haunt you at the end of the game.
Colourful, funny, with some nice sound effects, that’s true. But here’s the however. The game itself is decidely more average. In many ways the game still feels rather polished but there is only so much you can do with a 2D side-scrolling platformer. There were certain points where you had to go back on yourself in order to climb a ramp following a zig-zag pattern and this was rather a chore to manouvere yourself through. Just felt clumsy and unnatural. Quite a bit of the game feels that way. A bit clumsy, repetitive and at times quite obscure. A further hindrance here is that it doesn’t feel that innovative. It doesn’t do anything new or special, while the existing mechanics are clumsy at times. Jumps were unnatural and the game didn’t allow you to jump when you expect it, like when hanging from a chain – you can’t pull yourself up. This made it harder to see what you had to do – especially when you manage a jump the first time, but not the second time. Also there were times where certain things did not respawn as quickly as you would have expected meaning you had to walk back and forth a few times to make sure you could make your way through the level. One time, a pulley didn’t respawn, but stayed stuck at a point where I couldn’t reach it, meaning I was stuck and had to restart.
To be honest, a bit more work here would’ve been nice to keep the game a bit more playable. When you consider the time this was made and the effortless fushion of humour and gameplay this was easily a must-have release back in 1994. However, when viewed through the eyes of people who are keen to invest in a copy of Portal 2 it can be seen as lacking at times. In a way it is games like this that help us to understand why there is such a large recency bias in this list since games, unlike music or films, tend not to age as well. Some games have such refined and unusual gameplay that they still feel like classics (this is the reason why Tetris and Arkanoid are still adored to this date). And with some, their simplicity help, such as with the original Super Mario Bros. But internet-only flash games now possess similar, if not better, credentials which can put games like this in the shade somewhat.
So there we are. A good game, I suppose, but it’s not top of the list for a good platformer. Not as good as I remember either, bit dissapointing to be brutally honest. Good enough for an occasional play. That’s it.
Sometimes a bit of style over substance, but it has great style anyway, so I can’t blame it for that. Give it a go – regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the TV series, which is awesomeness on its own. So I’m told. We never got the channel it was one.
With that said, this is a cartoon in game form. It’s worth trying it for that reason. Looks, fun and guts. Even if it gets frustrating sometimes.