In continuing with the Reader Request series for 2 Decades Late, I am here today with yet another request. This one comes from a good personal friend of mine, Zack Williamson. It’s kind of surprising to me that I haven’t played this one yet given how much I loved the cartoon. Freakazoid, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Earthworm Jim. Those were my jam when I was but a wee Tom. I may be just a tick, and by tick I mean 2 decades late, but the time has come to review the game I should have played a long, long time ago.
At one time, Jim was just your everyday, average, run of the mill earthworm. As fate would have it, a super suit fell from space and landed right on old Jim. With the suit, Jim now has human-esque qualities. He can jump, he can shoot, he can use his own worm body as a whip or as a rope for swinging around. Now he has to rescue Princess What’s-Her-Name. That is her actual name, I am not being cute.
That, more than anything, sums up what is so great about this game. It’s hilarious. It never takes itself too seriously. It is a cartoon with an absolutely ridiculous concept and it never forgets that. Of course, by ridiculous I mean insanely awesome.
It is a fun hybrid of beat ’em up, shoot ’em up, and platformer. Most levels play in a 2D side scrolling fashion with the exception of some special bonus levels. [*Author’s Note: I actually had to pause before this next part because what is going on in some of these levels is almost ridiculous beyond description. I love ridiculous.] Most of the time, the bonus level is Jim on a rocket racing against a… thing through an odd tube that happens to be floating in space. You are collecting orbs and avoiding obstacles and making very sure not to stop for frozen yogurt no matter how badly you want it. Ok, that last part was made up and or may not be based upon real life events.
Perspective is behind Jim for the race which is cool considering most of the time you are in the 2D side view. It offered a nice change of pace before you got back into the next side scrolling level. The cool part is that if you do not win the race, you are punished. You are entered into a boss fight. Kind of in the same way that a Japanese game show does not just reward victory, it also punishes defeat. Thumbs up.
I’d also like to take a moment to tell you about the thing. Remember the ridiculous insanity that permeates this game that I love so very much? So there is a level that has you competitively bungee jumping against… a booger. That’s right. A bungee jumping snot and you, an earthworm in a special space suit that gives him humanoid qualities doing battle in the realm of bungee jumping. Do I really need to say anything else about this? Good. We work better together when we are in agreement.
The level design is another item that bears great mention. It so perfectly fit into the rest of the craziness that this game is. Most of the time, you felt as though you were in a combination of an M.C. Escher painting and that forbidden box from the awful Mike Myers Cat In the Hat movie from a few years back. Each was unique and awesome. The quality of the art is on par with most games of the 16 bit era and still holds up as a beautiful game today. The levels were also functional. There was a lot of great interaction within each level and Jim’s odd abilities like whipping and catching a hook to swing Jim forward or using that same whipping ability to activate switches and open doors.
Gameplay wise, I found this game to be a bit on the difficult side. Controls were tight and responsive, but a lot this game is trial and error and remembering where things are more than anything else. It’s the sort of game where if you played it as a kid and spent all of those precious childhood gaming hours on it, you probably can play through it in no time at all by muscle memory alone. However, playing it for the first time at the age of 31, it is not short on challenge, sometimes frustratingly so. Honestly speaking though, I find that to be a positive quality the way it is done here rather than a point of contention. It is a reminder of a time where every game on a Nintendo console did not spoon feed you and some of them actually dared to present a challenge.
Overall, this is a fantastic game and a welcome reminder of a show I enjoyed as a kid. Now, I do hear that the version of this game that exists on the Genesis is considered to be a superior version, but I didn’t play that one so I can’t speak to it. You do have several options for playing this old classic. First, you can snag the cartridge but it is going for about $17. It is available on the Wii Virtual Console which is probably preferable if you are looking for the original experience. There is also an HD remake available on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. However you choose to grab this game, go give it a play through. Beautiful artwork, great humor, challenging gameplay, and fantastic audio make this one… GROOOOVY!