Earthworm Jim (Genesis and SNES)

DOUBLE POST! I promised Earthworm Jim and I’ll deliver.

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This game is weird. Jim is an earthworm who was wandering around on the planet Earth, minding his own earthworm business, when a supersuit fell out of the sky headhole first on our hero. When Jim crawled into the neck hole he was miraculously given sentience… and eyes. Presumably, the suit already had the pocket-rocket within its pockets which allowed Jim to explore and defend the Galaxy. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what the plot of this game is. Maybe Jim is trying to prove to Princess Whats-Her-Name that he can defend the galaxy or maybe she’s been stereotypically kidnapped and Jim is trying to save her. Either way, the plot isn’t important. Jim must run, jump, head whip, shoot, helicopter-head-spin, and swing through a bunch of super weird levels. (Did I mention this game was weird?)

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Super Suit comes with one laser bullet gun, one pocket rocket, no earthworm pilot, comes with everything else seen here.

Development

Strangely enough (Strange and weird will be the buzz words of the entry), Earthworm Jim started as an excuse to make a new line of toys. Playmate Toys had made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy line and wanted to start something new. Seeing the success of Sonic the Hedgehog toys, based on the game, Playmate decided to do the same. They employed Shiny Inc to make the game these toys would be based on. At this point Shiny had only made games on pre-existing properties like Cool Spot (Starring the 7-up spot) and The Jungle Book. Doug TenNapel showed them a sketch of Earthworm Jim, Shiny found the character marketable, and then it just got weirder from there. With characters like Psy-crow, Professor Monkey-for-a-head, Evil the Cat, Bob the Killer Goldfish, Major Mucus, and Queen Pulsating-Bloated-Festering-Sweaty-Pus filled-Malformed-Slug for a Butt Jim’s adventures will be bizarre indeed.

Earthworm Jim was released in August 2nd 1994. It was up against Darkstalkers (Arcade), Earthbound (SNES), and System Shock (PC).

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Is Jim whipping a trash monster with his head while it drops a large brass instrument on him? Yes, yes it is. It just gets weirder.

Nostalgia

I can’t remember for the life of my how I got this game. Maybe I just rented it, but if I did then I don’t know why I picked it out at the rental place (Christ, does anyone else out there remember game rental places?). This game is pretty difficult, especially if you don’t realize the tricks (Which I didn’t when I was ten). I was scared of dogs when I was younger so I was always scared of the rabid barking dog pile enemies from the first level, and the roaring shadows of the second level. I didn’t even try to follow the plot when I was young, I just figured it was fun and didn’t matter. My father taught me most of the tricks to the game, that Jim could whip his head onto hooks and things to jump across areas or reach hidden areas, that the shining spark was a sign that something secret had been revealed, and that certain enemies were vulnerable to certain attacks.

In between each level there’s a racing level that I was god awful at. The penalty for losing is fighting Psy-crow and he would knock me around. I don’t know how many hits he needs to take but it seemed to take forever. My father was way better at racing games than me so I would usually bring him in to win these racing levels. But he wasn’t exactly the best gamer so when he would lose he would send me off to fight Psy-crow and the frustration would really start.

This game looked so detailed and the animations were so good that I felt like I could be Jim, sort of. I could at least be a kid in that super suit, although I couldn’t whip myself at people… fuck it, it was just really cool looking for the time. I could really focus on that when I was dying all the time. I don’t remember getting past the 4th level, Snot a Problem, I was so shocked when I was bungie jumping and trying to knock a sentient pile of mucus into spiky walls, in contrast to the normal platforming. I might have gotten to level 5 (named Level 5 no less) maybe once, although I might have dreamt or imagined it. Overall I found the game to be really fun even though it was super hard.

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When I was a kid I was always waiting for the cat in the back to attack me, but he doesn’t until the end of the level. (Boss foreshadowing? Bully!)

The Gush

There’s so much weird stuff in this game that it’s impossible and pointless to mention it all. Sometimes the weirdness can get in the way of gameplay. For example, level 2, What the Heck, has these floating green gems that Jim can walk against the movement in order to make the gem fly or teleport Jim, this took me forever to figure out when I was a kid (that might have been something else that my father had to tell me). The shooting controls are a little unprecise because Jim can only fire in the four cardinal directions and four diagonal directions, he can shoot in between these directions by switching them, so if I’m shooting down and then switch diagonal down left I’ll hit (I really don’t know, sometimes I hit sometimes I don’t.) enemies in that direction of Jim. Whipping can defeat enemies more easily but it can only be aimed to the upper right or left while jumping and left, right, and up when standing. Jim’s gun has an ammunition counter that I can’t make heads or tails of, I couldn’t say how much he can shoot based on his ammo limits and when he runs out it slowly regenerates up to 100 (seconds of shots?). The ammunition system seems ultimately pointless, it’s just a source of frustration. The head spin allows Jim to float down more slowly than dropping but it requires the constant tapping of the B button. I don’t know if there’s a specific rhythm but I was either hitting it too fast or not fast enough because sometimes it would stop and I would fall to my doom.

Then there’s Down the Tubes. This level is just a brick wall of absolute difficulty. It’s more like a puzzle than an action platformer. Defeating enemies isn’t a matter of skill, it’s a matter of figuring out what does the trick. Most of them are immune to Jim’s gun and head whip. Then there are sections where Jim boards a little submersible and has to guide it through some narrow tunnels. If it hits too many things it breaks and it’s instant death. It’s also on a time limit, so if it takes you too long then that’s also instant death. This level created my hatred of timed levels, I’m only beginning now to overcome the intense pressure of a time limit.

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Did I say that Donkey Kong Country mine carts are pain? I was wrong. This is.

The Verdict

This game is super fun to play, but it’s just not satisfying to beat. It’s so hard at points that it becomes distinctly unfun. If you like really hard games then you’ll appreciate the level of difficulty this game offers. This game is so hard that I’ve never beaten it, I came back to it and I still can’t. It sort of holds up to my nostalgia because in order to have fun with it I still have to accept that I will not see the final boss or the end of the game.

Next Week: The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past.

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