Back in the mid-Nineties, a group of artists and programmers left Virgin Interactive to create their own startup company. This, of course, was Shiny Entertainment, a talented bunch of nuts who excelled in terms of art direction and technical know-how. Their experiences working on Disney titles like Aladdin gave them the creative boost to create a new side-scroller with an original character: Earthworm Jim.
It's one fine day in the meadow, and Jim is quite well and good doing what he does best -- being a worm. Suddenly, a super-powered suit drops from the heavens, Jim crawls into it, and voila -- he's transformed into Earthworm Jim, an annelid with an attitude, and a very big gun.
In this game, your goal is to traverse each level, destroying any baddies that lurk within. Jim has a recharging minigun, and a "worm-whip" attack that can kill enemies, or swing him from platform to platform. The levels are cleverly designed with interesting themes, ranging from a junkyard to the deep, dark pits of hell (complete with lawyers). In-between each stage is a mini-game, where Jim rides in a rocket in a race against his nemesis, the evil Psy-Crow.
Visually, Earthworm Jim shines. Taking full advantage of Windows' DirectX sub-system, frame rates are liquid-smooth, and animation is nicely exaggerated. Sound effects are above-par as well, with Jim shouting "groovy!" every now and then. Music streams off the CD, and sounds much more crystal-clear than the 16-bit console renditions. Control is handled via DirectInput, though a Microsoft Sidewinder pad is required to get the most out of the game.
Even though Earthworm Jim is basically a straight port from the Super Nintendo, it's unquestionably a good one, and fans of the series will find plenty to love in this incarnation.
Graphics: Bright, cartoony, and smooth-scrolling.
Sound: Enjoyable background tunes merge with solid sound effects and voice acting.
Enjoyment: Though the PC version could use some extras, the side-scrolling gameplay remains intact.
Replay Value: Plenty of secret areas to worm-whip your way into.
A crow is chasing a worm named Jim while in outer space Psy-Crow is chasing a renegade ship. The ship's captain has stolen an ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit and Queen Slug-for-a-Butt has ordered Psy-Crow to get it, since it can make her more beautiful than Princess-What's-Her-Name. Psy-Crow blasts the captain and the suit falls to Planet Earth.
Back on earth Jim wonders if he is finally safe when an ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit lands on him. Luckily Jim rests in the neck ring of the suit. Then the space particles begin interacting with Jim, causing a light-speed evolution. Jim soon realizes he is in control of the suit.
Jim overhears the Queen's plans for the suit and decides to meet this Princess...
Hey, you know that little game called MDK? Well, before that madness, Shiny made this game, and I have to say it's one of the most underrated platformers ever. In Earthworm Jim, you play a worm named Jim who happens to stumble upon a nuclear-powered suit. Here's a snippet of the game's story (I recommend reading the rest of it in the game's help file) :
"Psy-Crow is chasing a small renegade ship. The ship's pilot has stolen an ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit. Psy-Crow overtakes the renegade ship and they face off head-to-head. Psy-Crow pulls his gun. The renegade pulls an even bigger gun. Wrought with gun envy, Psy-Crow pulls out a huge monster gun. The renegade, realizing he has been outmatched, pleads for mercy. But Psy-Crow, under direct orders from the evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-behind, blasts the renegade and his entire ship to smithereens. The suit falls gently to a strange planet below. The strange planet is our planet. PLANET EARTH."
This sort of absurd humor permeates the game's atmosphere. The cast of characters are all really weird and funny, including the aforementioned Psy-Crow and Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-behind, and my favorites, Dr. Monkey-for-a-Head and Peter the Puppy. Put that together with the cartoony graphics and funny sound effects (the elevator music with painful screams in the "What the Heck" level is particularly enjoyable), and you have a fun game environment to spend some time in.
Your main attacks use your head and your gun. If you attack with your head, you pull it out of the suit and hit things with it like a whip. It can also be used to swing from hooks and you can spin it like a helicopter to glide in midair. The gun's default mode is rapid-fire, but you can pick up powerups for it, like a mega shot and homing missiles. Either one of these attacks can be used in any direction while standing in one spot. You'll need these attacks, because the end of each level has a boss that you need to defeat before you can move on. Inbetween the levels, there are fun little racing minilevels where you have to race Psy-Crow on a rocket.
The only real problem I found with this game was the inconsistent difficulty level. Sometimes it's so easy it's boring, and sometimes it makes you want to bash your head against the keyboard. Overall, the two extremes balance out and it turns out to be a fun experience. It's one of my favorite platformers ever, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good time.
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