We've seen many versions and variations of Earthworm Jim throughout the early 1990s. The title has appeared on the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy and PC, following the continuing adventures of the magic spacesuit-wearing worm. Jim has traversed wacky planets throughout the galaxies to rid the universe of evil monsters and creatures that were causing havoc. Armed with his blaster, outrageous moves, and a plethora of power-ups, he's sprung into action time and again.
In this more contemporary installment of the game, Jim is rendered in full 3D. Characters, backgrounds, objects, and just about everything else has a true three-dimensional look and feel (as long as you have a suitable 3D-accelerator card). But even though the game followed the lead of its contemporaries and made the jump to 3D, this doesn't mean that everything is wine and roses.
The plot for this version's adventure pays respect homage to the goofiness that made the first games so successful. As luck would have it, Jim is struck by an incoming cow and rendered unconscious by the blow. He must now fight through his own thoughts and emotions to wake from his coma. You must explore four main areas inside the brain of our deranged hero: Happiness, Fear, Fantasy and Memory.
Each area has a distinct look based on the state of mind it represents, as well as unique mini-quests and inhabitants. Some mini-quests require surfing on pigs while others put you on the trail of missing underwear! Of course, the main goal of the quest is to bring our hero Earthworm Jim back to life. To do this, you have to collect his marbles -- since he's lost them all! You must also collect "Golden Udders," usually found after completing mini-quests, that further your adventure.
Jim returns in this adventure with many of the things that made him popular in the earlier games. The moves at his disposal are very similar to those in previous releases and you'll see his famous "head-whip," arm rolls, jumps, and other familiar silly animations. His weapon selection hasn't changed much either, as you'll still mainly use his blaster. Some new items and weapon power-ups can be found periodically, too. The adversaries are also familiar for the most part, featuring evil chickens and arch-rival Psycrow. You'll see a couple of new monsters, including the Disco Zombies.
Since the game is presented in 3D, one would expect the developers VIS Interactive PLC to demonstrate some mastery over the main draw to the game, the graphics. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While not completely awful, the visuals do have a somewhat dated appearance in comparison to many of the other 3D platform games of this era. I enjoyed seeing Jim in 3D but I soon noticed many repeating textures within levels and also realized that everything had very rough edges and didn't look well drawn. As the graphics lacked detail, unfortunately so did the animations for the characters. Often, Jim would not do much after standing around for a while (thought he does still get a bit goofy) and the enemies attack in the same fashion every time. The game's visuals are more of a disappointment than a drawback.
Gameplay is only average at best. It's fairly easy to control Jim and execute all his moves as well as maneuver around the levels. The interface in the game is quite basic and not hard to use. However, I did have some problems with several in-game elements. I was somewhat annoyed to find the enemies in each level not varied enough. You're lucky to see three or four different types in one of the four areas, an aspect that reminded me of South Park for the Nintendo 64, which suffers from the same problem.
Another gripe I have is with the levels themselves: They are tiny! I didn't quite get everything in the Memory level but I beat it in about 15 to 20 minutes! When I beat a quarter of the game in 15 minutes or so, that isn't a good sign. I want a platform game to last me several weeks, not several hours. I realize the developers were probably trying for more of an action game and were concentrating on the graphics, but they also need to give me some quality gameplay!
The audio presentation is another bag of trail mix. The sound effects are generally good and provide a comical atmosphere for most of the game. It's good to hear Jim's yelp now and again to keep you laughing. Music, though, is average and doesn't seem to really flow with the game. Too often, the score suffers from looping. The voice acting is most disappointing of all, because there isn't any! For a 3D platform game of such flamboyant style and short length, voice-overs should be mandatory. The introduction is silly without them and the use of text for in-game dialogue is lame -- not a smart move.
I like where the game is trying to go but it just doesn't have the legs to take it there. It's like a racecar trying to win with only three tires. Some areas start well but don't have the power to finish. To recap, unacceptable areas include the lack of voice-overs, a shoddy introduction, repetitive levels and enemy design, plus some average visuals. Quite a disappointment overall.
Graphics: Unfortunately, somewhat of a disappointment. Graphics aren't overly bad but as one of the game's main selling points, they simply aren't handled well in this iteration. Many repeating textures and rough edges show a lack of attention to detail.
Sound: There are some good sound effects, but average music and the absence of voice-overs hurt the rating.
Enjoyment: I liked the original games on the Super Nintendo and I somewhat enjoyed trying this title. I soon realized, though, the developers didn't achieve correct pacing here. Unlike earlier Earthworm Jim games, this one is not very addictive.
Replay Value: What is there to do? A totally short game with only average gameplay plus no multi-player or extras. There isn't really much to come back to, unless you're a die-hard Earthowrm Jim fan.
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