Earthworm Jim HD

To start off with, Earthworm Jim HD seems to be just that – Earthworm Jim gorgeously realized with stunning HD graphics that seem to be directly taken from the source art of the Mega Drive original and then recreated in stunning HD.
If you know the original Earthworm Jim from 1994, then you’ll be salivating to see 1080p presentations of Jim, Peter Puppy, Psycrow, Queen Malformed Slug for a Butt, Evil the Cat, Professor Monkey for a Head, Major Mucus and Bob the Killer Goldfish. And wonder why a worm in a supersuit is interested in an insect with big boobs called Princess What’s Her Name anyway?
For those of you who didn’t play it the first time round, you may wonder what the hell is going on, and wonder how good the drugs were in the ’90s.  They were pretty damn good, at least around the offices of Shiny Entertainment and creator Doug Ten Napel’s desk, anyway. The invention didn’t stop with the characters – there are underwater tunnels, Hell (sorry… Heck) the insides of huge beasts, mad scientist laboratories and the strange wooden level with the cow and bee things that was originally only on the Sega CD special edition. And yes, that ‘For Pete’s Sake’ level where you get mauled by your hulk like ‘little buddy’ if he gets hurt is still as frustrating as ever.
The first thing that you may notice, is that the hardest difficulty setting is ‘Original’ – showing how hardcore we were as gamers the first time round.  Thinking that I could handle the original difficulty of the game, I was reminded how difficult it actually was – be prepared to hear the southern sounding ‘ohw’ sample a lot (and also hear ‘Groovy…. G G G Groovy’, ‘Sweet Doggy’, ‘Whoah Nellie’ and ‘Yippee’ too – although I’m not convinced that they are all the original voice samples, but some are definitely from the Sega CD version).
It’s a very faithful remake of the original game, which means that you can’t jump and shoot at the same time, and you have to be exactly at the right distance to whip things.  The difference in difficulty levels just means that there are less enemies, and your health goes down less when you’re hit.  There are no changes to the level design, which means that even if you are on the easiest setting  it can still be tricky to actually do what you have to do. There is a ‘hint’ setting that can be turned off – but this tends to tell you things like how to beat bosses, which are fairly logical – rather than ‘how the hell do I get the extra life which is provocatively hanging just out of reach’?
The reason behind the awkward collision detection is simple, the animation is great – as it was then, so to avoid a glitchy transition, the sprite has to be in exactly the right place – almost to the pixel – which will be half a screen away from you while you’re jumping and whipping at things with your wormy body – but there is a reason to explore as much as you can.
If you find the ‘cans’ in the opening levels, you get access to the bonus levels – where you get to fight a rocket backpack granny, freaky little alien probe things that form a claw and a skull – as well as the keyboard playing cat Internet meme.  All your Jim are belong to us. The new levels are fun enough, and are nearly in keeping, but designed by the Gameloft team rather than Doug Ten Napel.  Once you complete the first one, you get something that is almost worth the 800ms price of entry on its own – an Xbox avatar version of your very own supersuit!  Which does look very groovy.
The multiplayer is fun – some are straight up ‘invisible’ bullet death matches based on levels like ‘Intestinal Distress’ and ‘For Pete’s Sake’- but there are others like a four player race based on the ‘Down The Tubes’ level which mean that you have to race – with care.  The original game had the risk verses reward element of the oxygen timer (which is still there) but this time, if you take risks to get ahead – you might get dead.

So, I love Earthworm Jim – and this is a very pretty version of the original (well, probably a pretty version of the Sega CD Special Edition) with some neat extras like the bonus levels and the multiplayer.  Still, this is a sixteen year old game and sixteen years ago where this may have been the only game that I would have had for six months, I was willing to persevere.  At the time the animation was groundbreaking for the consoles and the random humor was still amazing, and still is. For someone who hasn’t played Earthworm Jim before, their time and money might be better spent with a modern game that carried on the ‘Jim’ spirit, like ‘Splosion Man’, and just catching up with some of the great Earthworm Jim cartoons on YouTube.  Hindsight is sometimes rose tinted and although the game looks as good as I remember, it’s also a reminder that play mechanics have come a long way in the last 16 years.







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