Ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit? Check. Plasma blaster? Check. Cow? Check. Groovy!
Originally released in 1994, Earthworm Jim is a platform shooter that follows the adventures of the eponymous annelid. Crawling along, eating dirt, Jim was just an average earthworm until the Super Suit fell from the sky and changed everything. Now he must rescue Princess What’s-Her-Name from the clutches of Psy-Crow and the evil Queen Slug-For-A-Butt.
EWJ has a thoroughly twisted sense of humour, which shows itself constantly throughout the game. Action in EWJ is fast paced and smoothly animated, with plenty of bad guys to blast and platforms to leap. Getting around a level is not limited to the usual jumping, though. Jim’s head can be used as a whip, grabbing onto suitable protrusions and swinging great distances (this is useful for attacking enemies too). He can also spin his head as a helicopter blade, allowing him to glide when needed.
Levels are littered with health and weapon powerups (collected with an enthusiastic “Yippee”!), and in true platformer fashion there are many secret areas to discover. You will need all of those items – EWJ comes from an era in gaming where players were a more focused lot and wanted to have their skills tested. Even on the lowest difficulty setting, this game can be frustratingly tricky much of the time. It is sometimes difficult to know where to go, and it often takes several attempts to successfully complete a level. However, this just gives you an excuse to play more EWJ!
From a scrap heap, to bungee jumping with Major Mucus, to the intestinal tract of some hideous creature, Jim will battle his way through a wide variety of bizarre and challenging stages. At the end of each one you’ll be given a code allowing you to skip ahead in your next session.
Graphics are bright and colourful, and a lot of work has gone into the animation and art. EWJ looks really good, considering its age – overall, it comes across as very polished. There were some minor issues with keyboard jamming (not a good thing when trying to leap over an electric chair while carrying a cow), but nothing too troublesome.
Music and sounds are great fun. Jim’s exclamations of “Way cool!”, “Whee doggie!” and the ever-present “Ouch!” and “Damn!” always elicit a chuckle. Each level has its own (generally kooky) music – eg. synth pop, rock, and banjo country. There is an unfortunate volume discrepancy between sound effects and music , and the latter cannot be switched off and might become annoying after time (GOG are working on this however).
Earthworm Jim 2 (1995) sees our hero set out once more to save Princess What’s-Her-Name (what is it with princesses, huh?), pitting him against foes both new and old (such as Evil The Cat). Gameplay fundamentals are similar, but controlling Jim is slightly different. He now has a backpack full of sentient mucus named Snott (Yum!). Instead of whip-swinging, Snott flings a goo grapnel which clings to a suitable mucus-covered surface, and Jim can also slow a fall by unfurling Snott as a boogerchute.
Gameplay style in the sequel is a good deal more varied – in addition to the platform levels, Jim will float around digestive villi as a blind cave salamander, fly his Pocket rocket while dodging pirate cannonballs, and bounce puppies using a giant marshmallow. There are also some new weapons, including the utterly useless Bubble Gun. Music continues the eclectic style of EWJ1, going so far as to feature Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.