If you were around in the 16-Bit console era, then this one probably needs no introduction. Back then, console gamers didn’t have a whole lot of genres to choose from like we do today, and we were pretty much stuck with fighters, shooters, sports, the occasional racer and platformers, lots and lots of platformers. But even the fairly mindless platform game genre had a few titles that stood head-and-shoulder above the rest.
Earthworm Jim was one of these exceptional titles. Not only did the game have awesome cartoon graphics, excellent animation, kickass sound and funky music, but it was such a joy to play. Players took on the role of Jim, a relatively normal earthworm who spent his days doing whatever it is that earthworms do while dodging crows and other predators. One day, an experimental space suit accidentally fell on him and melded with his wormy body. Suddenly he had limbs, a gun, and a space rocket – so he did what anyone would do in that situation and became an intergalactic hero. His first adventure sees him on a mission to rescue Princess What’s-her-name from the evil Queen Slug-for-a-Butt. Yeah, it sounds kind of stupid, but hey, it’s a cartoon.
For most of the game, players will control Jim in a familiar, 2D action game style. Jim can run, jump and shoot with his gun – pretty standard stuff, but his unique physical attributes give him some unique abilities. Jim can pull his stretchy, wormy body out of the suit to use as a whip by attacking enemies or swinging from convenient, hook-like items. He can also spin his head like a helicopter to slow his descent and even abandon his suit entirely in certain situations to squirm through small openings. Okay, looking at it now, it does feel a little limited by the standards of today’s action games, but back then it was ground-breaking.
The updated HD version of the game, which is now available on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE, contains the original game in its entirety, completely redrawn and reanimated in glorious HD with a groovy, remastered soundtrack to boot. The cool thing about it is that developers seem to be slowly learning that rehashing old games with HD graphics doesn’t quite cut it any more, and Earthworm Jim HD comes with a few nifty extras. The first is the multiplayer mode, which allows up to four players to play a co-op mode. The second is a bunch on entirely new levels created from the ground up for this version, which is a plus for fans who remember the original a little too well.
While I want to stand on a soap box and recommend this game to everyone who passes by, I have to remember that it’s still a fairly limited action game compared to modern titles. So unless you’re an avid fan from the old days or someone curious about that era, you’ll probably want to play the demo first and then decide.