Name: Earthworm Jim
Platform: Sega Genesis
Year Released: 1994
When run-and-gun platformer Earthworm Jim was released for the Sega Genesis in 1994, it was a hit that led to several sequels and the eventual status of Genesis classic. There were many things to love about Jim and the colorful cast of characters featured in the game, even in a crowded era when just about any run-of-the-mill animal could gain super powers of some sort. Fourteen years later, gamers are still waiting for a new installment in the series, which died off in the late 1990s. A planned PSP version was scrapped last year, but the original game finally made it to the Wii’s Virtual Console last month, which made me nostalgic for my Genesis copy. However, despite still being a lot of fun, Earthworm Jim hasn’t aged quite as well as I would have hoped.
First of all, like I said, there are many things to love about Earthworm Jim. For a Genesis game, it is really good-looking. The characters are great, and the environments are varied and filled with detail. Everything has a cartoony, animated look, which absolutely works for the tone and style of this game. However, the visuals stand out enough that Earthworm Jim doesn’t appear to be just some Battletoads or Toe Jam and Earl ripoff. The soundtrack and sound effects also go a long way in creating the world of this formerly normal earthworm, who received super powers through a special suit (the ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit, if you must know).
My favorite thing about Earthworm Jim has always been the game’s sense of humor. Although it contains more of a plot than many platformers, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Many of the characters have silly names, like Princess What’s-Her-Name, or Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt (called Queen Slug-for-a-Butt for short). Even the levels have funny titles, like “What the Heck?” or “Snot a Problem”. Yes, as you can probably tell, there is a bit of gross-out humor that flows throughout the game. Overall, it’s a very humorous experience.
While the controls didn’t seem all that problematic in 1994, they just don’t feel as tight today. Since most of the game consists of jumping and attacking, the fact that both of these actions don’t control as well as they should is a problem. Jumping from platform to platform sometimes feels inaccurate and can lead to death in some situations. Jim has two main attacks, shooting and whipping his own body, and neither of them feel especially intuitive or precise. As a child, I’m sure I didn’t really notice these problems, but having played so many platformers in my lifetime—many of which have stood the test of time for years or even decades—this one just feels a bit lacking now. It’s not broken or terrible, but the controls definitely could have been handled better.
The fact is, I remembered this game as being a fantastic Genesis gem, so I’m a bit disappointed that the more recent gameplay experience didn’t live up to my memories. I’ll still continue to dust off my Genesis and play it from time to time, don’t get me wrong, and I really think that it’s worth the eight dollars you’ll pay for it on the Virtual Console. What I’d really like to see, however, is a brand new game in the series, be it a full retail release or downloadable title. Maybe someday, Earthworm Jim 4 will actually make its way to consoles and give a new generation of gamers a chance to tackle some of the wackiest characters of the 16-bit era. Until then, download the original—just be warned that it may not be the smoothest platformer you’ll ever play.