Sunday, August 31, 2014

VGR Earthworm Jim 1

They don't make 'em like that anymore!

It's time for an all-time classic, a game unlike any other... the one and only Earthworm Jim in his first adventure!

Mascot platformers you ask? Check out the following reviews!

VGR: Earthworm Jim also known as simply EWJ
From Shiny Entertainment/Playmates Interactive/Virgin Interactive/Sega
Played on Megadrive
Also available on SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Gear, PC, DS, Wii, Xbox 360 & PS3

Type Sidescrolling platformer/run & gun
Year 1994

Back in a time where most games rulling on consoles were actually Japanese titles, the pltaform genre being in the hands of companies such as Sega, Konami, etc. there was one Western-developed game that almost challenged them all for a while.

And it came from such a silly idea... to just sell toys.

Playmates Toys wanted to make their own successful franchise that could support an entire line of toys and which could quickly become very popular with kids. Taking some cues from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they wanted to put a cartoonist in charge of creating several visually-interesting characters. But to tell the narrative and sell "a story" to kids they decided to do so via video games. Taking some inspiration from the huge success of Sonic The Hedgehog at the time, they decided it would be better to make a series of games first before starting with the figurines.

The pitch was put in the hands of cartoonist Doug TenNapel. Through the developer Virgin Interactive, he was put in contact David Perry and his team at Shiny who loved the idea so much and were very impressed with all the work TenNapel prepared, that they decided to simply buy the entire rights to "Earthworm Jim" from him to develop these games themselves.

Prior to this the studio prior had mostly worked on licensed games like the fun but silly 7up's Cool Spot. They had always been following company guidelines and such. But since this would be their own game, they could this time throwing everything they came up with, every scrapped idea or silly joke into this game's mechanics.

The game was created and designed by David Perry, most of the concepts where brainsformed with TenNapel who basically created the entire world and these characters.

Earthworm Jim was imagined as a parody of the platform genre. From having to save a Princess with no name (since these always revolved around these sort of throwaway female heroines to save) to playing with players' expectations. Everything would go in EWJ! There would be no limit to the sheer imagination to this game!

The original game was developed and release for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, with Sega acting as direct distributor for the game.

But a Super Nintendo port quickly followed, mostly based Sega version altered graphics here and there, color tones and backgrounds mostly  few missing sound effects and had take out one level (Intestinal Distress")

Our story begins when Jim was just a normal earthworm.

One day, Jim was trying to run from a crow trying to get a wormy breakfast.

Meanwhile in outer space, bounty hunter Psy-Crow was after a ship. The captain had stolen the ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-spacecyber-suit™.

Suddenly the super costume fell from the sky on the "head" of our hero without limbs... He entered the suit and wham! Jim was now equipped with a super-body!

Jim was assigned to protect Princess What's-Her-Name from her sister Queen Slug-for-a-Butt. The evil Queen wanted the space suit for herself, to finally be better than her sister!

And most enemies you'll encounter in this game are also set after him to get the suit back for themselves!

This adventure will take our hero from the junkyard to the depths of space! What the Heck?! Jim will also go to Hell and back, explore some weird underwater tubes, do some bungee jumping, explore hi-tech factories and more!

There are several now-iconic boss battles all over the game. Be it at the end of some levels or in the middle of those, or even entire random stage consisting of simply just a battle! You'll face the likes of a junkyard man named Chuck at first to Evil the Cat (a previous comic book character Doug TenNapel decided to re-use here), Bob the Killer Goldfish, Major Mucus and even a self-explanatory Professor Monkey-For-A-Head. Classic!

In-between most levels there are races against Psy-Crow. Jim will be riding his rocket and you have to both arrive first and avoid several asteroids on your path. If you lose the race, there is a special boss fight in which you have to defeat Psy-Crow before entering the next level (he's still chasing after Jim's suit, afterall!).

Earthworm Jim can be described as both a platform game and a run & gun game, in the style of old MS-Dos sidescrollers. But it really is neither.

The engine was provided from their work on their previous titles such as Global Gladiators, but used here to its limits. It was a pretty effective engine for the studio, which could really handle smooth animations like Perry's previous game Aladdin. For EWJ all the sprites were drawn on animation cels like an actual animated feature.

Fun fact, Jim's voice here was provided by Doug TenNapel. Yes, he shouted the now classic original "Groovy!!"

At first glance the game looks like your usual sidescrollers. Jim can jump and shoot. You can collect several better guns such as rockets, etc. Your third button makes Jim uses his own head as a whip.

Jim's head/whip can be used in all sorts of occasions. Jim can hang above ground. You can use it on stuff to swing around from hook to hook. The level design avoids linear progressions by going all over the place, even the ground is never ever simple straight lines but has a lot of ground variations.

Jim and the other characters are all fully animated, fluid and cartoony.

The game starts like an old school sidescroller, but there are a lot of gameplay shake-ups through the game. One level Jim has to help his friend Peter Puppy avoid damage before he Hulks out and gets really angry. There's a bungie jump fight. The usual underwater trope is avoided by turning those levels closer to space exploration (in very frustrating segments...).


The games looks absolutely stunning.

It has some great animations, easily some of the best pixel art I've ever seen to this day. Everything was originally drawn on paper, and it looks like so.

The game features some great mechanics based on this simple basic gameplay of Jim on foot. By using that as a starting point it lets its concepts run free in the most creative, original and different ways provided by the settings of each new level.

But it's not without flaws.

The game features one of the earliest and easily most traumatic escort mission ever... And a few levels and ideas outlast their welcome, some things do seem to drag on just a little bit. And those asteroid runs do get really annoying after a while.

Earthworm Jim is easily one of the best platformers ever made, if not one of the best 16-bit titles ever produced.

It has gorgeous animation and hand-drawn aesthetics. It features some of the most original ideas and most gorgeous graphics from the entire 16-bit era.

And let's not forget the fantastic memorable soundtrack composed by another veteran Tommy Tallarico. Funny. Complementary. And equally responsible for the huge popularity and great reception the original Earthworm Jim received back then. Equal parts cartoony, epic, eerie and even creepy here and there (which was no doubt a huge influence on the much later title MDK by the same creative team).

Overall, Earthworm Jim is the perfect example when all parts of a production work in sync to produce a great, unique and timeless piece of gaming history.

It comes, of course, Highly Recommended!

I spent so many hours on all versions of the game over the years, such a perfect memorable game.

It's a gorgeous and challenging game. I have to admit, I have a slight preference for the second game personally, I find it a much more cohesive experience, with crazier ideas and better replay value since it doesn't have as many frustrating segments (those damn underwater tubes and asteroid races!!!).

Earthworm Jim offers a great approach to sidescrolling games and platforming, never fearing to change stuff up from one minute to another.

Following the original 1994 release, there's been several ports of the game over the years, on all kinds of other systems available at the time, even still ported to this very day such as smartphones nowadays. Starting with the Super Nintendo version which followed closely the original Mega Drive version. Both SNES and MD versions rival each other, and the preferences are usually split amongst fans depending on what system you grew up with. While the SNES traditionally offer better results, in this game this translates to a couple of different backgrounds, a few lens flares added, a great use of colors. The animation stayed mostly similar. Sound is a bit different and even missing here and there. The original game made a great use of the Mega Drive system's sound chip, Tommy Tallarico's music was completely redone, through some new filters which some might say sounds better, but I think it really loses some "humpf", the beats sound calmer, similar but less clear and more muffled.

The Game Boy port was much simplified, which is basically the same version the Game Gear received only with colors on Sega's system (and basically the same version that was ported to the Master System exclusive to Brazil by Tec Toy, although that one's only 5 levels-long). Years later the SNES version was ported to the GBA.
s a more compressed version. Despite lacking color, they tried packing as much as possible, including a ton of animations but it's really simplified, since the system also lacks some buttons. It's pretty well done and I probably spent just as many hours playing it, its really impressive considering the limitations of the system, what they could fit in it. It's the same version on the

There's also been a few digital re-releases starting with the Wii Virtual Console, which was a port of the original Mega Drive version since - SNES fanboy-ism aside - that's the one the team originally developed back then. Gameloft ported the original game to mobiles and the DSiWare before a proper update was finally done under the title Earthworm Jim HD for both for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2010. This version includes a new introduction based on Doug TenNapel's art which was previously only used in the manuals, and the introduction of the animated series, in the form of a comic book-style intro. This recent version adds a couple of new ("improvised") computer-themed levels. And the real innovative new addition of a 4-player multiplayer. Too bad everyone just controls colored Jims instead of proper new (or old!) characters. Sadly this port was not based on the Special Edition (below), but they managed to use that same version's extended Junk City level (but nothing more). It's a pretty effective remastered version, with new content. But it's not perfect. It looks neat, clean and colorful but there are plenty of artifacts from the original game, like they only did an half-assed rush job in my eyes, cutting a few corners. Some times some of the new modern effects let the way for some remaining unpolished old sprites. It's also missing a few tunes somehow. But thankfully the core game was left unchanged, the controls still remain pitch perfect.

Earthworm Jim would go on to become a successful IP, one of the last big ones of that time. Launching a few sequels and even a cartoon series. It received first a proper sequel, Earthworm Jim 2, in 1995 which was followed by a 3rd 3D game, Earthworm Jim 3D. And a Game Boy Color spinoff based on the show, Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy.

A PSP enhanced port was planed by Atari for ages, but it sadly never came to be.

Jim himself would get several cameos in other Shiny and Interplay games, including one memorable appearance as a fighter in ClayFighter 63⅓.

The original game is still very much talked to this day.

I give it:
3 / 3 Bruces!

VGR: Earthworm Jim: Special Edition
From Shiny Entertainment/Interplay
Played on Mega CD

Type Enhanced release
Year 1995

Not really a proper "add-on", per say, but I wanted to talk about this version aside.

Earthworm Jim: Special Edition is an enhanced port, a slight upgrade, originally designed for the Sega Mega CD. Probably the best release of EWJ up until the more recent multiplayer-enabled digital HD re-release.

It contains all previous exclusive levels, adding a few additional new bonuses of its own.

This "Special Edition" was also later released for Windows 95 PC. And unlike the prior MS-Dos version, this one ran much smoother with better, more colorful graphics.

It's based on the original Mega Drive version of the game and contains all previous upgrades and adds some extra content and cut content back into game. So it can be considered the ultimate "director's cut" of the game if you will.

The game starts with an extended cut of the first level. It also adds a pretty funny "Big Bruty" level in which Jim has to use the attention of a new enemy to progress through a stage.

The much better upgrade consists of this new CD-quality soundtrack, better audio and a thousand more frames of animation.

There's also alternate endings depending on the difficulties you choose set to an hilarious voice over, a narrator at the end.

Earthworm Jim: Special Edition is simply an enhanced version of the original Earthworm Jim on CD. Bigger extended levels, lots of new secrets, new weapons, reworked sprites. Although it adds a new loading screens, the rest of the content is well worth the wait.

There's also more Psy-Crow races inserted now through the entire game (new missing races added in-between levels).

Overall: This is the definitive version of the game.

Despite the HD version, this really is the best ultimate version of the first Earthworm Jim. The Sega CD EWJ is still the best as far as I'm concerned.

As well as including a few new features, it was mostly designed to appeal to what the fans demanded back then through the EWJ fan club, such as a password system along the new stuff.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score! 

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