Monday, August 10, 2015

VGR Earthworm Jim 2

It's about to get GROOVY in here!

With a super suit to make him really super strong, Jim can be a winner if we only sing along- EARTHWORM JIM is back!

VGR: Earthworm Jim 2 also known as simply EWJ2
From Shiny Entertainment/Playmates Interactive/Virgin Interactive
Played on Megadrive
Also available on SNES, Game Boy Advance, PC, Wii, Sega Saturn & PSX

Type Sidescrolling platformer/run & gun
Year 1995

Following the immense success of the first Earthworm Jim video game, Shiny Entertainment and Virgin Interactive decided too take the thing to full speed.

For memory, Earthworm Jim was originally launched from a proposed project by Playmates Interactive. The idea was to launch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-esque line of toys supported by a multi-media franchise aimed at children.

But it was the creativity of the Virgin Interactive-veteran designer David Perry and character designer Doug TenNapel that propulsed Earthworm Jim from mere simple toyline to one of the best and most memorable platformer of the 16-bit era.

Earthworm Jim 2, released in 1995, saw the return of Jim's original creators Doug TenNapel, David Perry,  with artist Nick Bruty on the art of the game, Tommy Tallarico on the game's music and most of the original Shiny Entertainment team back for more!

Like the first game, the second episode was originally first released on the Sega Mega Drive (that's the Genesis for you folks overseas), with a Super Nintendo upgrade quickly following suit in 1996. Several ports would follow on all kinds of other systems as well, such as what is considered the definitive edition of the game being released for the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation.

There's not much in Earthworm Jim. Since the game was pushed to conicide with the cartoon, the team mostly let the animated series take care of the story and characters while they only focused on gameplay and making the game unique.

What there is of a plot going on in the game sees the return of everyone's favorite worm-wearing-a-robotsuit - Earthworm Jim! - facing several challenges on all kinds of bizarre worlds.

The main goal being Jim saving the appropriately-named Princess-What's-Her-Name from the main bad guy. This time our main villain was a recurring villain from the first game, Psy-Crow! To better tie-in the cartoon where they made him much more important and prominent.

Worms, crows, giant food, grannies and a ton of cow-related running jokes. Yep. Same ol', same ol'.

What there is of a regular main gameplay in this game remained mostly the same as it was in the original game. The only difference this time is that team was able to stretch its creative legs and really let loose the can of worms (pun intended).

The gameplay is a lot more creative, which is one of the reasons the game got really criticized for back then. The game actually features very little of so called-regular Earthworm Jim gameplay on foot.

The main portions of the game are your fairly typical traditional "run and gun" sidescroller platformer.

They shake things up all the time, changing the objectives Jim has to perform, such as carrying around pigs to a specific place, racing around against another character, blasting your way through with limited visibility.

Only the first opening level really plays like the first game actually. The rest of the levels have you run around doing all kinds of objectives.

There's the addition of the very-90s sidekick "Snott" replacing Jim's lasso-head function and you're able to use him as a parachute, to help address some of the complaints the first game received (how people felt Jim's fast pacing let to impressive controls whenever you had to jump around).

It's a more diverse game!

Jim has to use his weapon to dig himself out of an anthill. The final boss is a race on foot against Psy-Crow through an obstacle course to get to Princess-What's-Her-Name first - who will reach the Princess on time to moo her?!

Most of the game is actually played through all kinds of weird gameplay variations.

In one of the game's most iconic scenes Jim is transformed into a blind cave salamander and he has to swim around through dangerous intestines filled with pinball elements, until Jim reaches a game show where you have to answer correctly random trivia questions - even though there's no real logical answer to those! Be prepared to collect all the worms on the way and go for the craziest answers! (Back then we had to keep note of all the right answers, but nowadays the answers are only one google search away.)

Another stage sees Jim's inflated head port him through a vertical level while you have to avoid sharp objects Evil the Cat keeps throwing at you.

There's also an isometric shooter segment as Jim needs to fly around on his pocket rocket and defend a bomb attached to a balloon in order to toss it to the returning Major Mucus at the end of the level!

The recurring chase scenes against Psy-Crow from the first game are replaced by a strange minigame that has Psy-Crow tossing around Pete's nephews around you have to carefully bring back to him. Or else he gets angry and maul's Jim's face in a violent spite of rage. While it's hilarious at first to see these puppies bouncing around, it goes on for so many rounds, every 3 levels, and feels like annoying padding to get you stressed out and unprepared for what unexpected challenge is coming your way next.

EWJ2 hads a ton of new weapons (you won't get to play with that much). Like a homing rocket, a useless bubblegun, a fun 3-way gun, and the most badass brick-gun you'll ever see this side of the galaxy, etc.

Jim has a ton of new animations. The game looks simply gorgeous. They changed his badass stance from the first game for a now-silly running animation.

Due to the animated series' produced around the game's own release, EWJ2 is a lot more cartoonier, it's not as dark as the first game was.

The game is about 10-stage long, with only about 3 of really stages really controlled as traditional run-and-jump levels.

It's  such a fun game, with so many cool memorable moments.

Sure, it introduces a ton of gimmick levels, but most of those are the highlight of this sequel. The game does not simply copy the first game with new levels, it feels like a completely unique, different and original experience.

lt feels like Shiny Entertainment's own take on the whole sidescrolling action game genre. Not just yet another run and gun, Jim go through several changes depending on the situation.

It's a playfully meta game that plays on the action genre at the time and does whatever it wants to.

Jim faces a ton if villains after one another, there's not a single cliché boss fight, each opponent is unique.

The game quickly starts with Jim meeting face to face with "Bob the Goldfish", but reaching him for the fighting game-styled FIGHT is an entire challenge on itself. There's a couple of new faces like the unicycle-riding larva Pedro Pupa, or Flaming Yawn, a fire breathing steak!

Jim gets a weird "Blind Sally" costume. Doug TenNapel's creation Evil the Cat who actually predates Earthworm Jim is more of a joke this time. Jim faces "evil" bureaucratic people, food-themed foes, etc.

While everyone expected much more of the same as the first game, Shiny surprised everyone and offered a complete different beast with Earthworm Jim 2.

All of the art from the first game was entirely redrawn! Brand new sprites and animation for Jim and all the other returning characters! This kind of thing happened so rarely back then...

Not for changing the engine or the graphics in any way, but by simply thinking outside the box and making the craziest sequel we ever received.

The music is of course fantastic, one of the best aspects of the game. Composed once more by video game legend Tommy Tallarico. The game goes for a lot of classical pieces, meaning it's perfectly normal to bounce off puppies around in all kinds of gruesome ways to the first movement of Beethoven's famous Moonlight Sonata playing as background music.

Overall, Earthworm Jim 2 is a fantastic and unique game. One of my all-time personal favorites.

The game received a fantastic receptions, despite some criticizing it harshly for its very challenging and difficult gameplay segments. But it's a really unique game. It's really, really fun, it's hilarious and it features some great innovative gameplay and keeps you on your toes by rapidly changing the pace around. Which was very uncommon for games at time (and it kinda still is). It's such a different game with a non-linear type of gameplay, very few sequels dare do the same. 

Earthworm Jim 2 has a great diverse level design and such a fun memorable soundtrack. It's a Must Play, Highly Recommended for anyone that calls himself a gamer.

Due to EWJ2's immense success, it had just as many ports as the original game. Like I mentioned above the SNES release was the occasion for the team to provide a nice upgrade to the game, thanks to the extra months of development they had plenty of time to add a few shiny effects (no pun intended this time). The game was developed for the Sega System, and ported to the Super Nintendo. It's mostly the same game with the only major difference being more detailed backgrounds. Fun fact, on Sega-based versions of the game the first stages takes place in front of a sunset while on Nintendo-based ports it's at night. The MS-Dos port added a CD-quality soundtrack, tons of voice clips and higher resolution for the game, altought it's missing my favorite level. In 2002 there was a GBA port of the game based on the SNES version, back to back with a port of the first game. It was visually really impressive when released back in 2002, although the game is known to have a few glitches here and there (never saw those personally..),  and the sound quality is kinda poor. The Wii Virtual Console release was based off the Super Nintendo release. Otherwise most versions of the game have been based on the Sega Mega Drive game usually, from the PC Dos port to the edition as well as the Steam release.versions. As for the 32-bit versions, well, more on that below.

When Earthworm Jim 2 was released only a year after the original, it was made to coincide with the launch of the Earthworm Jim animated series, from Universal Cartoon Studios which aired on Kids' WB for two season from September 1995 to December 1996 to much of the same success as the video games. One of those rare good game adaptations. The series' most notable for giving Jim a proper official, with Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta, cast as the voice of our hero.

With the success of the EWJ series a sequel was always meant to follow. But with the rise of 3-D graphics and people ditching 2-dimensional art in games, nothing followed until the series received an unexpected sequel. While David Perry's company Shiny Entertainment would go on to focus on original new games such as the 1997 new IP MDK (in a way, a spiritual successor to EWJ) before being acquired by Infograme in 2002, Shiny 's parent publisher company Interplay Entertainment would develop their own new Earthworm Jim game without the involvement of the original team. The sequel was Earthworm Jim 3D or "Earthworm Jim 3", released in 1999 for N64 and PC. The game featured some cheesy early 3D graphics as did all the platformers of that era, it was a lot more influenced by the cartoon. Another unrelated game made for the Game Boy, Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy, was made by a completely different developer.

I give it:
3 / 3 Bruces!

VGR: Earthworm Jim 2 (32-bit)
From Screaming Pink/Shiny Entertainment/Virgin Interactive
Played on Sega Saturn

Type Enhanced port
Year 1996

Earthworm Jim 2 was ported to the 32-bit systems by a completely separate studio, Screaming Pink.

Visually, it remains the same basic rich 16-bit game. For those systems it already was one of the best games out there and looked amazingly detailed and animated. The Sega Saturn and Playstation version of the game is visually identical, just as good and cartoony as the original.

This PSX/Saturn release upgraded the audio with CD-quality music and contained all the levels from the original game. There was the addition of new more animated background art and a few graphical upgrades here and there. The same overall controls, with only the addition of the ability to change weapons with the trigger buttons compared to Mega Drive's. All in all the game looks a bit more colorful with better redrawn animations, multiple parallax scrolling added to the scenery and.much cleared sound effects.  .

Sadly the PSX version was only released in Europe, due to Sony of America focus on 3D games only.

Overall: This is perhaps the best release of the game, featuring all the major upgrades you'd want for the game. The revamped audio and music along the much better visuals.

There's also new (forgettable) introduction and ending scenes, complete in CGi!

This PSX/Saturn port is perhaps the best you'll ever get, compared to recent ports on Steam and the likes.

This is as best as it gets, the way the game was meant to look like if it weren't for the limitations of the original cartridge-based releases.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!