There comes a time for every gaming system when a crazy, original, and high-quality game comes along, one of those games that brings a blast of welcome fresh air to the whole gaming industry. It’s not everyday that companies take risks with games, most of the time it is left to a small or new company to take a shot (and the risk) and sometimes the results are wonderful. There are have been many great SNES games to emerge from different companies over time, but Shiny Entertainment had its debut hit title through the extremely original Earthworm Jim. Just from the game’s title you know it won’t be a conservative experience. Not only is it crammed full of originality, but it’s technically great, too. You play a worm that accidentally gets hold of a power suit, which turns him into a type of superhero – and after this everything just gets weirder.
Just because Earthworm Jim is a crazy game doesn’t mean it can’t have great graphics. The game is a sheer wonder to look at – even to this day. EJ’s character model is much like a cartoon, and it’s as fluid and colorful as you would expect to find on a TV cartoon, too. Everything from the environments to the enemies is done in a fun and colorful way, and there’s a great amount of variety throughout. The detail level of the models, and the creativity put into each one, is a joy to watch. It’s all about the details: try leaving the controller prone for a while and Jim will start doing funny things like playing with his gun and shooting himself. Well-designed levels add to the visual feast, and names like New Junk City and What The Heck, or Andy Asteroids (a type of bonus level), all add to the originality of the game. You face enemies ranging from crows, a cat from hell (with his 9 lives, obviously), to mutant dogs, and pesky lawyers! Everything in Earthworm Jim is alive and vibrant, there’s no plain, mild stuff anywhere.
The sound effects and music are well done – not amazing, but just good enough; the originality of some of it helps to make the game a different kind of experience. In the What The Heck level (which is somewhat like hell) the background music is a kind of elevator music (hell’s theme perhaps?), and you can hear distant screams through it. If that’s not different from what you’ve seen (or heard) then you’ve seen pretty crazy things! The sound of Jim’s gun is like a machine gun, but when you get a special charge it becomes a powerful blast that sounds like a an exploding bomb. As with everything else in the game, the sounds of Earthworm Jim are some of the weirdest in any videogame.
?Smooth as silk’ is the best way to describe controlling EJ and, judging from creator Steve Perry’s previous games (Aladdin for example), it is no great surprise. You have two usable attacking options: your blaster gun, or yourself as a suit powered whip. Using the whip to grab onto hooks and throw Jim further can often be a most frustrating experience. You need to accurately calculate the perfect hit as well as the exact moment to let go of the hooks. That is one way of interacting with your environment, and many moments like this can be found. In the game’s first level, you can grab onto dangling chains to move across level areas, or use tires to jump higher. On the hell level, you use giant emeralds to transport yourself, or use your whip to open cages by hitting gears; underwater levels and space levels offer various way of interacting with things around you.
Thanks to the wonderfully original level design and story, there are different gaming experiences to be had on every step of Jim’s journey. The Andy Asteroids bonus level let’s you play a mini driving game, the underwater level let’s you control a submarine; there’s one particular level where you have to avoid a cute puppy that transforms into a mutant dog and attacks you – all this and the usual challenges you’d expect to find in a platform game. No two levels are alike, so repeatedly using the same strategic approach will soon see you to failure?and the same thing goes for boss encounters. The applicable strategies for killing end of level bosses is an original gaming angle by itself; some require extreme dexterity and razor sharp reflexes while others require careful thought and pondering consideration.
Games like Earthworm Jim don’t come around too often. Every gamer should try out games like this and take a risk – just as makers of these games so often do. If you’re ready for a whacky, original, and extremely enjoyable game then give Earthworm Jim a try. And don’t forget to launch the cow!