Review: Earthworm Jim HD
Earthworm Jim HD is a remake of the old 1994 Sega Genesis classic and harkens back to the days of old school platform games. In June, X-Box Live Arcade was the first to see the release of this title, followed by PSN early this August. Earthworm Jim HD is basically the same game with a new graphics engine and a few new features such as multiplayer co-op, 3 new levels, and (my favorite) the ability to pick which of the levels you want to play though. Aside from the new coat of paint and the additions, Earthworm Jim HD is pretty much the same game you played when you were younger, for better or for worse. For the young gamers out there who are picking up this title for the first time, play it on the “original” difficulty if you want to see why older gamers are always complaining about how easy and dumbed down games are these days.
Sure it’s prettier, but Jim still can’t jump and whip upward at the same time.
Earthworm Jim is a game about a lucky little worm named Jim who accidentally falls into an alien super suit which causes him to grow into enormous proportions and give him sentience. Jim uses his new found powers, a plasma pistol, super strength, and limbs, to fight his way across the galaxy in order to save Princess What’s-Her-Name from the evil Queen Slug-for-a-butt. There’s a cast of complex and wacky characters and the game even inspired a Saturday morning cartoon series. As with every other platformer of its era, Earthworm Jim didn’t explain any of this to you. There was a time, long ago, when game designers didn’t feel they had to really explain (in-game) anything to their players. As a player, you might get lucky and find that the manual contained all the plot info that the actual game was missing. Otherwise, you were screwed. So with Earthworm Jim, you had to wonder why the main boss for the Hell level is a cat, who the hell this guy with a monkey on his head was, and why it was you were actually trying to save this princess (the answer is “Because she’s there”). Earthworm Jim HD doesn’t do a damned thing to alleviate this issue though, and new players are left to wonder what the hell’s going on.
The controls remain true to the original 1994 title, and are akin to trying to molest and angry moray eel with your thumb. Jim’s whip (actually his body) will only catch onto hooks if timed perfectly and you may find yourself cursing as you attempt to hit a particularly troublesome hook for the 20th time. Jim can’t really jump and attack at the same time all that well, though an attempt at the mechanic is there. Looking back on the series, Earthworm Jim was really an essay in the do’s and don’ts of platformer design. Do use wacky and interesting settings, characters, and gameplay mechanics to draw and keep your audience. Don’t make your main character about as agile as a gagged and hogtied carebear.
The graphical update is rather nice and the 3 new levels are both pretty interesting and a lot of fun. The new multiplayer co-op puts 4 differently colored Jims on the screen at once and all 4 must complete a standard (though modified to handle the extra players) level together. A great idea on paper, but given how poorly Jim handles and how easy it is to confuse the different Jims on the screen, my few multiplayer moments with this game started resembling the worst moments I could remember of Little Big Planet co-op.
Only people who’ve actually played Earthworm Jim can even begin to comprehend this hell.
So the big question, is Earthworm Jim HD really worth the $9.99 charged for it on PSN or the 800 Microsoft Points ($9.99) on X-Box Live? Well, that really depends on the player. If you’re an older gamer and you have fond memories of Earthworm Jim, then you should definitely buy this game. It’s everything you loved and more. If you never really liked the level design or hated the controls, then I’d avoid it because neither of those has been fixed. Finally, if you’ve never played an Earthworm Jim game before and you want to give this one a try, I’d recommend downloading the demo first. Earthworm Jim HD isn’t really worth buying up instantly, but neither is it worth ignoring. Overall, I say Try it.