Earthworm Jim—a classic that’s not your garden variety action platformer

Posted: October 20, 2009 in Action, Platformer

One of the things that the iTunes store has successfully done is introduce some of the better classics to the newer generation. Earthworm Jim would definitely fit that mold since it was essentially one of the quintessential action platformers of its day. Providing some of the best graphics of its time, Earthworm Jim brings its quirky characters, wacky storyline, and overly challenging gameplay to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. And for older fans and new ones, Earthworm Jim will have them squirming.

The bizarre story involves your garden variety earthworm by the name of Jim who one day mutates into a superhero with the help of a strange spacesuit that drops to Earth. It’s then that Earthworm Jim learns of the evil plans to take over the galaxy and do away with Queen Slug-for-a-Butt’s sister, Princess What’s-Her-Name. With 4 levels of difficulty—easy, normal, hard and original—the game has 16 stages categorized into the following levels:

New Junk City
Andy Asteroids (mini game levels)
What the Heck?
Down the Tubes
Tube Race
Snot a Problem!
Level 5 (additional level in Level 5)
Who Turned Out the Lights?
For Pete’s Sake
Intestinal Distress
ButtVille

In line with the storyline are the equally unique characters with names such as Bob the Killer Goldfish, Evil the Cat, Major Mucus, Chuck and Fifi, Psy-Crow, and her evilness herself, Queen Slug-for-a-Butt. The graphics in Earthworm Jim are timeless and comparable to many of the new games you would see today. Cartoon-like and weird in every way conceivable, the animation is top notch, oozing with the personality and charm of the original from yesteryear. Running on an iPod Touch 2g, the game generally offers smooth and seamless animation mixed in with an occasional yet noticeable lag.

Besides the characters and storyline, Earthworm Jim does a fairly good job with the controls which should make the game easier to pick up and play. Two control options are provided—d-pad and virtual joystick—along with three action buttons—jump, attack and whip. Note that the action buttons change according to the environment and stage. Between the two main control options, the d-pad was the easier one to use, although this will undoubtedly come down to personal preference. The action buttons are located on closely together, while I didn’t have any problems using the buttons, they may be an issue for those with larger fingers. Other mini-games in the game will make use of tilt controls for maneuvering and fortunately, a sensitivity option is provided. And there are also various tools that you can acquire such as fuel pods, air pumps, and ammo.

The game has 10 different environments, all of which are unusual and quirky in their own way. The gameplay in Earthworm Jim is what will draw many to the game. For example, New Junk City literally is a city built of junk and trash, and Earthworm Jim will spend amount of time jumping off tires, dodging things such as TV sets and kitchen appliances, and swinging from old clotheslines. The level culminates with a boss battle against the junkyard owner Chuck who happens to cough up dead goldfish. One of my favorite characters is Major Mucus, who’s basically a monster made of mucus. Disgustingly fun, Earthworm Jim actually battles him in the level Snot a Problem! The battle, all done by bungee jumping and swinging, takes place over a pool of mucus that harbors Major Mucus’ pet.

Earthworm Jim is incredibly flexible, and if he was human, he’d be double jointed. At any given time, you can make him run, jump, shoot his gun and even use his head as a whip. Throughout the game, Earthworm Jim will do a fair share of running and swinging, most of which involve using his head in unusual ways including helicopter spins and major head whips. For those not familiar with the game, Earthworm Jim can be a little restless and if you ever leave stationery, he will actually start performing tricks such as flexing his muscles, spin and throw his gun, shoot himself, and even drop his pants. Did I mention that the game is bizarre? While Earthworm Jim is a platformer at heart, it also includes many other side games in between the levels to break up the monotony. Space races pit Earthworm Jim again Psy-Crow while underwater pod races and bungee jumping add to the variety.

The primary issues worth noting with Earthworm Jim involve the lack of save checkpoints, the level of difficulty and to a certain degree, the controls. The game does not offer progressive saves or checkpoint saves, only saving at the end of levels. While not a deal breaker, it’s not very convenient for a game aimed at a mobile audience. The bright side is that you can play your own music during gameplay. If you don’t have much patience, the degree of difficulty may not appeal to you because Earthworm Jim is no walk in the park. In fact, it’s easily one of the more challenging games requiring dexterity, trial and error, and bit of luck. This leads into the controls, and while both controls schemes work well, they also aren’t very forgiving in terms of accuracy.

Overall, Earthworm Jim is one of the more creatively bizarre, charming and innovatively fun platformers available. With a great character in Earthworm Jim and a cast of equally personable enemies all set in wacky environments, this game is worth checking out. While the difficulty may be frustrating with somewhat clunky controls, Earthworm Jim definitely does things his way.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (wacky characters matched by equally bizarre environments make this a great platformer; varied gameplay with mini-games and side missions; controls have a slight learning curve, and the difficulty may be frustrating for some; play your own music, but no progressive gameplay save)

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