Earthworm Jim is the kind of game that could only have been birthed in the 16-bit era. These days everything seems too concerned with plot and immersion to even contemplate a central character called Jim, let alone making him an invertebrate that’s gifted with extraordinary powers by an alien space suit. And that’s before you even consider the fact that Jim isn’t the most far out creation the game has to offer.
The crazy menagerie of Psycrow, Queen-Slug-For-A-Butt, Major Mucus and Evil the Cat (amongst others) are all here and, in a similar fashion to their 2007 release of Prince of Persia Classic, Gameloft have provided Shiny Entertainment’s early 90’s hit with a HD spruce up. Underneath the visual upgrade the basic game remains essentially the same in its platforming and shooting elements, guiding Jim through the levels by jumping, climbing and using his wormy body as a whip to latch on to certain parts of scenery.
The visual tweak is most welcome, proving again that Gameloft certainly aren’t ones to settle for the lazy route of just slapping a border around an older title to make it suit the larger screen resolution. There are even additional little touches like the storyboard intro which sets the scene for the game. However it’s hard to get around the fact that the controls, which remain unchanged, haven’t aged too well. Thankfully, after an initial bout of playing, the little foibles that remain as a hangover from its sixteen year old roots are easily forgotten and issues like being unable to shoot whilst jumping, become little more than a minor hindrance.
Gameloft haven’t just tinkered with the visuals either. Anyone who remembers Earthworm Jim’s savage difficulty from the first time around will be delighted to know that this release includes three new difficulty settings. For those who don’t want to punish themselves by playing the original patience-sapping difficulty, the new modes (which range from Easy to Hard) mean this release is certainly much more approachable.
For this edition they’ve also included three new unlockable levels. These are accessed through the main menu rather than being slipped into the game and, while making them feel a little disjointed, their separation is also understandable so as not to upset the purists. It doesn’t mean that the new levels are a second rate addition though. In fact some of them are really well done and well worth playing, with a truly amazing cameo from an Internet sensation right at the end (and no, we won’t spoil it by saying who it is).
Throw in some multiplayer with co-op for up to four players (which, although amusing, can get a bit crowded) and this release of Earthworm Jim is one which fans will certainly love. Naturally it will do little to attract those who didn’t like the release to start with and newcomers who aren’t feeling its heritage may question the appeal. But it’s hard to deny that Earthworm Jim’s off-the-wall humour remains as far out there as it ever was and deep down there’s a title that still holds as much entertainment value as it did back in the day.