When Earthworm Jim first came out, I was about ten years old. Playing the game for the first time, I remember being incredibly unsettled by the oddness of the characters and the disjointed situations that star hero Jim wound up in. Looking back, I assumed my young age was the reason for these feelings — perhaps I just didn’t grasp the humor going on.
As it turns out, Little Ryan was totally right: Earthworm Jim is still bizarre. After playing the latest remake of the classic platformer, titled Earthworm Jim HD, I remembered why I was so weirded out in the first place. What I didn’t remember are some of the odd control issues that keep Earthworm Jim from being as intuitive a platformer as its modern day peers. Then again, there aren’t many other places where you’ll find a heroic earthworm wearing a super-powered space suit…
The story of Earthworm Jim HD is almost non-existent, but it goes something like this: an everyday earthworm named Jim was minding his own business when all of a sudden a space suit of immense power falls from the sky and lands on him, giving him incredible strength and access to a rockin’ handgun. With these newfound powers, Jim travels the galaxy with the hope of rescuing a lovely princess and generally saving the day.
What follows is some of the most unusual, disjointed 2D platforming you’ll ever experience. If you’ve never played Earthworm Jim before, it’s a surreal experience to say the least and one that will frustrate you even on the normal difficulty level (which is two below the difficulty labeled “Original”). At its core, Earthworm Jim HD is all about running, gunning, swinging across ropes, and fighting crazy bosses. But you’ll also be racing through space and piloting a fragile submarine. All in a day’s work for Jim.
This remake is actually very pretty, as the visuals look fantastic and show off the game’s impressive animations. There’s also a handful of extra bonus levels not found in the original (with an absolutely priceless cameo which I won’t ruin) and the inclusion of multiplayer-specific levels that can be played with up to four different people. The developers went through a fair amount of trouble to make this a special version of Earthworm Jim, and it shows.
Earthworm Jim HD can be really rewarding when you do things right and when you pay attention to the outrageous details found within. For example, just watch Jim’s face as he swings across a rope — the animations are hysterical. The bosses are also utterly bizarre, as Jim will face everything from a garbage can to a falling wad of mucus.
But this madness comes at a price. The levels of Earthworm Jim are entirely incohesive and might throw newcomers off. Gamers may wonder why Earthworm Jim goes from a junkyard at the beginning of the game into the bowels of Hell. I can’t tell you why this is the case — it just is. Variety is great, but I’d prefer some context.
More troubling are the game’s controls, which might feel awkward and unintuitive if you’ve been playing a lot of modern platformers. For example, Jim can’t jump upwards when hanging off a rope — he can only drop down. He also can’t shoot his gun while in the air, nor can he use his whip attack in all directions while jumping. These limitations — regardless of their faithfulness to the original — can be very frustrating.
Another problem with Earthworm Jim which was also present in the original is the lack of proper visual feedback given to players when traversing a level for the first time. There are moments when newcomers just won’t know which platforms can be jumped on or which spikes can hurt Jim and which ones are purely aesthetic. These issues can add to the frustration, which exacerbates the game’s already punishing difficulty.
So while this is technically a solid remake, the design choices of the original Earthworm Jim continue to hurt the experience, especially for gamers accustomed to the conveniences of modern platformers (jumping and shooting simultaneously is fun!). At least the local and online multiplayer modes run very well.
Earthworm Jim HD is a nice remake of a bizarre, somewhat flawed 2D platformer that will assault gamers with devastating challenges. For those of you that understand the limitations of the original Earthworm Jim and just want to relive the quirky fun, Earthworm Jim HD is a good investment. But for those of you that have never played it before, beware that the game’s fun and goofy personality comes at a price.